The Myth of God’s Favor
I recently read a prayer request from someone that made a lot of things that I’ve been mulling for a while come to a bit of clarity. This person said, “Please pray for God’s favor in X situation, that we will achieve X.” My first response, at least mentally, was to ask, “aren’t you a Christian? Doesn’t that mean you already have God’s favor?”
It occurred to me then, that many of us, including myself, have a warped vision of what God’s favor looks like. Too many of us think that success=God’s favor. And sure, in some instances, maybe that’s true. But does failure also mean that you’re not in favor with God?
I’ve started to realize that God’s favor being linked to any particular outcome is a myth.
A few weeks ago at church, our pastor gave a different take on Psalm 23. We all know it, and many can recite it. But he pointed out something new to me. We often think of the verses as separate occurrences. We separate verse 3, “He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake,” from verse 4, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
What if they’re connected? What if GOD is the one taking you through the darkest valley?
I’ve been thinking about that for a long time. Taking that question and seeing how that applies in my life and what I assume to be true about God. I admit that I’m not anywhere close to having an expert answer. But as I’ve thought about the valleys in my life, and times when I’ve wondered why I’m there- what am I doing wrong?
Maybe it’s not me at all.
I have a laundry list of deep dreams that are unfulfilled. Some, I am learning to accept will never be fulfilled. Is it because God doesn’t love me? Is it because I did something wrong? Am I paying for past sins? Because I tend to go to the negative first in my brain, of course that’s what I told myself. Maybe I am not favored by God.
Then I remembered the story of Mary, and how when the angel came to her, he told her that she was favored. Most of us think, wow, isn’t that wonderful? Except we forget the part that being favored by God RUINED HER LIFE. Seriously. Being unmarried and pregnant in that time was punishable by death. She had her baby in really inconvenient circumstances. She had to take her husband and baby and spend the early parts of the baby’s life on the run in a foreign country. She had a few years watching her son doing really cool things. And then she got to watch him die a painful, horrific death.
And yes, we know the story ended with the resurrection, and what a glorious ending for her. But did she know it while she was hiding her son, wondering if that next knock on the door would be someone there to kill him? Did she know that when she saw him take his last breath? How did she feel at the time about being highly favored by God?
Maybe being favored by God isn’t what we want after all. Maybe what we really want is for God to take a look at our laundry list of dreams, check them all off, and say, “done!”
So why don’t we say that? Why don’t we just admit that rather than God’s favor, what we really want is to get our way? I’m not trivializing here- I know that for some people, they’re asking for serious things- cures for cancer, homes to not be foreclosed on, babies to be born, peace in a war-torn country. But all those things happen, regardless of whether or not you have God’s favor. We just want God to fix stuff for us. And that’s okay. I have a lot of things I’d really like God to fix.
The thing I need to remember is that when God doesn’t fix it for me, it doesn’t mean that He doesn’t love me or that I don’t have His favor. How about you? Are you able to accept God’s favor for what it is, or do you need reminders that His favor isn’t about your success? What reminders of God’s favor have helped you?