Have you ever wanted something so much that you would do just about anything to bring it to fruition? I have. I pray for it. When God says “NO,” I don’t accept it. When God says “WAIT,” I contest Him. I manipulate my situations in order for it to happen just the way I want it to happen. When things don’t go my way, I spin, I jump, I run, I duck, and then I try a new angle. I try it from this perspective, and then I try it from another perspective. I climb to a different peak and try it again. I curse, and swear, and deny, and pout, and cry. I rarely stop and think that perhaps God doesn’t want what I want.
Balak, the king of Moab, summoned Balaam to curse Israel. Balak took Balaam to a barren height that overlook the Israelite camp, built seven altars, and then sacrificed a bull and a ram on each altar. Balaam then proceeded to bless Israel rather than curse them. When Balaam didn’t curse Israel, Balak said, “Come with me to another place where you can see them; you will not see them all but only the outskirts of their camp. And from there, curse them for me” (Numbers 23:13). Once they arrived at the field of Zophim on the top of Pisgah, Balak built seven altars, and then sacrificed a bull and a ram on each altar. Balaam then proceeded to bless Israel rather than curse them. When Balaam didn’t curse Israel, Balak said, “Come, let me take you to another place. Perhaps it will please God to let you curse them for me from there” (Numbers 23:27). Once they arrived at the top of Peor, overlooking the wasteland, Balak built seven altars, and then sacrificed a bull and a ram on each altar. Balaam then proceeded to bless Israel rather than curse them. Balaam assured Balak that it didn’t matter where they went, they couldn’t change God’s plans. Balaam said:
“God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot change it.”
Today is Good Friday, so I’ve been reflecting and meditating on our Lord as He hangs on the cross—dying for the reconciliation of the world to God. Jesus’s death on the cross, offering the atonement of all sinners—making right what once went wrong in the Garden of Eden so many centuries earlier—was the enemy’s greatest fear. To tempt Jesus off the cross would be the enemy’s greatest accomplishment sans his first temptation of Adam and Eve. Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ had its fair share of controversy, but one thing I believe it got right was how enticing that last temptation had to be for Jesus as He hung on the cross. Jesus didn’t want to die. In fact, like Balak, Jesus went back to God three times in the Garden of Gethsemane in an attempt to convince God to change His mind. It didn’t work in the Garden, but perhaps it would work on the cross. In The Last Temptation of Christ, while Jesus was hanging on the cross, the enemy approaches Jesus masked as a “guardian angel” and says to Jesus:
“I’m the angel who guards you. Your Father is the God of mercy, not punishment. He saw you and said, ‘Aren’t you His guardian angel? Well, go down and save Him. He’s suffered enough.’ Remember when He told Abraham to sacrifice his son? Abraham was just about to kill the boy with his knife when God stopped him. So, if He saved Abraham’s son, don’t you think He’d want to save his own? He’s tested you and He’s happy with you. He doesn’t want your blood.”
Music to Jesus’s ears I’m sure. Scripture records this temptation coming from the mouths of the witnesses as they mocked Him saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God! He saved others, but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God’” (Matthew 27:39-43). Thankfully, Jesus resisted the hypothetical, yet possible, temptation derived by Martin Scorsese and the actual temptation presented to him by the crowd of onlookers. God’s plan is always for the greater good whether we perceive it as great or good. Sometimes, we’re in the same boat as Jesus and think God’s plan just plain sucks.
I’m a hopeless romantic. Most people know this about me. Sure, I’ve had my heart broken several times because of this nagging and annoying attribute. Moreover, I’ve gone through interludes of jaded nausea—especially after watching a Kay commercial around Christmas time. In the end, I hope and long for love. I truly believe, as God said in the beginning, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Therefore, when my heart is crushed, I pick it up, dust it off, place it back inside my chest, roll my eyes at the unrealistic expectations of society, “The Bachelor,” and “Every Kiss Begins with Kay,” and pray once again for romance. Hoping the next woman who steals my heart will keep it forever.
Recently God decided to alter my plans in my desperate pursuit of happiness. In an effort to get my way, I began to think of alternative solutions to the problem at hand. I needed to see the problem from varying perspectives. Maybe if I looked at it the situation from the field of Zophim on the top of Pisgah or from the top of Peor, overlooking the wasteland…maybe then I could get my way. Finally, my friend (the very woman I was hoping to visit) said to me, “Sometimes God wrecks our plans before our plans wreck us.” Brilliant! Once again, I neglected to see the hand of God interrupting my own plans for the greater good. That doesn’t mean, however, that I’m not in the same boat as Balak and Jesus in thinking that sometimes God’s plan just plain sucks.