Fate or Free Will
When we face adverse circumstances in life, what is our attitude? Some people face it boldly and with optimism. Many are afraid and try to manage or survive through the situation. There are others who give up stating that is their ‘fate’ (already written or preordained) which is not alterable and endure with stoic silence. ‘Fate’ does not have room for human choices. Even the choices that are made are like that of controlled ‘robot’. In fact, in this worldview the choice is thrust on humans and there are no other options. ‘Fate’ and ‘Free Will’ are incompatible. When Bible teaches ‘Free Will’; there is no room for ‘Fate’.
Hence, when we face life situations that are not easy and pleasant, we have to make a choice i.e. exercise of ‘Free Will’. As Christians, we do not surrender to ‘Fate’, but make a choice accept or fight the situation. When we discern that the particular situation is God’s will (or plan), then we surrender our ‘Free will’ yielding to God’s will. At the same time, if we discern that we have to fight in the situation, we make a choice and do as God enables us.
God’s Plan, Purpose and Will
God’s will is described as good, perfect, pleasing and acceptable according to the Word of God. (Romans 12:1-2) Everyday life does not reflect these as a reality. Pain, suffering, humiliation, loss… are all part of day-to-day life experience. For example, being bedridden for few months is not easy. How can being bedridden be God’s will? And that too good, perfect, acceptable and pleasing. Being in lion’s den is not good or pleasing? Being sold as slave like Joseph was not acceptable? Being chased in the wilderness by Saul with an army for David was not perfect?
God’s will or plan is not considered and cannot be understood in bits and pieces. Different events may have different experiences, but ultimate result provides the Masterpiece. In a piece of embroidery, the back side is ugly and awkward with uncut threads, loose and funny. The right side is beautiful. In the same way, we tend to look only the back side of embroidery failing to see the Masterpiece. Sovereign God is able to see all situations including future and work out the beautiful design.
God’s will is Good
God’s plan and purpose for his children is good. The Lord said: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”(Isaiah 55:8, 9) God’s purpose for each person is that they grow, mature, excel in their calling, be fruitful and faithful. Growth or maturity does not happen by itself. It takes resources from outside and orientation from inside. A plant needs sunlight, water, manure, and nutrients as resources from outside to grow. The plant should be able to intake and integrate the resources and add to itself to grow. God allows pain, suffering, humiliations, loss, defeat, sickness, etc. as resources to shape our life. As disciples of Lord Jesus Christ we should be able to take it and make it as essentials for our growth. What all we see as negative aspects in human life is transformed to bring out goodness for the growth of our inner life. Hence, we can declare, all things happen for the good for those who love the Lord. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”(Romans 8:28)
God’s will is Perfect
God is a Master Planner and his plans are perfect. We are imperfect disciples in the hands of the Perfect Master. He is a master designer. It is amazing to observe our own bodies. God has blessed us with a body that has so many systems like: digestive system, nervous system, blood circulation system; muscles, bones, teeth; each designed and integrated in one body. It is impossible to improve on the physical body of a man or woman. It is designed perfect with no scope of attachment or upgration. In the same way, our life is also designed perfect. All our life experiences, events, environment, engagements; are ordered to shape our life. Lord even uses messy, unjust situations to unveil his divine plan. God used wickedness of Joseph brothers, covetousness of traders, lustful desire of Potiphar’s wife, forgetfulness of a friend to bring Joseph to become the President of Egypt. God’s plan was perfect in Joseph’s life and so it would be in the lives of all those who love him.
God’s will is Acceptable
God’s will is acceptable and bearable. Many of us think the burden we carry is too heavy and we may crush under. The trails, temptations and tests are common to all human beings. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”(I Corinthians 10:13) The problems we face are within limits. Whether it is health or finance or loss or defeat or anything else. Also, Lord provides a way of escape. To discern that way and escape is our responsibility.
God’s will is Pleasing
Delightful? Pleasing? While crying with acute pain in my body, is it pleasing? When I am humiliated before people, is it delightful experience? From human point of view, these are not pleasing. However, our model is Lord Jesus Christ. He endured cross with joy because his focus was the joy and hope of the future: “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Paul follows the model of Lord Jesus Christ. Being in prison he writes to Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4) Paul was able to live above circumstances. The letters of Paul (Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon) from prison in Rome are a great source of encouragement to the Church throughout centuries. His productive (fruit bearing) Christian life was not restricted and restrained by the environment of prison. Similarly, the exile life of John could have been painful, but joyful because of the Revelation. Understanding God’s will makes us joyful and fruitful indeed. Bedridden Amy Carmichael brought spiritual renewal to thousands.
As disciples of Lord Jesus Christ, we are not victims of alignment of stars and planets in the sky or curses of people or conspiracies of people or witchcraft or written fate or unwritten fate or of circumstances. We are eternally safe in the loving hands of God who has a Great Plan that is Good, Perfect, Acceptable and pleasant. When we realize this, we can rejoice in the Lord always.