And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.” Acts 21:14
Whenever I see someone going through a trial, it’s usually my first impulse to want to relieve the discomfort. In the clinic, it’s my job to help those in front of me. In other situations, though, I can only watch from a distance, praying for healing, divine help, comfort, or peace. Even with those who have brought the misery on themselves, it’s my nature to want to bail them out of whatever trouble they’ve gotten themselves into.
In situations like that, I find myself not knowing exactly how to pray or help though. I know that in my own life, it took significant misery and pain to turn me from my disastrous path. When life fell apart due to my diversion of opiate pain pills, I had two friends whom I attempted to enlist to get me out of my mess. Had they lied and covered for me, I thought, at the time, that I could evade consequences. Much to their credit, they both sat me down and wisely explained that they couldn’t help me and that it was time to face my addiction. I’m sure there was some part of them that felt bad and wanted to help. If they had been able to bail me out though, I never would have found recovery.
We all want to help others avoid discomfort, but that’s not always God’s plan. Sometimes avoidance of the trial isn’t his purpose. This appears to be the lesson of today’s passage. In the story, Paul felt God’s call to go to Jerusalem. All his friends knew he’d likely be imprisoned there and so they begged him not to go. Paul insisted he was ready to go to prison or die for Christ and so, his friends relented, saying, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”
God’s will should, of course, always be our first prayer and not our last resort. We often think we know what’s best for others, but our will frequently has little to do with God’s. I’m not saying that we should callously refuse help to those who are ill or hurting. I am suggesting that there are times when we shouldn’t bail others out of their self-inflicted misery. It’s not always easy to know when to help and when not to do so. At these times, and at all times, we must pray as Paul’s friends did. “Let the will of the Lord be done.”