Yesterday I was out running and had a revolutionary thought:
God has never miraculously taken hold of my body and moved it from couch to pavement.
I know. This is the kind of insight you come here for.
But really, my legs have never started moving of their own volition and ushered me out the door into a successful workout. And all of the praying in the world hasn’t given me a single serving of abs, let alone a 6-pack.
This doesn’t come as a surprise. I know that God is not likely to look down from heaven, shout “Be toned!” and allow muscles to spontaneously erupt from my body. I know that if I want to look like the cover of a P90x DVD, then I have to commit to doing the P90x program. That action is based on my own level of discipline (or lack thereof), not on God’s willingness to provide for me (or lack thereof).
So then why do I expect Him to do what I can and should do for myself in other areas?
Let’s use career as an example because it’s been the theme of this year. I’ve consistently prayed for job opportunities for what feels like eons. And while I wish that God would make my phone ring with a job offer that fits my wants and needs to a tee, that isn’t likely to happen. The opportunities that have flourished in the past year have been the ones that I’ve faithfully pursued – going to an interview in the middle of moving, sending emails to wise, respected strangers in my field of work to ask for advice, giving out business cards, writing consistently in a variety of places. These actions have opened the door to great opportunities that I wouldn’t have had if I expected God to do all the dirty work for me. And the same is true for running. I have to chose to get off the couch, lace up my sneakers, and go for a run. I can’t assume that God will do it for me.
Which begs the question: if I’m doing all of the work, then why do I need God? Or phrased in a holier way: if I’m doing all of the work, then how do I “trust in the Lord” and “wait on the Lord“? Where does what I’m responsible for end and what God will do on my behalf begin?
If I had to guess, I’d say that it’s always my responsibility to do what I’m able to do. Can I put one foot in front of the other at an increasing speed? Yes? Then it’s my responsibility to get out and go for a run. Can I write an email to a successful stranger and ask how to be a better writer? Yes! So that’s on me; I’m fully capable of doing that.
If I had to guess again, I’d say that God steps in to do what I can’t do for myself. The first example that comes to mind is the beautiful miracle of salvation. Jesus has done for me what I never could do for myself; He died and paid the price for my sins so that I can have a relationship with God and live with the confident assurance of being with Him in heaven someday. That grace, forgiveness, and unmerited love is something that I never could have earned my way into. As Ephesians says, “It is a gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast.”
But I still have to take action. I still have to choose to accept that salvation.
It’s not all one or the other; not all holy miracle or all human action.
It’s the same with my career. I believe that God has intentionally led me to specific people, places, and situations over the past year. He orchestrated events in ways I never could have, quite literally leading the way forward. But I still had to choose to follow where He was leading and choose to act on His nudges. It’s a two-way street.
God is willing and able to do the miracles. I need to be willing and able to act on what He does.
(Although if He is looking to practice the “Be toned!” miracle, I’m available.)