The Problem with Backseat Driving
“There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.’”
C. S. Lewis
The moment someone becomes a Christian is the same moment she relinquishes her position in the driver’s seat of her own life. It may be both the most exhilarating and scariest moment she’ll ever know. She steps out of the car, goes around to the passenger side, and lets Jesus drive for the first time. She doesn’t know where he is going to take her yet, but in this moment she trusts him completely.
Luckily for Christians, Jesus doesn’t choose his cars based on what model or what year they are, if they are beautiful or rusty. Whether we drive a Ferrari or a minivan, Jesus promises to join us in the front seat and steer us down the right path if we will let him. We might break down a few times along the road, lose a tire or run out of gas, but we are never left stranded. With our master mechanic at the wheel, our car will be up and working again in no time, and we are able to keep going.
But why the car trouble if we are letting Jesus drive in the first place? Surely, Jesus is a professional, he would know if we are running low on fuel, if the ‘check engine’ light is on. Why would he wait for us to break down to say something? Why make it that much harder?
These are the questions that I had whenever I would hit bumps on the road of my Christianity. I wouldn’t understand why something wasn’t going the way I planned, or why God allowed certain difficulties to happen in my life that would make me stumble. What I wasn’t seeing was that these feelings and uncertainties arose when I was trying to take the control back from Jesus.
Proverbs 19:21 says that “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails”. I recently came to the realization that I often try to make plans in my heart and focus so much on achieving them that I forget to consult with God about it. I literally reach over in the car and try to take the wheel from Jesus’ grip. It would be very easy for Jesus to say, “Um, nice try,” and push me back to my side of the car, or even just hit the brakes and get out, but funnily enough he doesn’t do that. Sometimes he’ll let me try to steer for a little while, let me try to do it my way. It is when we end up going off course or pass the gas station without stopping that Jesus taps my shoulder and says “Why don’t you let me take back over?”
So often I get caught up in thinking that my way is better than God’s, especially when it comes to relationships, work, or family. I pray for something specific, like a new job that I think I will benefit a lot from, and if it doesn’t happen I assume I did something wrong, and I’ll become frustrated and keep beating the air until it goes my way. In reality, God may be keeping me from that job because he has a better plan for me in my current situation. I don’t understand it at the time, but that doesn’t give me the right to become angry. It isn’t natural, and it certainly isn’t easy, but I have to trust that God’s way is better than mine, and I must surrender the steering wheel to Jesus. As Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord, ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”
In order to stay on God’s course to reach our final destination, being eternal life in heaven, we have to be willing to say to God, “Thy will be done,” in every situation of our lives. We don’t want to be the cause of a serious accident that totals our car for good. Jesus makes it very clear that it is far better to trust him in the driver’s seat than ourselves. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’” God has our best interests in mind all the time. He’s the one man who’s exempt from ever having to pull over and ask directions. He knows exactly what he’s doing, so just let go of the wheel and let him drive.