Stop Being God's "Drama Friend"
I suspect we all have "that friend" who loves to talk about the drama in their lives. They'll lay it all out for you in a long, emotional conversation and ask for your advice. The first few times, you probably invested some decent time imparting wisdom, carefully instructing them how to proceed. You loved them through their difficult circumstances because you're a good friend. 50 friendship points for you.
But the "drama friend" never really wants advice, even though they ask for it. So, a few days later, you'll start to piece together that they poured our their drama to everyone they knew, always asking for advice, but never taking it. Or, at best, sorting through all the advice they were given to choose the advice that justifies the foolish actions they'd already planned on taking. If you're wise, you learned not to invest as much time and energy into your "drama friends." You give them what they want: a little attention, a nod of support. But you pour your heart into people who listen to advice and honor your input in their lives. If you're humble, you'll recognize that we've all been the "drama friend" once or twice before.
If you've been struggling to hear God lately, even though you're asking for His guidance in your life, is there a chance that you've been God's "drama friend?" Do you ask God for help but then barely listen as you keep bemoaning your circumstances to everyone in your life? Do you seek out everyone's opinion and leave God's voice as just one option to consider?
I ask because I was looking at James chapter 1 again recently. And I realized that a couple of the verses in James that I knew by heart didn't mean at all what I had been taught that they meant. (This has been happening to me a lot lately, as I've slowed down and read the bible more carefully, paying attention to the context. )
The verses in question are James 1:6-7, which is a section of scripture that is quoted a lot, without much context, in the NIV "But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord."
Those verses were usually quoted to me to show me how to claim things in faith, believing in advance that I'd receive whatever I asked for from God. They were verses that could separate me, a person God wanted to bless, from all the other unfortunate, foolish people left out of God's blessing. I could control God and get what I wanted by believing and never doubting. It was in scripture, so it was true.
Only, after living some hard years where I realized that nothing separated me from any "others" and that God loved us all the same, and His love didn't mean any of us were immune from suffering, I started caring about the context of the "promises" in scripture I'd been taught to hold on to.
And this verse, here, about believing God without doubting, looks a lot different if we back up a little. James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."
So, wait, that means the thing we should ask for with faith isn't whatever random thing we happen to be wanting, it's wisdom? And the caution not to doubt isn't about our requests in general; it's about our requests for wisdom? Read all of it together in the King James version.
"If any of you lack wisdom, let his ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and unbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven by the wind and tossed."
I know, the King James is a mouthful. Unbraideth? There's a reason we don't use it much. I dare you to use the word unbraideth in a causal conversation this week.
But I liked that the King James version used the word waver rather than doubt. Because when the bible says, "Ask God for wisdom, but don't waver." I get it. Ask God for wisdom, but then listen to it, be committed to the wisdom He speaks. Don't ask God for wisdom but then poll everyone else you know and weigh which advice you like best. Don't ask God for wisdom, but in the end, just do what you intended to do all along. If you're going to ask God for wisdom, be resolved to act in the wisdom He gives you. In other words, "don't be the drama friend!" Because people quit pouring their hearts into their drama friends. If you want God to pour his heart into you, then honor the wisdom He gives you!
These verses were never about "name it - claim it" faith. They were about the fear of the Lord. His wisdom is the only wisdom you need. Don't disrespect God by asking for his direction, and then making his voice one of many options you'll consider as you move forward!
For my word nerd friends, the word that is translated as doubt in the NIV and waver in KJV is the Greek word, diakrino. It means to make a distinction, to try, to decide, to determine, to give judgment, to hesitate, to doubt etc. So, it really is saying, don't ask God for wisdom and then sit and try to decide if the wisdom He's offered you is any good.
Whew, I don't know about you, but I'm going to sit with this for a minute, and then maybe spend some time repenting for the way I've treated the wisdom of God in my life. I'm probably going to wait to ask God for direction in my life until I know I'm ready to obey His wisdom, no matter what answer He gives.
And the good news is, I can breathe a little easier about doubt in general. We are human. We are prone to doubt. Doubt doesn't mean we'll never get anything God wants to give us. Doubt is usually a pretty good indicator that we are stretching our faith, and that's a good thing. Acknowledging our doubt with God builds intimacy with Him; we don't have to be afraid to show Him who we are and how we're feeling. The verses that made us afraid to acknowledge doubt were really about not questioning God's wisdom after He gives it to us.
Amy Noel Green is a Ted Speaker, author, and video game designer. She received international press attention for her work on the video game "That Dragon, Cancer." The video game tells the story of her son Joel who died from cancer at the age of five.
She is the author of the upcoming book, "Dear God, How Could You?" (When Joel died of cancer after years of miracles, Amy questioned God. She shouted her betrayed, angry questions at the God she no longer understood. She buried many miracles with Joel. She buried her relationship with God too, but God’s love for her refused to stay in the grave.) Subscribe for updates on the bottom of her about page, to be notified when her book is published.