The past few weeks have been a blur for a number of reasons. Most of the time, I’ve felt like I was being pulled in five different directions and somehow my head and all my appendages are still attached to my torso. Many thoughts and concerns have filled my mind, both about the present and the future. About half of this is self-imposed; the other half is circumstantial.
Without getting into great detail, it came to a head yesterday. I felt lost, disconnected. I would describe it as “spiritual discomfort.” I couldn’t place the cause of the feeling. I put on my best face (plus some tunes) and pressed on through the day, but couldn’t escape it very long.
Mid-morning, I took a break and prayed. I knew I’d been moving at a million miles a minute and hadn’t done much towards my relationship with the Lord lately. I prayed throughout the day, asking God to forgive me for my lax prayer life and not trusting in Him as I’m making some life decisions and planning for the future. I asked Him to guide me according to His will, and that He would help me put aside anything of mine not in accordance with His plan for me.
Mid-afternoon, as I took another brief break, a verse came to mind. I have always, always, prayed that God would “lead me along paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Ps. 23:3, ESV), and of course that I would know when and where He is leading me. However, it wasn’t Psalm 23 that came to mind, but another verse involving God’s will that I would do well to keep in mind, despite having it memorized.
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecc. 12:13)
After the Preacher expounds on the fact that everything we experience in life is “vanity” or “meaningless” for the majority of Ecclesiastes, he ties his observations and exhortations up with this statement: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” That’s the meaning of life if there ever was one.
Conan might disagree, but what’s best in life is to do those two things: fear God and obey His commandments. Fear doesn’t mean we should be scared of God; fear means we should love and respect Him, knowing that He will indeed “bring every deed into judgment” (v. 14). We should love Him so much that we have no other gods before Him (Ex. 20:3); put simply, He should be the One we long for the most, with money, fame, and everything else we desire taking a backseat. Thus, we obey God’s commandments because we love Him and place Him above everything else, which includes our human desires.
In a way, I’m preaching to myself here. I’m terrible at putting God first, much less others. I’m young and want to be independent. I have dreams and desires. Oftentimes, I can get so focused on one objective that I acquire tunnel vision and miss everything else around it. And if I’m honest, I’m not always sure I want to follow God’s plan for my life because I think I’ve got a better, more fulfilling plan. And most of the time, I don’t know what to do about it but pray that God would continue to mold me into the young man He wants me to be.
I cycle through phases of closeness in my relationship with Christ. Right now I feel like I’m coming out of the trough again, moving along the sine wave back towards zero. I wish it weren’t that way, but I’m human and, as the hymn says, prone to wander, prone to leave the God I love. Oh that I could love Him more and my relationship move upward along a line graph! Even then, I would wane eventually because I’m still human, still a sinner. Thank God that, though I wander off time and time again, He’ll still let me return. Better yet, He’ll come after me and bring me back!
The best thing I think I can pray is that He would give me the desires of my heart (Ps. 37:4). I mean that twofold: I want Him to give me the desire, and then I want Him to give me what I desire. In other words, I pray that my wants will be what He wants me to want. (I’m trying to think of a better way to word this, but I can’t at the moment.)
Perhaps the things I desire in life already come from Him; they’re certainly not sinful desires, but I don’t know that they’re the most “spiritual” either. For example, I desire to be gainfully and successfully self-employed. I desire to travel and explore the world more often than I’ll get while working most jobs. Most would say that these are good, admirable dreams, but I can’t help but feel that they’re a bit shallow and superficial in the light of God’s Word. And yet, these things (and others more personal) are things I still long for.
If or when He gives me His desires for me, I believe I’ll know it, and I’ll want to pursue them. If He’s already given me those desires, then I’m going to pursue them with all my might. In all I do, I will aim to fear Him and keep His commandments, because that’s what is best in life.