When we look around at the imperfect world we live in, it doesn’t take any kind of special genius to figure out that the people who are in positions of authority in our lives are not as perfect as we would like them to be. No matter what level of authority: from parents at home, teachers and bosses, various spiritual leaders or the rulers of nations. There are a lot of imperfect leaders around us. I am not a big fan of “earthly” authority structures specifically because of the prevalence of abuse and misuse of power by those who have it.
That being said, God has placed some very imperfect people in positions of authority over me. I’ve had teachers, military leaders, pastors, bosses and supervisors who have treated me unfairly and were even outright corrupt (I can fill a couple of books with bad experiences). But in spite of the imperfection of these people, God still allowed them to be in a position of authority over me, to make decisions that impacted me in a negative way (from my perspective, of course).
Everything in me wanted to yell, “Lord, what is this all about? Don’t You realize what is happening? Can I get a little help down here?”
Yet God doesn’t seem to respond. There is no voice from the Lord saying, “Your right, here is the way out from under their authority.” We remain in the path, seemingly hedged in and unable to do anything but keep walking it. These are not easy times, but painful ones. Most of the time, it is only later that we look back and see what it was that God did in us by allowing us to go through the experience. There are some of these painful experiences that I haven’t been able to understand until now. I have to come to a place of peace that God sometimes chooses to hide things from my understanding. He doesn’t owe me an explanation when I want one.
Sometimes we have the option to leave and get ourselves out from under these “imperfect leaders.” In our minds, we are completely justified because of the “injustice” and “failures” of those leaders. But the imperfection of a leader doesn’t automatically mean you are not in God’s will under their authority. God may be doing things inside you through the situation that you can’t recognize right now.
It takes true faith in the power and sovereignty of God to submit yourself to a person in this situation. In the story of Hagar and her relationship with Sarah, it says:
“So Abram said to Sarai, “Indeed your maid is in your hand; do to her as you please.” And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her presence.
7 Now the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. 8 And He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
She said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.”
9 The Angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.” (Gen 16:6-9)
How could God be promoting the ‘injustice’ by calling Hagar to return to an oppressive situation and be submitted to it?
But here is a concept worth considering: That God gives us “earthly fathers” (or earthly authority figures) who bring “chastening” into our lives:
“If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Heb 12:7-11)
I have learned that as I have submitted myself to some of the imperfect authority figures in my life, God has taught me how to submit to Him when He leads me in a way that I don’t want to go. God’s path will take each of us through valleys that we don’t want to go through, and there is no way around these hard experiences. But God uses these lower authority figures during certain seasons in our lives in order to train us for the times that submitting to His authority will be very challenging. So don’t shortcut the process of training that God has placed you in by making the assumption that your current discomfort can’t possibly be God’s will and wiggling your way out from under it.
“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:7-8)