“Lord Willing”Categories: M. W. Bassford, Meditations
Living in Tennessee is a very different cultural experience from living in Illinois. One of the contrasts I have noticed is the frequent appearance of “Lord willing” in conversation. When you’re talking with some folks, every expression of intent or hope for the future is punctuated with “Lord willing”.
This comes from James 4:15, where James urges us to frame our plans with the statement, “if the Lord wills”. However, the context is not about saying magic words to make sure bad things don’t happen to us. It’s about having the right spirit. In fact, people who use “Lord willing” can become entrapped in many of the same pitfalls that await people who say, “O my God!”
Of course, there is nothing wrong with uttering those three words. They appear in the Psalms and in many hymns that we sing. However, problems arise when we say, “O my God!” flippantly or thoughtlessly. I am not among those who believe that saying it constitutes taking the Lord’s name in vain as per Exodus 20:7 (which I believe is about swearing false oaths), but that doesn’t make it acceptable.
Invoking the name of the Holy One of Israel is a solemn thing. One of the greatest privileges we have, one purchased with the blood of Christ, is the right to call upon the name of the LORD. When we do so carelessly, we display irreverence toward the One whom we are commanded to revere. It is dangerous to treat the Almighty in such a cavalier fashion!
So too, we must make sure that we speak reverently of the purposes of God. In James 4:13-16, James condemns the arrogance of those who make confident plans about the future. He points out that none of us can guarantee that we will survive even tomorrow. Before the awesome, unchanging God, all of us are nothing more than a passing vapor.
“Lord willing,” then, is supposed to be more than a verbal good-luck charm. Instead, James is urging us, every time we talk about the future, to think long and hard about how uncertain our place in that future is.
We don’t like doing that. We want to believe that we are the ones in control, that everything will shape up according to our desires. If nothing else, 2020 should have highlighted the foolishness of that conviction. When we believe we’re in the driver’s seat of our own lives and speak accordingly, we’re boasting, whether the phrase “Lord willing” passes our lips or not.
Instead, we should use “Lord willing” as an opportunity to humble ourselves before our Maker. We should remind ourselves of how foolish and feeble we are, especially when compared to the wisdom and power of God. We also should view it as an acknowledgment of our subjection before His will. Someone who says “Lord willing” and then goes out and sins clearly does not mean it!
We must mean it, whether we say it or not. “Lord willing” ought to call us to fix our minds upon the sovereignty of God, each day and each hour. May we live accordingly!