Ever made a fist around a handful of sand? The tighter you squeeze, the more sand pours out the sides. Many things in life are like that. The more we try to control our teenagers, the more they rebel. The more we try to control our employees, the more passive-aggressive they become. The more we try to control our lives, the more God allows them to run out of control.
Our plans are the sand in the hand. It’s not that God wants our lives to be in chaos. It’s that oftentimes, the only way we trust Him with our sand is when we see how little we can do in our own power to hold it. Scripture is full of tight-fisted sand grabbers:
Abraham thought Hagar might help him become the “father of many nations,” and she did, but those nations have been in a bloody family feud with the Israelites ever since.
Jacob scammed his way to blessings and birthright, but he met his match when Laban played matchmaker for his eldest daughter.
- Moses wanted to be the leader of his people, but vigilante justice got him forty years of practice leading sheep in the desert.
- Peter was ready to die for Jesus and brought his sword to prove it, but Jesus wanted him to live and die to self instead.
Saul of Tarsus wanted to serve God with all his heart on the road to Damascus, but God had a different road for him to follow.
So often, we try to accomplish God’s purposes in ways God never intended. We get tired of waiting for Him to do His will, so we take over. But instead of speeding things up, this often just slows them down.
About eleven years ago, I had an unusual experience. A woman I had never met told me she had a word from God for me. She said that God had heard my prayers and that He would put me into full-time ministry. I was absolutely amazed (and a little freaked out), because I had been praying this prayer since becoming a Christian a few months before, but I hadn’t shared it with anyone.
Unfortunately, God never told me when or how He would bring this Word to pass. As a result, I’ve spent years in the laboratory of my life trying my hand at alchemy. I’ve wasted a lot of money, worry and time struggling to turn my raw materials into gold, but most of my efforts have only led to dearly-purchased pyrite.
Today, I’m in full-time ministry. It took a lot longer than I expected, and it doesn’t look anything like what I had in mind. It came about despite my best efforts, not because of them. But it has taught me a lesson worth more than its weight in gold: Hold your plans loosely, and let God do with them what He will.
Until He can get our fingers pried off our sand, there’s not much He can do with it but watch as our tight grip forces it to spill out the sides. But if we will trust Him with our plans of sand, and if we can keep our palm open so that He can use what He wants…then, we’ll not only be able to hold much more, but God will turn that sand into gold.
“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”