God wants His presence, power and purpose to become real for you. But is it possible that we could come to the end of our life to find that what He meant-to-be did not come-to-be? Scripture burgeons with evidence that this possibility is very real. . . one of the most grounding, sobering realities God has ever taught me.
The blithe ignorance of many who find false comfort believing “if God wants it to be, it will be,” causes me to tremble. Counting on God to automatically fulfill His intentions, apart from any part we play, puts what might-have-beens at risk of never coming-to-be.
I define what might-have-been as the intention of God’s heart that goes un-realized. Jesus’ heart was broken as he approached Jerusalem, grieving from the depths of his being over what might-have-been. . . because, now, it was not going to come-to-be.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'”
It is un-nerving to realize that no matter how much God wants to do something for us, it is not going to take place if we are unwilling. But this might be one of the most profitable revelations God could give us.
Some argue that God’s sovereignty means that His every intention will be fulfilled, but God’s ultimate goal is not the case-by-case fulfillment of “His will being done”. His sovereign highest priority is to call forth a people who love and know Him, walking in concert with Him, obeying Him out of love. And love is only real, where there is choice. And so we see, over and over again in Scripture, our all-powerful, omnipotent God choosing — for the sake of love — to grieve over what might-have-been rather than to force His way on unwilling subjects. This is staggering, but crucial for us to weigh.
An example of what might-have-been
As you read the following Scripture, listen to God’s heart, identify exactly whom He is speaking to and His intent for them.
Ex 3:7-9; 6:6-9
The Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them. . . “Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession; I am the Lord.'”
Who was He speaking to? He said all of this to that entire generation who were hurting, in bondage in Egypt. To them He sent this word.
What was the intent of God’s heart, the meant-to-be He said He would bring to pass? He made it clear that He not only wanted to deliver them from Egypt, but He also intended to bring them into the land and make it their possession.
But God’s intention was only partly realized. Everyone in that generation — with the exception of two — died in the wilderness short of the Promised Land. This leaves us with the question: was it ever really meant-to-be if it doesn’t come-to-be?
Scripture tells us that when His word goes forth from His mouth, it shall not return to Him void, but it shall accomplish what He pleases and it shall prosper in the thing for which He sent it. (Isaiah 55: 10-11)
God’s word went forth through Moses to that generation and it did not fail, returning to Him void. On the contrary, it accomplished what He pleased — in the lives of Joshua and Caleb — who belonged to that generation. In them, God’s intention for their generation come true.
The principle here is this: every intention of God’s heart for His people will come-to-be . . . for someone. The question is, will it be me?
Would God mislead us about what is meant-to-be?
Violently different theologies seek to explain why God’s loving intentions are realized in some lives, but not in others. Some come to the flip conclusion that if God has promised something, and it doesn’t take place, “it wasn’t meant-to-be.” Really?
If “it wasn’t meant-to-be,” for the rest of that generation to make it into the Promised Land, then God was misrepresenting the truth He conveyed through Moses, telling them what He did. His words were empty promises, and He was lying to them, “if it was never meant-to-be.”
God is incapable of lying. He speaks only truth, and it would defame His character to suggest He dangled a “carrot” before that generation, if the word He spoke to them had no chance of coming true. . .
But what about the fact that God already knew the future? Why would He tell that whole generation of hurting people that He was going to give them the land, when He saw into the future and knew that only two of them would make it? Wasn’t He raising false hope in all the rest?
God does not send us words to raise false hope. He did not send Moses to speak what had no possibility of coming true for them . . . what God saw in the future did not negate the fully operative potential of His word in that moment when it came to them. In the moment when God’s word comes to us, the intent of His heart holds every possibility of coming true. . . no matter what He sees in the future.
We have to separate the present moment from the fullness of time, to understand that in the pristine purity of the present moment, every expression of what He means-to-be, is fully capable of coming-to-be. . .
God’s word is not empty. When He spoke the intention of His heart over Israel, He was not misleading them or giving them false hope. In that present moment, every word He spoke was fully capable of coming-to-be.
Meant-to-bes that didn’t come-to-be
God came to Solomon, and His word was not empty, when He promised the young king:
1 Kings 11:37-39
you shall reign over whatever you desire, and you shall be king over Israel. Then it will be, that if you listen to all that I command you and walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight by observing My statutes and My commandments . . . then I will be with you and build you an enduring house … and I will give Israel to you.
In the pristine purity of that moment between Solomon and God, the potential of God’s presence and power to become the overwhelming reality of Solomon’s’ reign was fully possible, even though God could see the time when his wives would turn his heart away. In the future, God would would tear the kingdom from Solomon (I Kings 11:11) — but in that moment between the young king and His God — what was meant-to-be had every possibility of coming-to-be. God was not giving false hope to Solomon; it is a case of what was meant-to-be not coming-to-be.
We see exactly the same phenomenon being repeated between God and the young warrior, Jeroboam.
1 Kings 11:29-32, 37-39
It came about at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Now Ahijah had clothed himself with a new cloak; and both of them were alone in the field. Then Ahijah took hold of the new cloak . . . and tore it into twelve pieces. He said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces; for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and give you ten tribes . . . ‘I will take you, and you shall reign over whatever you desire, and you shall be king over Israel. ‘Then it will be, that if you listen to all that I command you and walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight by observing My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build you an enduring house as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.
In the moment God gave this word to Jeroboam, the lavish loving intent of His heart was not only what He meant-to-be, but was fully possible of coming-to-be. . . even though God could see the sin of Jeroboam in the future, that would blot the potential out, destroying Jeroboam’s house from the face of the earth.
The potential fulfillment of God’s promises
is not affected by what God sees in the future,
but on the condition of our hearts being fully His.
The present moment will affect the future,
but the future does not limit the present moment.
Every promise God gives us — is a word telling us what is possible in our future, if our hearts are fully His.
Our might-have-beens that do not come-to-be
Is it possible God can intend to bring about something in our life, and yet, it never comes-to-be? Scripture gives many sobering examples leading us to the staggering realization that this is so. Just because God wants it to be, doesn’t mean it will come-to-be.
For decades God has been teaching me this, warning me, lest I take His loving intentions for granted. I will never forget the vision He gave me that has forever sensitized me to the reality of might-have-beens that do not come-to-be.
It happened on vacation with my family. As my husband and I herded our young children into the open cars that would take us through an amusement park’s haunted mansion, I had no idea that what I was about to see would haunt me for the rest of my life.
As our ride pulled us slowly into an antebellum ballroom, the ghost-like forms of light figures danced across the floor, captivating me by their expressions and vivid detail, seeming so real and yet so see-through. As the couples wheeled and turned, I watched as a young dancer’s petticoat briefly showed beneath the hem of her long gown. And then everything stopped for me — and the vision began.
In my spirit I saw an artist’s giant paintbrush stroke down from the ceiling through the floor . . . and everywhere it touched that dancer’s figure, her see-through ghost-like nature became solid and filled with color. I watched as a narrow strip of her hair turned radiantly blond . . . half of her face, neck and shoulders turned to flesh, and a wide strip of her dress turned brilliantly satin blue. Where the brush touched, everything became solid and real. But what remained outside the wash of the brush remained ephemeral and ghost-like.
And then the vision was over, and the cars lurched forward taking me from that room forever. But the impact of what I saw has never left. I saw it instantaneously then, and it has haunted me ever since . . . God has dreams and intentions for us, things He wants to do and be for us, meant-to-bes that do not come-to-be — each of them a vividly detailed ghost-like figure dancing across the face of eternity unfulfilled.
As Jesus approached Jerusalem, his heart and soul convulsed, as he cried out,
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem. . . How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. . .
As Paul wrote to the Galatians, his heart and soul convulsed, because what God wanted-to-be was at risk.
You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain — if indeed it was in vain?
Paul was clear about what God meant-to-be:
He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.
Do we assume that this, being God’s intent, is therefore inevitable? Paul did not; therefore he labored mightily, spending himself in prayer so that the possibility of the Ephesians to personally experience the power of God and the fullness of their spiritual inheritance would come-to-be. Are we settling for less, in danger of coming to the end of our lives to find the might-have-beens that never came-to-be?
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of Hispower toward us who believe.
The hope of His calling, the riches of the glory, and the surpassing greatness of His power — these are meant-to-be as solid and real for us as Paul prayed they would be for the Ephesians. These are symbolized above by the sun-like figure of God’s glory on the right side of the barrier. They become real to us and in us, as we gain access to them, appropriating the inheritance, living it out.
To the very left, there is a bright spot representing that pristine moment in time, when God’s word comes, and His intention holds every possibility of coming-to-be.
The green line, whose trajectory falls short of the goal, represents the old man, the Solomons and Jeroboams, to whom God’s best intention was made known, but who wanted what they wanted . . . more than what God wanted for them. For those who are unwilling, what God means-to-be will never come-to-be.
The gold line represents the new creation, brought forth by God’s action in our life, having His heart, willing what He wants . . . for those who walk in this, what is meant-to-be will come-to-be.
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.
There is a barrier — distinguishing what is born of God and what is not — between what is capable of inheriting His promises and what is not . . . between those for whom what is meant-to-be will come-to-be and those for whom it will not.
Every day of our lives is being described by this picture. . . replete with words, thoughts, and actions that are doomed to miss what might have been, because they are carnal, springing from the unredeemed reaches of our old man. But there is also the glorious realization of receiving His power — as His tough but tender, thorough work in us enables us, who believe — to experience what is meant-to-be. We fly gold . . . quickened by His life within, knowing what He wants and wanting it too, exhilarated by how very present He is, quietly in awe of His power giving us the ability to walk above what used to pull us down.
Every day I bend my will and pray that the work will go deeper, asking that He paint this dancer real, making the potential of Himself ever more solid and seen in me.