I like to have a positive impact on the world. In fact, sometimes I feel like it’s my job to win friends and influence people. The trouble is, if that’s my job, I’m not always that good at it.
This fact hit me pretty hard recently. I’d invested prayer, energy, time, and emotion into several different situations—and I failed to have much effect in any of them. This troubled me. A lot.
I decided to talk it over with God. He invited me to have our conversation in a quiet spot beside a cascading stream on a lovely fall morning.
“I should be able to have more influence,” I explained to God. “But I’ve failed. And I feel a heavy weight of responsibility.”
After a bit of silence, He spoke gently to my heart. Are you responsible? Who said? Who said that you need to influence others? Who said that you are responsible for how things turn out?
“I thought You did,” I said. I sat silently for a while, pondering this. Was it possible that I’d misunderstood? Did God truly not expect me to change the world? I thought that was our mandate. Yet, I couldn’t actually remembering Him telling me that.
While I was still pondering, I sensed Him leading me to open my Bible. So I turned to the bookmarked place where I’d been reading in Psalms. Here’s what I read:
“My people did not listen to me. Israel wanted nothing to do with me. So I let them go their own stubborn ways and follow their own advice. If only my people would listen to me! If only Israel would follow me!” (81:11-13).
I was flabbergasted. If anyone can influence, it’s God! Yet, sometimes He actually chooses not to. Sometimes He steps back and allows people to go their own way and follow their own advice. He doesn’t always “succeed” at bringing change, either.
After a long silence, I finally spoke. “So changing the world isn’t my job” I said. It was more a statement than a question. “Then what is?”
I didn’t need to wait for His answer. I already knew it. My job is to be faithful. My job is to obey God, to follow His lead, regardless of outcomes. My “success” is linked to how closely I walk with Him, not to how much influence I have.
I’m still getting used to this idea. It is a paradigm switch for me. But I think if I can really get it, I’ll be more relaxed. I’ll be more able to find that rest that Jesus invites me to (Matthew 11:28). And that sounds even more inviting than a mountain stream on a fall day.