There’s a song by Matthew West called “The Center.” The chorus says “I wanna know how it feels to be standing in the center of Your will for me. I wanna know what surrender means. Keep me in the center of Your will for me.”
Many times in our lives the center of God’s will hurts and terrifies. Paul reports in 2 Cor 1:8b that he and his companions were sure they were going to die in Asia and it brought despair. Were they out of God’s will because their circumstances looked hopeless? NO! Paul said in v. 5 that sharing in Christ’s sufferings also means they got to share in His comfort. And in many other letters he writes that sharing in Christ’s sufferings is simply assurance of our place with Jesus and we should rejoice in it! Acts is full of stories of disciples doing just that.
Is there a way to know when our suffering is caused by our sin or caused by our devout obedience to God? Admittedly, I have no good answer for that. Perhaps God, in His infinite wisdom, can find a way for us to suffer because we fail and because we are trying to be obedient. He’s God. He knows we’re imperfect, and He uses our imperfections to further His goals, especially when we are pressing towards the prize set before us (Paul, again). So it’s not so far fetched in my mind to think He could find a way for our suffering to be that of Christ’s and of our own making.
Complicated? Yes. I’m not even sure I’m even close to being right. What I do know is, if I’m serious about wanting to be in the center of God’s will, I’d better not be looking for an easy road. In fact, I’d better be looking for one that goes up a steep hill and leads to a cross.