Wanting My Own Way

We’re born wanting our own way.

Babies, of course, don’t know any better than to demand that their universe revolves around their needs. That’s all they know at first.

But even when children make their first conscious, deliberate choices, they demonstrate a “me first” mentality. If they want a toy another child is holding, they grab it. If they don’t want their food, they spit it out or throw the plate on the floor. They scream or cry at any displeasure.

We recognize such responses as immaturity and understand why God gave kids parents. We try to patiently teach them that the universe does not revolve around them, they have to sometimes acquiesce to others, it’s rude to grab things from away from people, they sometimes have to do things they don’t like to do (and can’t do things they would like to do). As they get older, we teach the concept of taking turns, negotiation, and compromise. It’s a sign of growth and maturity when they can take the next steps to give sacrificially: to let someone else play with the toy they want, to give someone else the last cookie, to let someone else choose what movie to watch.

Even as adults, we note and dislike signs of selfishness in others and in ourselves.

Yet we’re still prone to want our own way.

Wanting our own will isn’t always bad. I think God gives us certain innate desires and tendencies that guide our futures. Someone who hates math will probably not be an accountant. Sometimes God nudges us out of our comfort zones, even out of our natural gifting, to cause us to depend on Him more and to show that the results could only have come from Him.

The problem comes when what we want conflicts with what He wants.

For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want (Galatians 5:17, CSB).

Some years ago, I did a study of phrases like “own way,” “own thoughts,” own heart,” etc., in order to find plenty of fuel to remind me that my way is not usually best. I ended up with four pages of types verses. Here are just a few:

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts (Proverbs 21:2).

Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices (Proverbs 1:31).

What’s so wrong with wanting our own way? Sometimes nothing. But if our will clashes with God’s, then guess Who is right?

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (I Corinthians 6:19).

For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them (Psalm 44:3).

One of the worst things God can do to us is give us up to our own ways.

Hear, O my people, while I admonish you! O Israel, if you would but listen to me! … But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels (Psalm 81:8, 11-12, ESV).

Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices (Proverbs 1:29-31, ESV)

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves (Romans 1:24).

And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul (Psalm 106:15).

When I struggle with wanting my own way, I try to remember these things:

God has a right to call the shots.

He’s the creator. He made me; He made this world. Everything I have, my life, my breath, even my righteousness, is from Him. “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Philippians 3:9).

He is wise. He knows best.

He is kind. He is loving.

If He allows bumps in the road, delays, frustrations, unpleasantness, and even outright pain, He has a purpose. He promised His “grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Therefore, I should:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In
all your ways acknowledge him,

    and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
    and refreshment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:5-8, ESV)

Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God (Romans 6:13).

Elisabeth Elliot said, “To pray, ‘Thy will be done,’ I must be willing, if the answer requires it, that my will be undone.” That’s not always easy.

But I am heartened that our Lord Jesus, in His human nature, prayed in Gethsemane, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

He taught His disciples, and practiced Himself: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:23-24).

And what was the result when He yielded to His Fathers will? Besides obeying, pleasing, and glorifying His Father, He accomplished what was needed to save multitudes of people.

It’s one of those seeming paradoxes of Scripture that “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it” (Luke 17:33). Whatever we want to hold onto for ourselves we will eventually lose. What we yield to Christ He will keep for us and give back so much more.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…(1 Corinthians 13:4-5, ESV)

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after thy will,
while I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
as in thy presence humbly I bow.

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me I pray!
Power, all power, surely is thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine!

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway.
Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!

Adelaide A. Pollard (1906)

I was blessed by more songs about God’s way here.

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