I considered the situation. At first, I could see his point. Later, as the Lord sent me wisdom, I began to see the situation as it really was.
My friend's reaction could only mean two things. First, it could have been a hyperbole used in the emotion of the situation. This would have meant that he was fighting unfairly, for hyperbole is never called for in a fight between two people of close relationship. Exaggeration is not a means of finding truth, but rather prolongs the struggle for truth and makes it more difficult. Thus, if this was the situation, my friend was patently fighting unfairly and only trying to win an argument rather than resolve a problem, and thus should apologize immediately.
The second possibility, rather more probable, was that my friend truly believed that she had ruined his life and the heat of the argument had brought out this truth. What did this indicate?
As I pondered the situation more, I began to see that my friend had an extremely pessimistic view of life in general. For at the root of his comment was the worst possible interpretation of the relationship between God's omnipotence, and man's free will.
Mature Christians understand that God is all-powerful. He is omnipotent. We also understand that man has been given free will. These two principles lead to an apparent contradiction which is posed with this question: If God is all-powerful, how can anything we do be the result of free will?
Mature Christians generally understand that this must be looked at from a point of view. If my boss terminates my employement, from my point of view, this is God's will and power at work affecting my life. My free will is then exercised in how I deal with this will. I can accept the situation as God's will for my life and go forward, looking toward the opportunites present in the new situation. Or, I can choose to fight the situation, complaining angrily about my boss, his unfairness, or (if I am confused about the free will aspect) complaining about God and His supposed unfairness. In either event, I exercise free will -- my boss was manipulated by God.
On the other hand, from the point of view of my boss, he was perfectly free to decide whether or not to terminate my employment. If he terminated me, it was his choice, and I would be free to find work elsewhere. If he chose not to terminate me, it was also his choice, but God would then force his business into bankruptcy for he could not afford my salary.
So free will is present in the eye of the beholder. I always have free will -- God manipulates the Universe around me. You always have free will -- God manipulates the Universe around you. It depends upon the point of view.
So much for the mature Christian's understanding.
My friend was demonstrating a significantly different understanding. He believed in just the reverse of the situation. He believed that his wife had total free will in what she did, in her ability to cause his harm -- but that he had no free will. He thought that whenever his wife did something, it was her will in action -- not God's benevolent will acting through her. He also believed in the total hopelessness of his position -- a man who believes his life has truly been ruined also believes that he has no power of will to change that life. He had completely reversed the reality of cause and effect, of God's will and his own free will.
Thus my friend has a problem of faith. He does not understand these basic tenets of Christianity:
The mature Christian who has faith understands this and becomes inherently optimistic about life. The events of life become a fun challenge, set up by a loving parent to teach the child how to be strong and capable.
But my friend has none of this optimism. Although he professes to be Christian, he has no faith in the final victory. He sees God as a punishing demon who doesn't want success. He no longer goes to church and is gradually sinking into depression. And that is very, very sad.
Please pray for my friend. Is his life ruined? Only as long as he uses his free will to avoid positive action and as long as he continues to attribute such god-like power to his wife. He can turn from his point of view, and see that his wife is not evil, that she has no such power over him, and that he can look for the positive opportunities that God has placed before him through his wife's actions.
This point of view is also the point of view which many depressed people who are devout believers in modern psychology adopt: They have been hopelessly ruined by the events and people of their past. Thus, their free will is useless. So why bother to try to grow?
Of course, this is not the point of view of most better psychologists - only of the hopeless who know a little psychology. The better psychologists truly believe in locating the problem in the past, seeing it for what it is (only the past -- not the present or future), and helping the patient exercise his free will to make a good future.
But human psychologists are not really needed here. Understanding that Jesus has the power and the personal attention time needed to resolve your problems is a wonderfully encouraging thought. In fact, He has said that anyone who asks of him will receive help from him.
If you have had a similar problem, my prayer is that you will also know the optimism and hope that comes through exercising your free will to follow God's will -- not as a mindless robot, but as a willing player who follows a great and good Coach.
Look for God's will in your life. And first, if you have not already done so, accept the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and wants good for you. Declare in a simple prayer that you need His guidance, for you have messed up your life many times by breaking His laws, and that you are now willing to follow Him throughout eternity.
After you have done this, let a Christian friend know about it. Or call us tollfree at 1-888-728-2465 to talk.
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