“The tempter is not so crude as to suggest to us directly that we should worship the devil. He merely suggests that we opt for the reasonable decision, that we choose to give priority to a planned and thoroughly organized world, where God may have his place as a private concern but must not interfere in our essential purposes.” Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth
Everyone knows the frequently quoted axiom, “You make plans…and God laughs,” and all can attest to this being the case at some point (or at many times) in their lives. I know I can. I remember the moment several years ago when my grand five-year plan came crashing down in pieces before me in the adoration chapel—and I certainly didn’t find consolation in the image of God laughing. As misguided and human individuals, it is easy for us to make decisions and plans from day to day, year to year, without consulting God for His opinion, His plan. We can joke about God chuckling at our crazy ideas, devoid of His guidance in making them, but there is actually a real problem and danger here, one that we often fail to realize, but that requires our attention and a dramatic life change to uproot the nasty ‘me-only’ mentality—which is more like a fatal disease—from our lives.
The worst moments in history have been the ones where people have tried to take God out of the big picture and handle things on their own. This always proves disastrous. Actually, we see in Scripture that the word “obey” comes from the Hebrew “to hear,” indicating that obedience to God only comes when we listen to Him and His commands. In the Old Testament, every time the Israelites turn their hearts from God and refused to “hear” His voice, their circumstances reflect their disobedience in painfully blatant ways. They end up wandering in the desert, exiled, taken into captivity, used as slaves, and the story goes on…until our present day, when we see this same pattern of slavery (though in disguisedly different forms) to sin that stems from disobedience to the plan that God has for His chosen people.
This is precisely what the devil does. He convinces us that disobedience isn’t really a bad thing; he introduces it to us as a shiny apple, a seemingly good job offer (that may threaten important relationships in our lives), a remarkably good “deal” (on a possession we don’t need at all), an obviously reasonable decision that makes something else a priority before God, putting Him in a place that doesn’t interfere with “our purposes.”
It is an easy trap to fall into, an attractive offer to accept. The devil masks his evil plans with reasonableness, and that easy, comfortable option often grabs us. Our culture is obsessed with comfort and Satan knows this, which is why he appeals to this addiction in his efforts to distract us from God’s plans. It’s no wonder many choose this other way. Sometimes God asks some pretty radical, seemingly unreasonable things of us! In the Old Testament, God asks Hosea, one of the prophets, to marry a prostitute, Gomer, to reflect the relationship between God and Israel. God calls Hosea to be faithful to the unfaithful Gomer, just as He is faithful to Israel, despite Israel’s constant infidelity. Even the names of Hosea’s children seem quite unreasonable, but also point to a vital message that God is trying to convey. (Hosea, obeying God’s command, names his son “Not my people” and his daughter “Not pitied” because God’s chosen ones are acting like they are not His people, and God no longer will have pity on them—I know…crazy!) Unlike so many of us who look at God’s plans and laugh, Hosea is obedient and His obedience results in God’s assurance that He will allure Israel back to Himself and they will be His people again.
Hosea didn’t push God aside into his “church-only” sphere and resort to hearing God only when He prayed. He made God’s will, and His sometimes unusual plans, his ultimate priority, which had a powerful impact on his own life and the lives of those around him, by means of his example of radical trust in God’s plans. Our Heavenly Father has an unreasonable and radical love for His fallen, sinful, disobedient children. But if we could understand God’s reason, He wouldn’t be very mysterious or very God-like, would He? We, too, should have this unreasonable and radical love for God, manifested in our total surrender to every little detail of His plan for us. Let nothing God asks of you seem too absurd, too unorganized. Don’t just let Him interfere with your plans, let Him make them, guide them, elevate them.
The devil will not come to you saying, “Don’t do God’s will. Do this sinful thing instead.” He will make the sinful decision seem like the best option—or even the only option—and obscure your thinking so you doubt God’s goodness and faithfulness. “Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness” (CCC #397).
I’d wager a guess that God is probably not going to ask you to marry a harlot to demonstrate the culture’s infidelity to their Creator. But He is probably asking you to follow paths that look uncharted, scary, and require a whole lot of trust in His plan. When He comes knocking on the door of your heart, and when all of your own plans come crashing down before you, hear Him, obey His will, and you are more likely to encounter God’s joy than His laughter.