Understanding God’s Will

A colleague at the University asked me recently, how I could possibly have the heart to walk away from my family and my life in Iraq, just because I wanted to “practice my religion.” This gave me pause, because I realize there are so many who would never understand my commitment to Christ. I don’t practice religion, but live my life according to His will, regardless of the outcome. Leaving my family was the hardest thing I have ever faced, but I did not have a choice in the matter. It has taken many years, but I have learned the importance of submitting my will to God, not counting on my own human plans.
As a young man in my thirties, I had everything going for me. I was successful in business and had begun serving my country by working with the U.S. Military during Operation Iraqi Freedom. I still had lofty goals I wanted to achieve and plans for my future, like the dream I’d had since a young man, of becoming an Ambassador for Iraq. I thought this would be the best way to share the beauty of my country, its rich history and culture, with the rest of the world. In one moment I was surrounded by my loving family and friends, happily planning my future, living a comfortable life, suffering very few trials, but in the blink of an eye, my life was turned upside down. All my human plans were gone with the wind. I think of Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
When I chose to leave Iraq for Syria, the only possible exit at that time for an Iraqi passport holder, I thought I had things all planned out. I had been labeled an apostate by the Sharia court, at the request of my own family, and I was given thirty days to restate the Shahada, or be sentenced to death. Without consulting the author and creator of my life, I walked away from my family home, from my neighborhood, and city, with nothing but the clothes on my back. The only bus ticket in my price range would depart from Nineveh, the city of Jonah, a minimum six days’ walk through the desert. Needless to say, my own plans to walk to Nineveh, were not sufficient, and I eventually collapsed from exhaustion and dehydration. God was faithful, helping me through the rest of the way to my destination.
I arrived in Syria, only to be arrested on suspicion of being an American spy. I spent several days held blindfolded, while my captors took turns beating me and shocking me with high voltage wires. I was in so much pain, I asked the Lord to take me home, but again, He miraculously provided for me, causing my captors to release me, thinking I had lost my mind. I found myself transported back to Iraq, right back where I started. My plans had accomplished nothing but more trouble. Thus, began my submission to God’s plan, instead of my own human ideas. Thankfully, He provided for me financially, spiritually and physically, hiding me underground for the next thirteen months, while I awaited the papers securing my opportunity for a new life in America.
Always, I ask Him, “What is the purpose for allowing me to go through all these trials? Why allow me to be raised Muslim and memorize the Qur’an, if I was meant to serve Him? What is the purpose in giving me an amazing family and life, only to have them ripped away from me in such a dramatic way?” But then He shows me the new friends and the souls that have been saved through His work in my life, and I see His purpose is greater than me. Still the journey is going on and He will continue to use my future to glorify Him. Even until this day, I couldn’t begin to know the entire plan of God.
He will use catastrophic events, devastation and unrest to serve His purpose. Our human plans may not be the same as His, but He will continuously allow us to carry on, picking up the pieces for us, using them to rebuild His will in our lives. For those reading this article, and watching the daily news, you will remember the history of Iraq, and how it has been destroyed many times, but God has raised it up again and again. ISIS is not the first to attempt to wipe His people and His face from the earth, and they won’t be the last, but God will continue to use those things man intends for evil for His good. I receive many emails from Middle East Muslims and Muslim background Christians, who struggle with the idea that God would allow such destruction and such violence in the region. It is devastating to think of all the history lost to the repeated invasions, but God has always provided a path to restoration. What ISIS plans for evil, has nothing to do with God’s will, but rest assured, He will use it for His purpose.
God showed me that He has walked me through my life journey, given me trials He knew I could handle, in order that I could be used for His glory. He prepared my testimony so that it could be used to help others understand how to recognize His will for their own lives. Despite the many times in my life, I have defaulted to my human plans, forgetting to consult Him before making decisions, He has faithfully forgiven me. He continues to remind me He has a far better plan for my life. He has allowed me to witness so many miracles; there is not enough space for me to share them all in the space of a short monthly article. The verse that helps remind me of this blessing is Exodus 9:16, “But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”