Those are the words someone told me after I went to chemotherapy the first time. The room was full and I was led to a spot in the corner for my first infusion. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know anyone else in the room. But this woman across from me immediately introduced herself and offered advice on handling side effects. We became friends on Facebook and I quickly discovered she was a believer in Christ. When I messaged her later, marveling at how God arranged for me to be right next to her at my first infusion, she said, “God always knows what he’s doing.”
And he does, but I don’t believe it most of the time. I believe the lie that I have to help God out, with everything, or else it won’t get done correctly or on time.
There is a correct understanding of sanctification that properly balances the work I do empowered by God’s work (Philippians 2:12-13) but I don’t think it includes a kind of low level anxiety where I am constantly worried about doing my part or else God won’t do his part.
I have always liked to take notes during sermons. I don’t usually go back and read them, but I believe writing down my own notes helps me think more clearly and take in more truth. During this cancer journey, I haven’t had the strength or focus to take notes and the first time I realized that I felt a kind of spiritual FOMO (fear of missing out) that went like this:
“What if I miss something God wants to teach me?”
But God isn’t dependent on me taking notes to work his will in me. God always knows what he’s doing and he’s doing it even if I’m not taking notes during a sermon. He’s working out his will in my life in ways I am completely unaware of. Do I believe that? Not usually.
I get it backward. He is in charge of my sanctification. I am dependent on him, not the other way around. I don’t need to panic, trying to make sure I learn all the lessons I think God is trying to teach me. I need to abide in him and cling to him as the branch clings to the vine (John 15), staying close like the tree planted by streams of water. (Psalm 1) The branch doesn’t panic, neither does the tree. They both stick close to the source of life.
God always knows what he’s doing, both in the world and in my heart. He won’t let me miss out.
“I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” Psalm 57:2
“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” Psalm 138:8
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6