Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.” James 4:15
This week Robert Novak was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Novak is a Washington insider and a syndicated columnist with the Chicago Sun-Times. According to one news source, Novak said he was suspending his journalistic work for an indefinite, “but God willing, not too lengthy period.”
We don’t often hear the words “God willing” on the lips of journalists today. I don’t know if Mr. Novak is a God-fearing person or not, but a brain tumor certainly has a way of making all of us recognize how dependant we are on the Almighty.
The Latin words Deo Volente meaning “God willing” were common among the Puritans who came to America in search of religious freedom. Later, the Methodists also peppered their speech and correspondence with the phrase, signaling their dependence on the Lord by often signing their letters with the initials D.V. It was a simple reminder that all plans were subject to the Lord’s sovereign permission. Is it any wonder that the Puritan era and the Wesleyan revivals were golden times when God advanced his kingdom agenda?
Deo Volente is a good philosophy by which to live our lives. However, having the right heart attitude is more important than saying the right words. The last thing we need is another Christian cliché or more religious jargon to print on a t-shirt. We don’t need another bumper sticker to live out our faith. All of that is well and good, but I believe James is getting at something deeper.
“If the Lord wills” speaks to the reality of a transcendent God and to the relevance of God in our daily lives. The absence of it from our lips perhaps suggests we are not as dependent on the Lord as we think we are. We charge ahead with our own puny plans and expect God to bless them. Worse yet, we live like practical atheists, making plans and boasting about the future without acknowledging the sovereign hand of God in the daily affairs of life.
We are also a presumptuous nation, having pushed God to the periphery of our culture, kicked him out of the public schools, and said that he is not welcome in the public square or in our current political debate. If that isn’t enough to provoke the Lord, we have threaten to remove “in God we trust” from our currency and “under God” from the pledge we make to the American flag. No wonder the phrase “God willing” sounds strange to our modern ears.
Try something new this week. Start ending your email correspondence with the initials D.V. and see if it starts at least a conversation if not a revival.