Humans are meant to obey. In our natural states, we are people pleasers. We want to do the things that will please other people (as Michael says, it is when there is something else going on—an emotional crisis, a lack of confidence, a grabbing for attention—that causes people to be disobedient). This desire to obey is true of God as well.
Some may ask, “if God wants us to be obedient, why doesn’t he just make us that way?” I believe that, as humans, we are born to be fallen creatures, and it is within the work of learning to listen, the humility of surrendering ourselves, and the obedience to the larger tapestry of life that we strip away those very human-like qualities and experience the greatness of God.
This greatness of God is not material. We are not given money, fancy cars, or nice houses when we are obedient, but rather contentment and peace. When we do the things we are called to do, we find this contentment, and that contentment is better than any material item that may fulfill our wishes because it weaves into the underlying currant of who we are as people and how we experience the world. I think about times in which I am called to be obedient, and the contentment I feel when I follow through. It might be that I am called to befriend a person that I don’t particularly like. But, in the end, the act of being obedient and fulfilling God’s wishes far outweigh the guilt, the negative thoughts, the dislike that I feel had I not reached out. Or, perhaps I am called to host Mother’s Day brunch at my house. Even though I may not want to clean, and may not love cooking, the contentment I feel in serving others and bringing those together—because I was called by God—is worth neglecting my own desires. Perhaps I am called to do a job—organize a file cabinet, send out follow up e-mails, take out the trash—that might impede on my own time, but following through on those tasks makes me feel productive, which, at the end of the day, is a far better feeling than one of guilt and negative rumination (right, because ultimately, if I hadn’t completed those unwanted tasks, I’m probably going to sit at my desk all day and stew about, “how dare they ask me to do that”, and “why can’t someone else”, and “that isn’t my job”—altogether, negative and destructive thoughts).
But, how do we gain these gifts of contentment and peace? Obedience requires listening. Sometimes when we are talking to other people, our brains are so clouded with our own thoughts that we do not fully listen to what other people are saying. If you believe in a God who speaks to you through unconventional conduits, then you must pay attention to what other people are saying to you. For me, I always pay attention to where I see a similar theme popping up more than once; if I’m having a conversation with people, and I hear the same thing said multiple times, then it is probably indication that is something I need to hear.
It requires a relationship with God. The more we rely on God, the more time we spend with Him, the better we know Him, and the better we are able to discern his voice from the voice of others. Of course, when we are being obedient, we will hear differing opinions from people; “I wouldn’t apologize to her if she is not going to apologize to you”, “I think it’s a waste of your time to take that position if it’s not going to lead you anywhere”, “I just don’t see you as being happy living there”. But, part of the lesson in obedience is learning to sift out these other voices and opinions—while still certainly valid—to listen to the voice of God, which is ultimately the most important one to follow.
I think this gift of peace and contentment comes from obedience. Do what God calls you to do, and you will find peace and contentment. The contentment comes because you will not regret your decisions–you believe that you have been called to a particular position for a purpose, and you plan to live out that purpose. There is no second guessing yourself—wondering if this was the right decision to make or not, because you know you were lead to do it. Even when you are in positions that you don’t want to be in, doing tasks that you don’t want to be doing, interacting with people that you don’t want to interact with, you know that it is all for a purpose—and therefore, none of it is a waste of time or energy.
And, most importantly, the contentment reminds you that there is a bigger plan and there is a Universal Force that is at work for and with you. The Bhagavad Gita (the sacred Hindu text) says, “Whatever happened, happened for the good. Whatever is happening is happening for the good. Whatever will happen will happen for the good”. It never fails that, when you have arrive at the place your obedience leads you to, and you look back in retrospect, you always understand why things happened the way that they did—and that is always for good. So when you are obedient, and even when you are in the midst of turmoil, tragedy, tumult, you have faith that it WILL work out in the end—because it always does—and because God’s plan is always greater than yours.