How much does God intervene in our lives? More than we give credit to Him or less than some would like to believe? Why do some require evidence of God’s will in even the most mundane aspects of life? Is this seeking for a sign?
Mormons are certainly not the only ones out there who are guilty of “seeking for a sign.” Many faiths use stories to illustrate evidence of God’s approval or disapproval. And this is not to discount the idea that prayers are answered. But it seems that there is a distinction between answers to prayers and requesting divine intervention or a sign from God that something is the right course of action.
So when does living prayerfully by faith turn into seeking for a sign? Here are some thoughts:
- Providence: This idea is that God guides everything for the wealth and growth of His kingdom and church. What it might sound like: “God wanted me to be in that car accident so that I could give a Book of Mormon to the other driver.”
- Aggrandizing Stories: The premise is that divine or occult sources “testify” of the truth of the gospel. For example, Satan’s forces have been “witnessed” surrounding the MTC, ready to destroy the missionaries if they leave its protection.
- Wanting to be “commanded in all things.” Some things are either obvious or just too trivial for God to care about (I think). What it might sound like: “And so I said a quick prayer in my heart about whether I should order the beef or chicken, and I got a clear feeling I should go with the chicken.” Now, I suppose if the beef turns out to be rife with mad cow disease, perhaps not so trivial.
- Projection. Projecting what you want on God; making your agenda His. What it might sound like: “Sally, I know you don’t see this yet, but God wants me to take this job and move our family across the country.”
- Fatalism. When we become something “acted upon” vs. something that “acts.” The argument goes: “If God wanted things to be different, He’d make them different. Therefore, submitting myself to His will means I don’t have to do anything, and it will all work out.”
I’m perfectly willing to concede that inspiration occurs, and that we can be directed by the Holy Ghost. But, at times, there seems to be a fine line between intervention and invention. There are two main views on divine intervention:
- that miracles occur frequently and God intervenes freely in our lives
- that miracles occur, but are limited in frequency and only occur in accordance with natural laws
I fall firmly into that second camp. So, if I’m right, why might people sometimes imagine more divine intervention that there is? Here are some possible reasons:
- We seek confirming evidence. Everyone wants to “prove” a belief they hold is right. This happens all the time on the b’nacle (and pretty much everywhere).
- We want to feel personally important. If God’s involved in my life, I must be remarkably important out of the billions who’ve lived.
- We want to absolve ourselves of responsibility. We can rationalize: “This isn’t about what I want–it’s what God wants.”
According to McConkie, signs come according to the will of God and not the will of man.
- Signs can cause the wicked to fear and tremble. (Being struck dumb I suppose.)
- Signs can help the weak in faith begin to develop faith in God. (But “faith precedes the miracle,” right?)
- Signs strengthen the faith of those who already believe in God. (Vindication? Proof?)
- Signs can symbolically teach us of Christ and the gospel. (I’m thinking serpents on a stake in the desert as a type of Christ, as well as the medical profession).
- Signs can tell of important impending events in the world. (Signs at the Savior’s birth and death in the BOM and NT).
So, what do you think? How do you tell the difference between real miracles and signs and what we want to believe to make ourselves feel better (proven right, important, or doing God’s will)? Is the way we gain an LDS testimony (a spiritual witness) “seeking for a sign”? Discuss.