Maybe submission isn’t the word I’m actually looking for in this post. Like I said before, writing is not really my forte. “Submission” has such a negative connotation, implying that one has given up his or her own authority in favor of a superior’s authority and sovereignty. “Submission” has become almost synonymous with “giving up.” However, submission to God is less about giving up our own (non-existent) authority, but rather, recognizing and accepting the truth that God is the ultimate authority, both in heaven and on earth.
One Sunday service, we reviewed the stories of how Zechariah and Mary each found out they were about to have children, and not just any children, but John the Baptist and Jesus Christ (Luke 1). Now, imagine you’re Zechariah. You’re older in age, but you’ve been dreaming and praying for a child for the longest time. Gabriel the Angel graces you with the news of your wife bearing a child who will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Considering how Zechariah, a priest, was even praying at the exact moment Gabriel appeared, we would expect Zechariah to fall on his knees, thanking and praising God for finally answering his prayers after so many years. Instead, we find him questioning the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years” (Luke 1:18). In his unbelief, Gabriel silenced Zechariah until the day John the Baptist was born, when Zechariah submitted himself to God’s will by proclaiming his son’s name to be John, rather than Zechariah as his friends and family expected.
Zechariah poses an interesting question, “How shall I know this [because of these reasons]?” (My history professor claimed there is no such thing as an “interesting question,” since “interesting” is an unnecessary qualifier — all questions should be interesting or you shouldn’t ask them. I disagree.) Rather than putting his trust in God’s authority, Zechariah resorts to his own understanding of the world. When we don’t have faith, we ultimately place our faith in ourselves and the world. We limit God, and what He can do, to our own, bounded world, neglecting the fact that God Himself called the universe into being; He has no limits. We cannot even begin to comprehend the possibilities with God. Zechariah’s disbelief stems from forgetting God’s incredible faithfulness, as well as a hardened heart, conditioned to disbelief. His dream was coming true right in front of his eyes, and yet he could not believe, perhaps because he had not been sincerely and earnestly praying for it to happen. How often do we pray for something and honestly believe it, knowing that God hears our prayers? Or rather, more realistically, how often do we even consistently pray for something?
On the other hand, you have Mary, the unmarried (though engaged) virgin. Despite receiving the shock (but also honor) of a lifetime, Mary already submits herself to God’s will, asking the angel “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). Rather than questioning how she herself can be certain that this will happen, like Zechariah, she accepts that it will happen regardless, eventually declaring, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to you word” (Luke 1:38). Mary is quick to agree with the angel because it was habitual for her to do so. In her shock, Mary reverts to her natural behavior of serving and joyfully obeying the Lord. What is the habit of our own hearts?
Are we submissive to God’s will when it shakes us from our comfort zone, or are we still the lord of our own lives and full of complaints? The question is not so much “What is God’s will for my life?” but rather “How can I align my life with God’s will?” We know what God’s ultimate will is (The Great Commission), but often we just choose to ignore it or take the easy way out because it doesn’t fit into our own pre-planned lives. How different would our lives be if God’s will was our will as well.
Afflictions cannot injure when we blend them with submission. [Streams in the Desert]