Philip Yancey, one of my favorite authors, wrote about a friend from India. When Vijay was 15 years old, his parents decided to find Vijay a wife. They considered all the young girls they knew in their social circles and decided that Martha was the one for Vijay to marry. At this point Martha was 13; she and Vijay had met, briefly, only once.
The four parents got together and agreed on a wedding date eight years away. Only then did they tell the two who they would be marrying. During the next eight years, Vijay and Martha saw each other only twice, with close supervision. They moved in together, husband and wife, as virtual strangers. Yet, Yancey says, their marriage is as secure and loving as any he has known. Many marriages in Asia and Africa are like that.
I read that story while preparing a couple sermons on suffering. And the thought struck me: is Vijay’s trust in his parents a picture of the trust we can have as God arranges our life?
We Westerners tend to approach life the same way we approach marriage—we act like we should have the final say in choosing our life circumstances as well as our mates.
Indeed, we do have control over much of our life. We make many real choices which determine much of our life situation. Nonetheless, much of life is out of our hands. Elections may or may not go our way. We may not be able to stop accidents or loss of health. We cannot always get the job we want or the income we need. In those moments is our attitude one of trust in God? Do we approach life placing the kind of trust in God that Vijay placed in his parents?
It’s not that God directly orders all the things in life that we don’t choose. People around us also shape what happens. And the Bible talks about Satan affecting our life (think of the story of Job). Yet God somehow remains in charge (again think of the story of Job). In some way, God “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). We read many stories of this in the Bible (e.g., Genesis 50:20; Acts 2:23, 4:27-28), many examples of God working all things, even horrible things, together for good (Romans 8:28).
Can you and I have the same attitude of trust in our heavenly Parent that Vijay had in his parents? When we are permitted to make a life choice, we will seek to choose well. But when our life situation is beyond our control, we will trust in the One who oversees all and is able to arrange our life to fit into the plan that is best.