While on vacation last month, I saw the new version of the classic game show, “Let’s Make a Deal.” What a great show … you could be dealing for a donkey, a gigantic candy bar, or a brand new car. The suspense of not knowing what you’ll win, the challenge of trying to manipulate the game, the freedom and fear of not being in control, and the uncertainty of what the other person will do, (especially the original host, Monty Hall), are all enticing elements that draw me into this bargaining game.
It’s common for people concerned about someone with a life-interfering behavior (like addictions, food issues, or impulsive choices), emotional struggles, relational conflict, or health issue to try to strike bargains with themselves, with the person, with others, and with God. We might promise ourselves that we will be better, that we’ll say the right thing next time, that we’ll make things right. We promise to refrain from something enjoyable to show our repentance. We try to resist harmful temptations to show we are serious. All these promises are made in exchange for something we desire from others or ourselves.
We might set up deals with the loved one to reward them for refraining from their problem behavior. Or we might bargain with God and try to make a deal with Him. We promise to give to the church, to do some good deeds, to give up gossip or a sexual sin, if only He will fix our own or our loved ones’ problems. I once promised God I would never have sex again if He would just let my girlfriend not be pregnant.
If you are in this deal-making stage, you need to understand that help for a friend or loved one doesn’t depend on your performance. God has a specific plan for that person’s life and the transformation process is between them and God. God may want to use you in the person’s life, so we all have some potential influence, but we have no power. We are in no position and have no leverage to bargain with God. When you think about it, what do we really have to offer in a deal with God? If you believe your relationship with God is all about deals, what happens when you have nothing of value to trade?
Satan wants us to believe we live in a random system of earning God’s favor, and that God is a capricious wheeler-dealer. Trying to earn God’s favor so He will help our loved one makes us like Aladdin – with God as the genie under our control. That means we are more powerful and smarter than God. How backward is that? Pretty dumb when we break it down.
Today, accept your powerlessness to change another person. Don’t try bargaining with God as if He were on another team. Learn to actually join God’s team and let Him be your captain, and then follow His instruction. Maybe He does want to utilize your influence with the person or situation. You need to view the experience as one of growth for you. If the other person is able to see God through you and engage with God more, that is awesome. But your goal is to follow God regardless of the response of others. Following God and not bargaining with Him is your decision, so choose well.
Dear Holy God, all my efforts have failed. No matter what I do, I realize now that I can’t fix my loved one’s problems. But I thank You that You can. Your grace is enough. Help me to let go and trust You. Saying that, let me know how you want me to engage with my loved one so I can grow more mature and stronger in my relationship with You. Help me understand how You want to use me for my growth and help me leave the changing of my loved one up to You. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One who can fix all things, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – AMEN!
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9