“God does not force people to change” is an unsettling thought for some.
Whenever I talk about how God does not force people to change or post something around that point on social media, while most people get it, others do not.
I have written about this before, and you can check it out: Why God Will Not Change a Marriage When a Spouse Clings to Harmful Ways.
But I thought I’ll talk about it some more. Consider this post a Part 2.
The Power of Prayer
Some who believe God can change people who don’t want to change loop in the power of prayer.
And typically, it’s because I did. For example, I’ll add, “no amount of hand-holding or grace or prayer can change someone who doesn’t want to engage with the process of change.”
Here’s what we need to know.
Saying “God does not force people to change” is not a charge against brave prayers. As a person, you have the freedom to talk to God about anything: your life, desires, needs, relationships, community, anything. You can hope and believe for positive outcomes.
When it comes to another human being though, we do not have authority over their will. You can hope yes, but your individual hope or prayers, while wonderful, are not the core ingredient in the transformation process of another human being.
Thinking we possess that much power over others peoples’ freedom, that our prayers can control other people, is actually quite troubling. We might not know it, but that thought is one of the rail tracks that spiritual abuse runs on.
Perhaps I’ll talk about it someday, but in my background, pastors and Christians paraded “answers to prayers,” that was nothing but manipulation, gaslighting, and complete con jobs.
These individuals could not accept they do not control outcomes, including prayer outcomes . So they took matters into their own hands and created their preferred endings. And people got harmed.
(Ps. Not everyone ends up in those mucky corners. Still, many spiritual con people manipulate outcomes because they first thought they could control another human being and their circumstances.)
God Does not Force People to Change: The Freedom
God chose to give human beings the freedom to choose. That freedom makes relationships possible. Within that context, people get to decide whether they want to be in a relationship or not through their actions or inaction. They get to choose if they’re going to mature and grow.
“God does not force people to change” is an invitation to consider the reality of our freedom of choice and its implications for YOU as an individual.
It’s an invitation to reflect, that having these conversations with God about another individual is wonderful, but your conversations ALONE does not change the person. For change to happen, the individual must engage their personal choice.
I was chatting with a friend the other day about some problematic elements aka harmful people in her life. (I’m sharing with her permission.) Once in a while, especially when she experiences an aspect of God’s beauty or freedom, her heart yearns for the harmful individuals to experience the same beauty and freedom in their lives.
Those moments of longing and conversations with God still happen from a place of clarity about the freedom of choice. She knows growth and turnarounds do not occur through another person’s prayers or longings. She has accepted she doesn’t have that much power.
God Doesn’t Force Change: Pray if You Want
If someone wants to pray for someone, absolutely, they can. They have that choice too.
But generally, as Christians, we need to uproot (and burn to ashes) the idea that harmed spouses owe their perpetrators prayers. “Yes, you can separate but from that place safety, you should continue praying for your spouse and marriage.”
As if the victim doesn’t have enough on her plate already. As if she needs one more obligation-type-of-thought humming in the back ground. As if she is not already buckling under the weight of an upended life and has all the shiny extra margins. As if she hasn’t already been praying already.
Again, not saying nobody should be praying if that’s what they want to do. All I’m suggesting is we stop with the madness of asking people to take responsibility for another person’s will.
For those who don’t know, Intentional Today, this website and social media, discusses toxic teachings and advice that has enabled abuse and immaturity in Christian marriages.
We’re all welcome to dialogue about the issues, but I’m also protective of people’s hearts. If a point of view actually harms women, I will delete the comment.
It’s a delicate dance because I want people to ask questions and learn. However, I get to discern when it’s no longer a question but a perpetuation and defense of the teaching we’re trying to expose and heal from.
Remember: the statement “God does not force people to change” is a specific invitation to the person praying to consider the power of human will in their relationships.
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