God Will Not Be Manipulated - The Warrior's Journey®

God Will Not Be Manipulated

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Have you ever tried to manipulate your spouse? Couples do it all the time, especially when they’re quarreling. Husbands and wives use manipulation as a subtle substitute for telling their spouse what they really want. Often they’ll inflict guilt. “You never spend time with the kids.”  “You never get dressed up for me.”  “Other husbands take their wives out to dinner at least once a week. Why don’t you do that?”  Ever hear these statements? Ever make them?

Some spouses use a form of martyrdom as a means of manipulation. This is when one spouse goes overboard in doing favors as an effort to sway their spouse into doing what they want. Sometimes it involves storing up ammunition for your next quarrel.

Sometimes spouses use dishonesty to manipulate their spouse. This happens when a spouse either hides their own errors and blunders – for fear of a negative reaction from their partner, or they overstate the errors of their spouse – “You never do such and such” or “You always do such and such.”  This involves exaggerating, overstating or understating reality.

Creating drama is another way couples manipulate each other. When a spouse knows their partner dreads emotional outbursts and drama they may use such overreactions as a means of getting their way.

And sometimes couples use passive-aggressive behavior to manipulate their spouse. An example of this is when you agree with your partner’s request at the moment to avoid disappointing or upsetting them, but somehow never get around to what you agreed to.

The practice of such manipulation will slowly undermine the health of any relationship. Couples should always be honest and open with each other. They should never use angry outbursts or crying jags to manipulate each other. Couples should never use “never” and “always” when identifying flaws in each other’s behavior. Rather, they should take heed to and obey the biblical command, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

But have you ever noticed that Christian believers often use many of these same strategies in their relationship with God? Maybe I’m only speaking for myself here. For I’ve practiced these behaviors on numerous occasions in efforts to make God do what I want.

Do you remember the parable Jesus told about the father who had two sons (Matthew 21:28-32)? He told one son to go out in the field and do some work. The son immediately said, “Yes, sir. I’ll get to that right away,” but failed to follow through. Then he asked the second son to do the same. At first, the son said to his father, “I’m not doing it.”  But later he regretted being such a jerk and went out and did what his father asked. I’ve failed to follow through on many of my promises to God when I prayed for instant deliverance. And I’ve also finally obeyed God – but only after kicking and screaming.

And there have been those times when I’ve cited all the times God’s allowed difficulties and disappointments in my life – all as a way to “build a case” against Him. I’ve actually done things like count the red lights I get caught in while driving on a main road – to prove to God that he’s picking on me. I’ve counted the times I’ve gotten stuck behind the slowest lines while shopping or stuck behind the slowest drivers. I’ve counted the times my prayers haven’t been answered. I’ve done these things for the ultimate purpose of manipulating God into getting what I want. And I suspect I’ve used all the other means of manipulation – to get my way with God – such as emotional outbursts, making accusations, or bargaining with God by doing good deeds.

Now, sometimes I’ve done the opposite. I’ve tried to use praise and thanksgiving as a way of manipulating God. I’ve said to myself, “There’s power in praise” and “Praise releases the power of God.”  But this is all manipulative behavior. We don’t praise and thank God as a means of twisting His arm. We praise Him because He is worthy of praise. We thank Him for what He’s already done. God is not a genie who grants wishes every time we rub the lamp with thanksgiving and praise. That’s like flattering people or buttering them up so they’ll grant a favor. Even worse, it may be like treating God as if He’s nothing but a chemical reaction. We add praise and thanksgiving to our prayers and we get the reaction we desire.

But I’ve discovered that there’s a few problems with this kind of behavior. First, off, it’s sinful. Constantly accusing God and grumbling against Him? Look at what happened to Israel in the wilderness when they got into this poisonous pattern (1 Corinthians 10:1-12). In some cases, such behavior may border on blasphemy and will only bring about God’s discipline, perhaps even His judgment. In extreme cases, it may reach the level of tempting God (Matthew 4:5-7).

Another problem with trying to manipulate God is that it wreaks havoc on our mental and spiritual health. Focusing on all the bad things in life and viewing God as an adversary can drive a person to madness. It almost came to that for me. I had to make a conscious and continual effort to hunt for the good in my life, count my blessings, and practice giving thanks to God every single day. It saved my sanity, made life bearable, and sweetened my walk with God.

But the biggest problem with trying to manipulate God is its futility. We cannot manipulate God. And, honestly, would we really want to do so? Think of a mom whose toddler fights to break free of her embrace while she’s standing or walking. The little child may lunge backward and side to side to escape her grasp. But should she release him, he’d fall to the floor and be seriously injured. That’s us – should we ever succeed in manipulating God.

Fortunately for us, God will not be manipulated. No amount of crying, accusing, flattering, or grumbling will force His hand to act in our favor. God’s X-ray vision sees right through to our selfish motives. He knows exactly what we’re trying to do and – for the sake of our soul – He will not “give in.”  And after our temper tantrums are over, we’ll have to do what every saint of God has had to do. We’ll finally submit to His will. And, like those saints of old, we’ll find that God knew what was best all along. Then, somewhere along our journey, we’ll finally learn to pray as Jesus did, “Father, not My will, but Thine be done.”

So, give up trying to manipulate God. It will only hurt your faith, your relationship with God, and your mental health. Be honest with God in your prayers. Tell Him exactly what you want. But also admit that He ultimately knows what is for the best. And pray for the grace, insight, and strength to accept and to bear whatever God – in His loving sovereignty – sends your way.

PRAYER:  Almighty and merciful Father, You have searched me and known me. You know my thoughts from afar and can discern the motives behind all my words and deeds. Please, dear Father, soften and melt my obstinate heart. Bring me to my senses. Open my eyes to see the wisdom and goodness of Your ways. And help me, Father, to submit to them. Help me to give up my futile efforts to manipulate. Instead, help me to yield to Your loving will. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Information from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/rediscovering-love/201607/the-12-most-common-ways-partners-manipulate)

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