If God Wants It to Happen, It Will Happen?
I tend to inwardly bridle (more or less, depending on the day) when I hear “If God wants it to happen, it will happen” in regards to business dealings (including apostolic work). This is primarily because it is a fact that God allows us to fail. In my experience, it is atypical for God to intervene in our daily business affairs to say such things as, “Hey, you bid 50% too high—but it is my will that you get that job, so I will coerce the will of the buyer and, hey presto, you will be awarded the contract.” (Not unheard of, but I believe atypical.)
To take it to the macro level of Divine Providence: God doesn’t will that sinners go to Hell. However, he does allow sinners to go to Hell if they reject His love. According to my recollection of Catholic theology, this has been referred to as God’s “permissive will”. God actively wills our existence—we can do nothing without Him—but in His permissive will He allows us to choose our end: love or hatred, life or death. You actually need this understanding to believe in a loving God.
But, to take it back to the level of business affairs: I’m a big believer that God can accomplish what we ourselves cannot, and that He will accomplish things in spite of our deficiencies. So why does it make me uncomfortable when I hear this article’s title phrase? Perhaps because, to me, it seems a bit presumptuous. Perhaps it is because of the flip side of the coin: if you do not attain the goal of your pursuit, is it because God didn’t want it to happen, or because it is God’s will that you try it again?
What about the devil? Doesn’t Satan want us to fail when we try to do good things? Won’t he try to throw roadblocks in the way? If everything doesn’t work out, is God testing your resolve? Is it His desire to humble you? Are you trying too hard, or not hard enough? Are your efforts properly directed? Is God trying to tell you, “not right now, here in this place”? What if you just misread the market opportunity?
I am a big proponent of the saying “Pray to God, but row towards shore.” That seems like a good combination of spiritual and physical effort—and it doesn’t include the notion that you will be able to determine God’s will by the result.
It has also been put, “God desires that we be holy, not that we be ‘successful’.” Whether we succeed or fail in pursuing our business, God’s will is accomplished; “success” in our daily affairs has no impact on our ability to become holy.
So let’s revise the title phrase to this: “Whether or not we achieve the stated goal, if we seek to do the will of God in the spirit of holiness, God’s will shall be done.” To me, that makes a lot more sense than “If God wants it to happen, it will happen.”
An appeal from our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus:
Dear reader: If you found the information on this page helpful in your pursuit of a better Catholic life, please support our work with a donation. Your donation will help us reach seven million Truth-seeking readers worldwide this year. Thank you!
All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!
Posted by: bsp1022 -
Mar. 19, 2010 4:31 PM ET USA
Great insight here. Thnaks, Peter! My own personal favorite: "Expect God to move your mountain, but keep digging"... JEB
Posted by: frdad5666 -
Mar. 18, 2010 7:26 AM ET USA
Very good Peter. While God supports our will even aganst His desires H is always there to turn it to a good for our salvation if we rest in Him.