Desires Are Thwarted
by Sam Williamson
Spiritual retreats have significantly
impacted my life. During a retreat, something
shifts in my heart, like a ratchet rotates it one
way and it won’t twist back. In a concentrated
time of prayer and reflection, I connect with God
again, and I see the world with a new set of
eyes.I like attending retreats, but I also like
offering retreats. I want the same experience for
Five years ago, my wife and I decided to pursue
purchasing a retreat lodge. We spent nine months
updating our old country home and another eighteen
months staging and selling our house. Once we sold
it, we began a year-long search for a retreat
A year and a half ago, we moved into a house that
seemed perfect. It had a living quarters for the
two of us, and it had another living area for
eighteen guests that included a meeting room, six
bedrooms, five bathrooms, and a kitchen.
In 2019, we hosted eight retreats. It was
everything we dreamed.
At a meeting the Sunday before Christmas, our HOA
neighbors demanded that we stop hosting retreats.
My wife and I were stunned and speechless. It felt
like everything we had worked toward for the last
five years had been turned upside-down. Our dreams
had been thwarted.
What Would You Do?
My first response (after catching my breath from
that astonishing punch to my solar-plexus) was to
pursue a battleplan with ferocity: my wife and I
deliberated, I spent hours mulling this over with
my closest friends, I had multiple discussions
with a lawyer, and I prayed.
When people face major obstacles, Scripture shows
two kinds of response: Fight or Flight.
- When Abram and Sarai’s dream of a child is
thwarted by old age, they scheme and act.
Ishmael is born; a child, yes, but not the son
of the promise.
Which is wiser? To push ahead or to sit? Action or
inaction? Confidence or humility? Sometimes God is
simply correcting our character: Jacob’s impulsive
aggressivity needed to be put out of joint, and
Gideon’s fearful passivity needed a trumpet blast
and a fiery torch.
- When the children of Israel spy out the
Promised Land, their dream is thwarted by
giants in the land, so they conspire together,
But God is not formulaic. Moses was rebuked for
his action (when he murdered a man) as well as for
his inaction at the Red Sea (when God said, “Why
do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go
[I understand that many readers are facing far
more shocking news than I am, like illness, loss
of a loved one, or financial ruin. I’m simply
sharing what God is saying to me in my minor
This Time I Tried
to Do It Right
When I moved into my neighborhood, I had obviously
miscalculated. This time around I was determined
to do it right. I sought wise counsel (legal and
spiritual) and I took time to weigh all the
options. Then in my prayer time this morning I
remembered the title of an old Poem: Young
Man, Your Arm Is Too Short to Box with God.
I realized: if God wants to purify something in my
heart, he will do it whether my plans are perfect
or faulty. And if God wants to use this house for
a retreat, Pharaoh’s armies won’t stand in the
way. If God is really Lord, my call is to look to
him, not to the giants in the land, and certainly
not to my faintest idea of what might be called a
good plan, be it action or waiting.
God calls us to prayerfully seek him and map out a
strategy, yes; but then to commit our plans to him
and watch him “direct our paths.” If I was a fool
to trust my defective plans when I bought this
house, I would be a bigger fool to trust my
perfect plans for fixing it.
I’ll design a plan but not trust it. I might be
boxing God, and my arms don’t have the
P. S. We think we are made for significance, but
our primary purpose in life is to have a
relationship with God.
Sam Williamson has published
numerous articles and has written two books.
He has a blog site, www.beliefsoftheheart.com,
and can be reached at
God in Conversation: How to Recognize
His Voice Everywhere, by Samuel C.
Williamson, published by Kregel
Publications, 2016, available from Amazon
of two boxers: Copyright:
Andrey Burmakin, bigstock.com Photo