Letting Go of the Divine Bargain

Once there was a woman who loved God deeply. She knew that He was good and she tried to follow him every day out of gratitude for all that He had done for her. He was all she needed.

But this woman had a deep desire to be married. And as her friends and family members got married one by one, she began to wonder why she wasn’t married. It started off with simple questions when she couldn’t sleep at night. What do I lack? Am I not good enough? Not godly enough? Not pretty enough?

These questions continued to well up in her until one day, she wrote out her bargain. She would be the best Christian she could be and God would give her the husband she deserved in return.

Time passed. She wore herself out trying to uphold her side of the bargain. She was involved in the church. She was kind to everyone. She met the needs of the people around her. She shared the stories of Jesus with those who did not know him. And while she did all these things, she secretly searched for her future spouse. But no matter how good she was, he didn’t come.

And one day, she came to the Lord, crying out in impatience. God had answered so many other prayers. Why was this one still lingering unanswered? She demanded her need be met. After all, she had upheld her end of the bargain – she had been the best Christian she could be. But God had not kept his.

And God gently directed her to look closer at the bargain she had made.

So she pulled out a scraggly piece of paper with lines that had been scribbled down sometime earlier. As she examined the paper, she realized something. The bargain had been drawn up. Her name had been signed to the pact. But the spot where God should have signed…was empty.

God had never signed her bargain.

Why Bargain with God?

There are moments when I have been that woman. I didn’t start out that way. I’m not that person all the time. There are many days when I pursue God with everything in me because he is my Lord and Savior and there are no strings attached.

But, honestly, there are some days, and even some seasons, when I try to make a divine bargain with God. I can’t seem to figure out why I am still alone. I start to hold onto anything that explains this unanswered prayer in my life. And when grasping, I sometimes take ahold of the wrong thing. I grasp the lie that I’m not married because I’m not good enough yet.

And because I tenaciously hold onto this lie, I fool myself into believing that if I can just be good enough, one day, God will reward me with a husband.

Choosing to Let Go

So how can I let go of this divine bargain? I think it’s a choice. I choose to look to God, not as a cosmic scorekeeper who makes tallies and gives rewards, but as a Father who withholds no good gift from his children. I choose to look to Christ, not as a genie who will one day give me my three wishes, but as a Savior who has taken away my sin. I choose to look to the Holy Spirit, not as someone who can be manipulated or bought, but as someone who works in me to conform me to Christ’s image.

I choose to remember a few essential things.   I remind myself that every good and perfect gift is from above (Jms 1:17). I remind myself that the wages, or the payment I deserve for my sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life (Rom 3:23). I remind myself that if I only held to my bargain, I might find romantic, temporary true love on earth, but I would still die as a wretched sinner because my good deeds are like filthy rags to God (Is 64:6). Without my Savior, Jesus Christ, I might be temporarily happy, but I would be eternally separated from my Father in heaven.

I remind myself that God owes me nothing. It is I who owe a huge debt.

Because He is Good

This week I had dinner with a single woman who I have admired for years. I told her about my struggles with being single and she said to me, “The Bible says, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.’ We must choose to trust God, even when we do not get what we desire. We cannot put stipulations on our submission.” (see Prov 3:5-6)

As I’ve thought about what she said, I have realized that I can trust in the Lord with all my heart, putting no stipulations on my submission, because God is good. I can trust his character. He is not trying to harm me, deceive me, or make fun of me. He is the Good Father who gives to his children all that they need. When I ask for bread, he will never give me a stone (Matt 7:9).

When I ask for a divine bargain, he opts not to sign. Not because he wants to withhold from me the thing I beg to bargain for, but because he wants me to learn to trust him. He teaches me to trust that He is good.