Ok, so since my Jesus post from a few weeks ago didn’t get me stoned, I’m gonna try this one out and see what happens.
I have a friend on Facebook who recently posted about the fact that he has battled and defeated many addictions throughout the course of his life, ranging from alcohol to food. He made a blanket statement about how he was surprised at the fact that he had gotten through those trials, because he doesn’t feel like he has very much willpower. So, as is par for the course with Facebook, the comments started rolling in. And amid many of the well-intentioned comments, there seemed to exist the same theme.
“That’s because it wasn’t you, it was God’s work.”
“It was God’s will that you made it through.”
“God did it.”
Ok. Get your stones ready.
Every single time I see comments like this, I shudder a little. I’ve never really understood why that is. Like I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m not the most religious person on the planet. But I do believe there’s a God. I do. So, why does it bother me when I hear stuff like that? Shouldn’t it make me feel good? Strengthen my belief in the God that I believe in?
Well, this particular instance got me to thinking about this very thing. I dug a little deeper into why those statements bother me so much, and this blog is about what I came up with. Will you agree with me? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter, really. When it comes to religion, politics, and all that other good controversial stuff, it’s rare to find two people who truly see eye-to-eye on it all. And that’s ok. But I’m going to share my viewpoint with you anyway.
I started this blog with a picture/quote by J. G. Holland that says “God gives every bird its food, but he does not throw it into its nest.” (And I can’t even begin to tell you how long it took to find one with the correct usage of its/it’s. Phew! I finally gave up and made my own. Sheesh! But, hey, that’s a blog for another day. Back to the story….) To be quite honest with you, I think that quote stands alone and says about all that I need to say. Thank you, Mr. Holland. But let me elaborate a little more anyway, because that’s what I do.
To me, what this quote is saying is that yes, the answers to our problems are out there. They’re available to us. God’s not gonna leave us hanging. Like He says in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you…” I firmly believe that the God I believe in is not one who is going to toss some bad things our way and watch us suffer with no way out. In fact, I don’t believe He is the one who throws bad things our way at all. Life does that. But regardless, there is going to be a way out of them.
But, see, here’s the thing. It’s not going to happen until we get off our butts and do something to make it happen. It’s not going to magically appear.
So, when people make such comments as “It was God’s will,” or “God did it,” I just can’t bring myself to believe that. God may be the one who provided the answer (i.e. the “food for the birds”), but I don’t believe He is the one who made it happen (i.e. “dropped it in its mouth”). In the case of my Facebook friend here, God did not stick down his big hand and physically turn my friend away from those addictions. My friend did that. He made the choice to turn away from those addictions and do the legwork that it took to break those bad habits. And does he deserve the credit? You bet he does.
I compare this to when my own child got the chance to play the lead role in our local production of Annie. Was I proud of her? Holy crap, you bet I was. But did I take the credit for her performance? Of course not. I may have helped her along the way. I may have advised her, encouraged her, and supported her. But did I do it for her? Of course, I didn’t. And if someone claimed as much, I’d probably be offended that they were focused on me and not giving her the credit she deserved.
I don’t think God feels much differently about His children as I do about mine. Do you?
Why are we so scared of being proud of ourselves? Or of allowing someone else to feel the pride that they deserve to feel?
I know we’ve all heard the saying “Pride goeth before a fall.” Maybe that’s where this unfounded fear comes from. But what you probably didn’t know is that this term is actually a shortened version of the verse found in Proverbs 16:18 that says: “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” When you look at that term in its entirety, as it is fully stated in the proverb, the “pride” it’s referring to is not the pride that comes from feeling as if you’ve done something good. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “pride” in two ways:
- Pride: a feeling that you are more important and better than other people; and
- Pride: a feeling of happiness that you get when you or someone you know does something good, difficult, etc.
That first definition is what that verse is referring to. Not the second. Pride is a feeling of happiness. Don’t you think God wants us to be happy? There is nothing wrong with feeling proud of yourself. Nothing. And, on that same token, there’s nothing wrong with encouraging people to feel that pride in themselves. They worked hard; they deserve it. And the crazy thing is that the more pride you feel in yourself, the more likely you’ll be to keep going. Whether it’s fighting an addiction, working to better yourself physically, or maybe even…oh, I don’t know…writing? When someone recognizes your abilities and your talents, it really is ok to accept that recognition and bask in the glow of a job well done. Besides, you never know who you might be inspiring in the process.
So, hey. Maybe that might be something for you to think about the next time you innocently tell someone that it was God’s will when something good happens. Don’t negate what they have done by telling them that they didn’t do it. And don’t make the others out there who haven’t had such good fortune wonder why God isn’t on their side too. It’s just silly. Recognize them for the good that they have done, and congratulate them for it. They worked hard for it, whether they realize it or not, and they deserve to feel pride in themselves for what they’ve accomplished. And if you’re one of those people who deflect the compliments in that same manner? Maybe you should work on not doing that anymore. Yes, maybe God provided support and encouragement along the way, much like I did for my daughter as she found her way to playing the role of Annie, but I certainly didn’t pick her up and place her on that stage. Recognize your own efforts and applaud them.
And you know what? I’d be willing to bet that God is pretty darn proud of you, too.
“Calm self-confidence is as far from conceit as the desire to earn a decent living is remote from greed.”
– Channing Pollock