Can God work in our lives without taking away our free will? The simple life of a child can teach us a great deal.
Parents close doors to keep their toddlers out of certain rooms of the house. The children don’t know, but those doors are shut for their good. Does a door being shut keep children from playing somewhere else? No. It just limits their choices.
Good parents do all kinds of things to protect their children. They put harmful things out of their reach. They make sure their car seats are secure. They keep them away from lawnmowers and chain saws. Children learn their place, and they know there is some freedom within those boundaries.
Wise parents know they should not intervene too much in children’s life. Children need to learn to fall and pick themselves back up. It is good for them to learn that when mother says “That’s hot” it really is hot. Parents have to give them a little space. That is part of learning how to make good decisions.
Caring parents use many precautions. They buy health insurance in case their children get sick or have a bad accident. They buy life insurance and make a will so that their children will be provided for if something happens to them. They look ahead for their children until they can look out for themselves.
Parents do these and many other things for their children without robbing them of free will. If we can do this with our children, then God can certainly intervene in our lives without making us all pawns in the game of life.
Sometimes God shuts doors in our lives. Like children we might really want the door to open but God wants it shut. Moses wanted to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt when he was 40 but God said no. David wanted to build the temple but the Lord said no. God opened doors for Paul to preach to the Gentiles but those doors seemed to slam shut when he was put in prison. But God opened doors to him in prison. He converted an incarcerated runaway slave named Onesimus (Philemon 10), wrote epistles like Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon and later II Timothy and encouraged many by his example of patience and suffering (Phil. 1:12-18). When God closes one door He often opens another.
God places some dangers out of reach. When the Israelites left Egypt, God did not send them on the road through Philistine country even though the way was better and shorter. The Lord was protecting them at this early stage from the temptation to go back to Egypt (Exod. 13:17-18). But He gave them enough room to make their choice for good or bad. We have no idea how many times the hand of God has shielded us in our lives, but He has and will again. However, He won’t keep us from every temptation.
The Lord gives us space to make our own choices. He may limit the options, but He never forces us to choose one over the other. Sometimes He pulls back from us to let us see ourselves and learn from our mistakes. When foreign ambassadors visited King Hezekiah, “God withdrew from him, in order to test him” (II Chron. 32:31). When we think we know better than God, He pulls back to let us see how little we know.
God doesn’t overpower us by doing everything for us. He also never leaves us without His help. Only the all-wise God knows what the right balance is. We are just like children. They don’t realize the many ways their parents provide for them and protect them. They just trust. We can’t see the many ways God intervenes in our lives. What we should do is trust.