God’s Playing Opposite Day Again

Jeremiah the prophet

Does it ever seem to you that God’s will is the exact opposite of what your desires and hopes are?

On Friday’s post regarding the difficulty of single life, Sarah had a great description of this phenomenon:

I’ve often heard what I think is a false belief that God is somehow out to always trick or surprise us or “teach us some lesson” by haHA not giving us our desires! I think there is a lot more depth to God, and as a single it really, really frustrated me when time and again “encouragers” would give rare examples of people who felt called in one direction but ended up never going down that road.

The reality is, God is not out to get us or simply “play opposite day” with us to be cute or prove anything… however, His ways *are* bigger than our ways and yes, we must accept that we don’t have all the answers and His plans may not always make sense to us. And yet, no matter what happens, God really does love us and want whats best for us and desire joy for us.

I have certainly felt this way during my life. Starting during my days as an atheist. Of all the things I held in contempt, Christianity held a special place. Then God brought me to my knees via depression, anxiety disorder, and panic attacks, and I became a Christian, that thing I most despised.

After a year or so of swimming in the waters of Evangelical Protestantism, I had grown to abhor the Catholic Church. Its rituals, rules, and ancient morbidity all disgusted me. But then I started questioning some of the presuppositions of my new-found Protestant beliefs and realized, to my horror, that (of all things) the Catholic Church had the strongest, most consistent claims to be the Church Christ founded.

God had done it again. He had duped me, and I was duped. And I found myself again joining something I once despised.

By this point, I was ready for anything. Or so I thought. The vocation to consecrated celibacy opened up to me when I became Catholic. At this time though, I was still struggling to overcome my social anxiety disorder. The idea of being a priest, always in the spotlight, was completely unappealing to me. I dreaded the idea of it. But it didn’t take long for me to remember how God on multiple occasions had led me to become the very thing I most feared. Would He do it again and call me to the priesthood?

Thus my discernment of the priesthood became a double battle of struggling to see past my fears and overcome them so that I could peacefully and calmly see whether Christ was leading me to become a priest. I didn’t want my own weaknesses and anxieties to prevent me from being the man God wanted me to be. And I knew how powerless I was to accomplish this without His help.

Thanks be to God. He did help me through the fears, and, with both feet firmly planted on the ground, I came to respect, admire, and value the priesthood, even while realizing that it was not my vocation.

So God didn’t play opposite day forever with me, though it felt that way several times. Truth is though, He wanted the best for me, and since I started from a far and alien country, it was an arduous trek to come Home.

As Sarah said: God knows you and wants what is best for you. He alone knows how you will be most fulfilled in this life. He is worthy of our total trust. God bless you in your life!

Have you had times in your life when it felt like God was playing a shell game with you, or playing opposite day?

7 thoughts on “God’s Playing Opposite Day Again”

  1. I think that what is being referred to here is not God playing a prank on us, but the other way around.

    Oftentimes we refuse to listen to God’s voice and go along our own choices, subconsciously aware that they are not God’s will. Also, we may try to put limits on God’s will, by telling Him that some things are out of His reach. In these cases, we are the ones cheating God. In His patience, He’ll slowly guide us to see His ways.

    For instance, if you pray that His will be done, but to just leave your job alone, He’ll let you know that He doesn’t appreciate your making your job an idol that has precedence over His will. Gently and patiently, but He will. And if He does, praise His name, for then you’d have one less idol in your life.

    Likewise, if you despise His Church after the lies spread about her in Protestant circles out of malice (i.e., willful ignorance or outright falsification), He will humble you. And if He does, praise His name, for then you’d be freer of the influence of the father of lies.

    The bottom line is that from our perspective we may think it’s God playing tricks, but rather He’s just untangling ourselves from our own tricks we played not on Him, but on ourselves. Can suffering come with it? Certainly, but sometimes a bone has to be broken again to be set straight. The Divine Physician knows best.

    1. “Oftentimes we refuse to listen to God’s voice and go along our own choices, subconsciously aware that they are not God’s will.”

      I have experienced this many times (and probably will again!) I was sure that I was “called” to be a public school teacher, and probably save the public school system singlehandedly (ha). I went to graduate school (piling on more student loans), and I excelled, and everyone told me I would easily get a teaching job because I would be such an exceptional candidate. I ended up subbing for a year, getting a lot of interviews but no job offers. I worked at a Panera and as a cashier at a municipal pool to make enough for my loan payments, giving up on teaching when I finally got offered a full-time office job, that I was laid off from as soon as I returned from maternity leave after my son was born.

      It took a lot for me to realize that maybe God had another plan for me – a plan to teach in a more localized way, without awards or accolades – in fact, a way of life that invites contempt from many, because to them I am just mooching off my husband who does the “real work.” I have given up a lot of comforts – some of which would be considered by our society to be “needs” – because, after all, those foolishly acquired student loans still have payments due. I go back and forth on whether or not I regret them. On the one hand, I learned and am learning a lot from my grad school experience – it’s just not at all what I was “supposed” to learn. On the other, without them, even as a SAHM my undergrad loans would be paid off and life would be a heckuva lot less stressful!

      But I needed a good lesson in humility, and God is making sure that I get it!

  2. For me, it wasn’t that I was ignoring God’s will (I don’t think :)), it was more that the time/place/circumstances weren’t right. In my case (as I believe in many cases), God was actively working to bring me to my spouse in the long-term, but He had to say “no” in the short-term many, many times to bring me to the right person at the right time and the right place (and also, since marriage takes two, my future DH had to be ready too).

    So yeah, it was very difficult when people would imply that maybe I was really called to religious life citing all sorts of examples of “surprise” vocations because in my own prayer and discernment, I really didn’t think that to be the case for me And that kind of advice implies that something is wrong with the discerner when sometimes nothing is “wrong” at all! I actually went through a phase where I was super paranoid that I wasn’t discerning “right,” or that my very desire was what was pushing God in another direction or that I had somehow missed a calling to be a nun (I was later assured that usually you have SOME inkling – and yes, even desire – for a religious vocation long before reaching this paranoid state LOL), and found prayer life SO difficult. Do I sound crazy or what? Lol. So maybe my perspective is coming more from one who struggles with scruples. It took me stepping back from it all and realizing that for whatever reason I had it, my desire for marriage was a good, reasonable most-likely God-given desire and that maybe I just needed to trust that God would do something with it in due time. Think about it: the majority of Catholics are called to marriage and the majority desire marriage before it came to pass. And many, many religions (I would think most?) also actively desired and pursued their religious vocation before it came to pass.

    1. Yes Sarah this was true of me as well. It is not like God calls you to something that is deeply against all your (good) desires. Like, you can’t see yourself as a priest at all in spite of trying yet–that’s a big clue that God isn’t calling you to the priesthood.

      1. Can you imagine sitting in marriage prep with your priest and fiance and somberly saying, “Yeah, well I don’t really have a desire for married life – I mean it’s a very noble vocation and all – but I don’t really WANT to get married. But I think it’s God’s will for me.” I am pretty sure the priest would ask you to call off the wedding. 🙂 I think it’s great your writing a book helping those who feel like this is their calling actively pursue it… like you said, the journey may be quite hard and in some cases, marriage may not happen for reasons we may not always fully understand. But it’s worth it to put yourself out there and actively discern!

  3. “We see through the glass dimly.”

    I think it is us who play the games. We quite often do not know what is best for us and we wander off in all sorts of directions.

    That old joke comes to mind, “Do you know how to make God laugh?…Tell Him your plans.”

    But God uses all of it, for His purposes. Both the good that we do…and the bad.

    Thanks, Devin.

  4. With all respect, I’m not sure I agree completely. Your post suggests that, if our desires don’t line up with our reality, then our desires are somehow not God’s will for us. My problem with this line of thinking is that it implies that, for some, God’s will is pretty disordered.

    For example, and to stay within the context of your recent posts, many single Catholics feel strongly called to married life (a good and holy desire). But despite their best efforts, there are some who will never find a husband or wife. For them, the vocation to the single life will be a difficult and perpetual struggle. While they should trust that God will aid them in their trial, I don’t think they need to believe that this is what God thinks is best for them.

    To use another example, a couple might feel called to have children (again, a good and holy desire) but struggle with infertility their entire lives. This is a terrible cross to bear and the inability to fulfill a vocation to parenthood will likely be a lifelong struggle. I think it would be very difficult for such a couple to accept that this is what God has determined will fulfill them the most.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that not everything always has to happen for a good reason. Implying that the key to happiness is just to change your perspective about what God wants for you seems to dismiss the reality that, as a result of original sin, life is not always fair. For many folks, their lives will perpetually be “opposite day” and, rather than trust that God will someday change that, they should simply trust that God will help them survive through all the sadness.

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