“If It Isn’t Easy, It Isn’t God’s Will”: A Rebuttal

Picture this: dried cement covers this woman’s eyes, which burn to a degree unimaginable. Her chest feels like a dump truck full of bricks just unloaded its cargo on top off her. She aches all over…so much so, that she wonders how much longer she could possibly endure it. Her own mother screams when she sees her.

This happened to missionary Joanne Shetler as the result of a plane accident. Her goal for years had been to translate the Scriptures into the Balangao language (a group of people living on the island of Luzon in the Philippines). But this obstacle now seemed insurmountable; was this the end of God’s work?

…”The pain was intense. That pain was almost my defeat as the doctors wouldn’t give me any painkillers for fear I might get addicted to them. I thought patients in hospitals were supposed to be close to God–I was just in pain. I couldn’t see God anywhere. I couldn’t feel him, I couldn’t hear him; there were no waves of glory, just wave after wave of pain.” [Pages 115-116, And the Word Came with Power, by Joanne Shetler with Patricia Purvis]

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been through anything so excruciating in my life! Childbirth, at least for me, has never even come close! Yet, after this traumatic incident, Joanne returned to Balangao and continued work on the translation, eventually finishing it several years later. She says of the translation work:

“…our first printing of the Balangao New Testament is almost sold out. That means it’s time to consider revising it and incorporating the translated portions of the Old Testament and then reprinting it.

How I’d love to go back and live in Balangao again and prepare for this second printing! Right now it’s just a dream. I’ll just wait and see what God wants…he has a way of transforming what I think are good plans.

And besides, I’ve never quite figured out just how to bring God glory. But I have learned to surrender my dreams to him. And he has made the reality of living according to his plan even better than my greatest dreams.” [Page 176]

The tenacity and faith of the native believers who helped her with the translation work, together with Joanne’s persistence and commitment to God’s will resulted in the completion of a New Testament translation for a people group who had never heard of Jesus before her arrival. There were times of intense trial, and at one point she suffered greatly. But did she let that deter her from the task God had set before her? No.

It’s easy to see how important it is to persevere when what is at stake is the transferring of God’s word from one language to another. For that lofty purpose, we imagine that we would be willing to endure countless setbacks and hardships–or even cracked ribs and acid-eaten eyes, as Joanne did. But what about when God’s word to us is to remain married to a person who hurts us? Or when He says to be fruitful and multiply? Many people are quick to excuse their actions by rationalizing that “God would want us to be happy,” in the case of divorce; or that “God wouldn’t want us to risk our health,” in the case of rejecting more children. But, is that consistent?

I would say that sometimes the right path is not the easy path. Sometimes it hurts to follow God. Sometimes our health is put at risk. And sometimes, our lives. Who are we to put limitations on obedience? Do we only obey certain commands and not others–are we selective in what we will do, and what we will not do? Or do we obey partially, and then act like we’ve done our duty? Are we so unwilling to sacrifice our comfort, that we would hold back complete obedience to our Lord? For, if we were to be consistent, we would have to admit that it makes no difference whether we are blazing paths through jungles in order to bring the light of Christ into a dark, pagan land; are beaming rays of love toward a hateful spouse; or are bearing the weight of a new child within our wombs: all are done in obedience to our Lord, and all are worth the pain, the toil, and the tears.

Many are there, even professing Christians, who ridicule God’s ways, and exalt their own, selfish agendas, instead. Either that, or they say, “Well that’s nice for you, but it isn’t for me,” as if God’s word doesn’t apply to everybody if they don’t want it to. But what about you? Are you willing to tear yourself away from the spirit of rebellion all around you, even in your own church, and attach yourself tightly to what the word of God actually says? How much are you willing to give up for God? Can you bring yourself to sacrifice yourself…for Him? Will you say, along with Joanne: “But I have learned to surrender my dreams to him. And he has made the reality of living according to his plan even better than my greatest dreams.”

 

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18 thoughts on ““If It Isn’t Easy, It Isn’t God’s Will”: A Rebuttal

  1. I most likely wont have any more children . I enjoy the six i have.
    On one side i like your thinking and reasoning on the other hand it seems rather uncompromising. Live doesnt always take the turns we think it does. As you pointed out in older posts sometime decisions have been made and we must live with the consequences .I believe we should even then give our best to live happily for our Lord. -count your blessings – as the song goes☀😃
    Love your blog. Very encouraging

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  2. Think i should get a bit more concrete here. I firmly do not believe that we should keep on having children until we die. If there are serious risks it is wiser to quit. I think we are allowed to use the skills of the doctors up to that degree. Other than that agree with you. 😃

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    • Dear Ruth,
      Thank you for your input! I’m glad to know what you think about this!

      It’s okay for you, or anybody else, to not agree with everything I write–no worries there 🙂 If I was faced with a risky situation in which having another baby could be fatal for me…what choice would I make? Honestly, I don’t know. It’s easy to write an article while seated at my desk–but another thing entirely to actually be in that sort of life-or-death situation. I do think that each person has to make their own choices, while each person also has to live with the choices they make. No one can, or should, make those sort of choices for them. That’s not to say that there isn’t a concrete, guiding principle from God’s word that applies to all of us; it is simply to say that we sometimes have a hard time understanding how His word applies to our particular situation, and we don’t all interpret things the same way. And that’s okay.

      What I’m trying to say in this post, is this: what is the purpose of our being here? If one of the purposes for our being here on earth is to get married and have children (who come from God, and for whom He has a mysterious destiny), then how far are we willing to go to “complete the mission”? Let’s not even speak of death, which to be real, is actually not a very likely scenario for most people; let’s just focus on “hardship.” Most women don’t want to have babies because of the nausea, or the tiredness, or the expense, etc. For most women, their lives are not at risk–just their pocketbooks, or their waistline. My point is that we’re willing to risk so little for something so immensely important. Isn’t there something wrong with that?

      And there are other areas of life this could be said of, as well. I also brought up the topic of divorce. How many Christian people get divorces because of porn use, verbal “abuse,” not fulfilling the other person’s perceived needs, alcohol abuse, and other sorts of definitely very difficult and painful reasons, but that at the same time are not life-threatening? My point again: we are willing to risk so little for something so immensely important. In short: we’re wimps.

      And I don’t discount myself. There was a time in my life when I made a very huge, very impacting decision. I chose what seemed best at the time to my human reasoning. And, I’ve spent many years wondering what my life would have been like if I had made the harder, but possibly more biblical, choice. I’ll never know, at least not this side of heaven. However, I have had so much time to think about it, that I wonder whether if faced with a similar sort of scenario in the future, I would make the biblical choice, even if it meant suffering?

      Surely we cannot go back and change what’s already been done; but, can we not learn from our past in order to make wiser choices in the future? And, hopefully we can counsel our children according to the wisdom we have learned from experience. So, yes, I would say, like I have before: we can’t spend our whole lives regretting the past. But, at the same time, neither can we go blindly on into our future. If we haven’t learned from our experiences to be more brave, more full of faith, more intrepid–then, where does that leave us?

      Thanks for a very insightful comment! I always love to hear from you, Ruth!
      Jessica

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  3. Thanks for commenting my comment. So much fun to share our hearts. Yes we can share our ‘wisdom’with our children. And sometimes they even listen. Sometimes as the become adults tough they are going to make their own experience. -While mom prays for them to keep safe😉
    PS: There is a Ruthie and a Ruth commenting on your blog. Im Ruth😊
    Love from Switzerland

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    • Ha, ha, that’s so embarrassing! When I originally responded to your comment, I did think that it wasn’t Ruthie’s normal style! Please accept my apologies, to both you and Ruthie. I went back and re-read your comments while thinking, Okay, this is Ruth from Switzerland, not Ruthie from New York. Thanks for helping me get that straight!
      Jessica

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  4. I think the abiding principle is submission to God and to your husband. Both of which can be very demanding. God’s way is not always what you envisaged and our husband is only human, suffers the same stresses as we do and often fails.

    There is no absolute obligation on a couple to have a very large family, the husband can ultimately control that by abstaining. He can do the same in respect of our health. But there is an obligation on us as wives to trust in God and submit tour husbands.

    If a husband is cruel or even just inconsiderate that must be unbelievably challenging and if a woman fails, that is between her and God, it is not for us to judge.

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    • Yes, I think you’re right: we must submit to our husbands (at least in that which is not clearly against God’s word), and that sometimes means we go along with a choice that while not necessarily wrong, may not be what we had wanted for ourselves. Like in the case of our health: we might be willing to put it at risk, but our husband may not be.

      I also agree with your comment about not judging. We have not been in some of the situations that other people have been in, so we can’t know what WE ourselves would do in those same circumstances. We need to show mercy.

      However, I do not think that “not judging others” automatically excludes making an inner, moral judgement about their behavior when we compare it to God’s word. For example: We can look at someone who divorced her husband because of his constant hurtful comments and name-calling (verbal abuse) and we can choose not to openly criticize her; yet, at the same time, we are still free to think within ourselves, “Is what she did right? If I were in that same situation, what would be the right thing for me to do?” And there are some people who despite their personal inexperience with the situation in question, still have the duty to give counsel as to what the biblical answer would be, such as pastors, teachers, counselors, and parents, when advice is sought–but even sometimes, when it is not.

      We are responsible for encouraging, uplifting, and yes, even rebuking each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. We should do it in love, but love sometimes requires that we not be silent. When we receive a rebuke, or advice that is not soft and pleasant, we are usually tempted to respond with irritation. But, maybe the other person is trying to prevent us from making a decision that would be even worse than our current situation. Sometimes other people have a better perspective than we do, for the very reason that they are NOT in the situation we are in!

      I remember someone telling me something very hard at one time, and I greatly resented her for it. It has taken me years to be able to admit that her motive was probably loving, and that maybe she was right. She had counseled me to do something very painful and difficult, but after all these years, I wonder if doing so might have actually spared me and other people from much of the very hurt I was running away from. I can never know now, but I do hope to be stronger in the future.

      And if I haven’t bored you by now, there’s one more thing I’d like to add 🙂
      We don’t know the future. How do we know that if we were to submit to God’s planning of our families, we would have a huge family? He might choose to give us ten children, or He might choose to give us two. Plus, even if we had a difficult pregnancy with one child, the next one could be totally different. There are just so many variables, that trusting in God actually seems like the more safe path to take than trying to predict our future on our own. And I know that you aren’t challenging that (sorry if I seem combative); I just wanted to add that in to clarify my position for other readers in general.

      Anyways, super long comment. Sorry for that.
      Thanks, Susanne! You always add so much to the conversation!
      Jessica

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  5. I agree that not passing judgment on others is no excuse for not trying to follow the highest standards ourselves and frankly I privately yearn for a society and religious authorities which is far far more willing to exercise control and enforce Biblical morals as most western societies did before the rise of feminism as well as a broader acceptance that as women we should submit to our husband (and before that father).

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    • Yes. I do think people need more guidance, because even though many are wise enough to make good choices on their own (with the help of God’s Word), many others are simply foolish, and much of that is owing to their ignorance of what the right thing to do would be, since they are neither reading the Bible consistently themselves, nor are being taught its deeper and more uncomfortable truths from the pulpit (or at their small groups).
      Jessica

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  6. It seems to me that up until about a hundred years ago society, the religious authorities (of pretty much all denominations) and even the law was based pretty much on Christian and Biblical morality at least in so far as personal behaviour. For most that meant an obligation to conform to those morals even if of course in many many instances people did not.

    For a simple example – of course people had sex outside marriage – but the overwhelming majority did not and 99% of Brides would have been virgins.

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    • Right. I agree with you. And now things seem to be pretty much the opposite. I think it was you who mentioned a little while ago that birth control (read “rejection of children, and recreational sex”) being accepted by the church at large started with approving birth control for “extreme situations that could potentially harm the mother’s health (or put her very life in danger),” but that from there, we’ve just gone downhill.

      So, acceptance of a compromise for extreme situations led to compromise in other, not-so-extreme situations, which eventually led to where we are today.

      I wonder: why is it that four men could sacrifice their lives while trying to reach the Auca Indians of South America with the gospel of Jesus Christ, leaving behind children and wives, and we hold them in the highest esteem–but, we ridicule women who are supposedly “stupid” enough to sacrifice their lives (or at least put them at risk) while trying to bring into this world eternal souls created and designed by Jesus Christ for His purposes–purposes we cannot possibly fathom? We do not honor those women, and we should. And the reason we don’t honor them, is because we’ve swallowed the cultural (and Satanic) lie that children are supposed to be planned, wanted, and financed before we “allow” them to be conceived, and that anybody who “just trusts God,” even in high-risk situations, is irresponsible and an idiot.
      Jessica

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  7. Jessica,
    A question then…are we then to submit the decision of children to God and our husbands? In other words, if a woman has a health issue is her husband the one who decides whether to abstain (or not)? What then if the woman disagrees with his position? Just asking questions. Obviously, God is ultimately in control as He is the life giver. Is there any condition acceptable to prevent more children? Or do we just trust God to control that absolutely for us?

    For me, I have an issue with rheumatoid arthritis. I am desiring to be open to the will of God concerning more children if He would choose to give them. I’m just a little scared because I just don’t feel my body is ready for another baby. Perhaps for me it is a matter of trust. To trust God that He will not give me more than I can handle. Anyhow, it’s something I’m pondering in my mind and haven’t yet found an answer to.

    Any thoughts?

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  8. Yes, Celina (thank you for your sharing! 🙂 ), I second Susanne’s comment. I would say that submission to one’s husband is necessary. Unless, of course, he wants to use a form of birth control that is immoral. A woman should pray, talk to her husband about her feelings, but then leave it up to his choice, since he is the God-appointed leader. You’re right in bringing that up: a woman can feel very strongly about what she considers would be the right thing to do, but her husband may feel differently, in which case she should follow his leading.

    Some of the time, however, the husband himself may be unsure, and will want to know how the wife feels. Sometimes, he may leave certain choices up to her. In that case, she should be prepared to make a biblical decision.

    Here are a few thoughts. If God holds the universe in the palm of His hand, is He not also capable of managing our lives? I mean, why shouldn’t we trust Him? Of course we should do the best we can to be healthy, like take vitamins and other supplements, eat nutritious meals, exercise, etc. We should take care of ourselves the best we can. But within the limits placed upon us by His word. One of those limits is birth control: nowhere does the Bible say to use birth control while continuing to enjoy intimacy. There may be cause for temporary abstinence, but not “family planning.” So, if God doesn’t condone it, we shouldn’t use it. Period. Do we believe God enough to travel that path?

    I have heard testimonies of women who have trusted God to receive a child in spite of their health problems–and He came through for them! Does that mean He will always give us glowing health and never let anything bad happen if we choose to trust Him? No. But, we do give Him the chance to prove Himself to us, to allow for the possibility of a miracle (or a safe and healthy pregnancy). But, if we stop short of the miraculous because of our unbelief, then we will never know what He might have done with our lives.

    Just some thoughts. What do you think?
    Jessica

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  9. Hi Jessica! So sorry about not posting recently. We are getting our boys moved and hosted a graduation this past weekend. Still not feeling quite human yet 🙂 I thought i’d share a story that I heard recently that I think fits here.
    A couple decided their family was complete after 4 children and used a pretty permanent form of birth control. So they went for years without having children. Then, they became convicted about how they were not giving the Lord control of their child bearing and had a reversal done. Lo and behold, they had two more children! PTL! but then, tragedy struck. The husband got cancer and passed away. The wife is now in her 50’s and her youngest is 8. Do you think she regrets the decision she and her husband made to leave their child bearing years in the Lord’s hands even though he passed away suddenly thereafter? I would hazard a guess to say that if they trusted God enough to give their family planning back to Him, she most likely is trusting God enough to meet their needs. To me, I would look at those two children as special gifts from God and dear reminders of my husband, and be so very thankful. – Ruthie

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    • Thank you for sharing that story, Ruthie! It really impressed me, how the couple you mentioned changed their minds about family planning and were blessed with two more children. I also love your final statement: “…if they trusted God enough to give their family planning back to Him, she most likely is trusting God enough to meet their needs. To me, I would look at those two children as special gifts from God and dear reminders of my husband, and be so very thankful.” Yes, you put it so well!
      Jessica
      P.S. I hope everything is going well with helping your sons move out, and I hope you start to feel “human” again soon! ha, ha 🙂

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