23 July 2006

God is Good - Part 2

If you've grown up with the idea that God is Good, then this post probably isn't for you. This post if for all the people who have a voice in the back of their head that wants to say 'Hold on a moment, it depends what you mean by 'good'". However that voice got there.

At my church this morning, the preacher ended his sermon by saying that if anyone ever tells you that something is God's will and doing that thing saps all the joy and energy out of your life, then it's not God's will for you. I don't know if this preacher is familiar with the Ignatian way of praying, but that is one of the cornerstones of Ignatian discernment - that for those people who are seeking to do the will of God, doing God's will is life-giving rather than soul-destroying.

When I was growing up, people around me seemed to think that doing something that ripped you apart was from God and doing something that gave you life and energy and passion was from Satan. I'm not talking about obviously moral and immoral choices. I'm talking about ordinary decisions. Do you desperately want to be a teacher when you grow up? Must be a desire from Satan; God asks us to suffer. I hasten to add that this was no-one's official theology, but it certainly was the way that people behaved.

This morning the preacher used the text from Matthew where Jesus tells us to take on his yoke and that it will be a light yoke. This was not the official lectionary reading for today, but it was the daily lectionary reading during the week when I was on retreat, so I heard it preached twice this week. (Coincidence? I think not.) I've preached the same sermon myself.

Jesus' yoke is one that we can bear rather than one we can't. As I said in a post here a couple of months ago, God never asks us to suffer simply as some sort of abstract discipline. He does ask us to stand up for the Gospel truths of justice, righteousness and Truth and sometimes doing that may cause us to suffer terribly. But he doesn't ask us to overburden ourselves simply to suffer for the sake of suffering.

No great theological defenses in this post - just encouragement. God is Good. He created each of us as unique individuals. If God gave you a passion (that is not immoral or unethical), it's likely to be something that God wants you to use in service to the Gospel and for the glory of God.

Pray. Listen to God. Your talents and passions are gifts of the Spirit - charismatic gifts. Use them in the service of God.


Sandalstraps said...

I once knew a pastor who would have been an excellent teacher. He had all of the gifts and abilities of a teacher, and was very passionate when using the teaching office of the church as part of his role as a pastor. However, he was terrible as a pastor. He just couldn't do pastoral care, and he couldn't play church politics.

I once met with him to discuss some concerns that his church was having with his performance as their pastor (in an unofficial capacity) and to help him process some events. As we talked it became clear that he really wanted to be a teacher, but he didn't feel like it was God's will for his life. God, he felt, wanted him to suffer through something he wasn't any good at, rather than use his gifts and abilities in a way which was more naturally for him.

I wonder how we so often end up thinking that God's will must run counter to our natural substance. God, after all, gave us that natural substance, those gifts, abilities and interests which help shape our vocation. Reading your post reminded me of this pastor who in my mind chose to suffer rather than embrace his own ambitions as being in accord with the will of God.

He was and is a good man, but a terrible pastor, and I can't believe that God doesn't know that he'd be a much better teacher than he is a pastor.

PamBG said...

Thanks for that story sandalstraps. I hope the minister in question has come to know and to love the person that God created him to be.

Sacred Center said...

Hi Pam, Thanks for sharing your retreat experiences. I have participated in the Spiritual Exercises (9 month format) twice now and love Ignatian spirituality in large part because of what you highlight here: the deepest desires of your heart, Ignatius believed, were planted there by God. I always find the term "God's will" too narrow anyway, since God desires what is life-giving for us. Often times that encompasses many possible paths. I see people struggle in discernment over figuring out just the right choice, when maybe God is big enough to offer us more than one. Anyway, thanks again. Blessings to you, Christine

PamBG said...

since God desires what is life-giving for us. Often times that encompasses many possible paths. I see people struggle in discernment over figuring out just the right choice, when maybe God is big enough to offer us more than one.

Sacred Center, this is a really excellent point. Thank you for reminding us! Sometimes God does indeed offer us more than one alternative and we are asked to choose. I tend to be a 'decision-maker' type personality and I forget that there are people who agonise that they might make 'the wrong choice'. Thank you for reminding us of this.

hipastorzwife2B said...

Oh my goodness. I wish I had know about Ignatian spirituality before. It sounds wonderful. I think I'll look for a book about it!

Philippa said...

This is a wonderful post.

Thank you. :)