This is the sixth in a series of short reflections on the eight general attributes of God that can known by reason, as set forth by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica. I've been learning about St. Thomas and the Summa from Dr. Taylor Marshall and the online classes he offers at the New Saint Thomas Institute. These reflections are the result of my meditations on each individual attribute during prayer. As such, they are not meant to be deep theological discussions, but simple spiritual thoughts on the majesty of our God . I pray you find them beneficial in your walk with Christ.
For I, the Lord, do not change." (Malachi 3:6). Upon this verse, St. Thomas expounds on the sixth attribute of God: His immutability. God cannot change. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. If He could change, God would cease to be perfect. Indeed, as St. Thomas explains, it is "impossible for God to be in any way changeable." (Summa Theologica Prima Pars, Q. 9, Art. 1) Stated differently, "God cannot be moved," nor can He acquire anything new, or extend himself to anything whereto he was not extended previously." (Id.) Thus, St. James says in his epistle that "all good giving and every perfect gift is from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change." (James 1:17)
Who would want to believe in a God that changes? If that were the case, how could we ever truly know the path of salvation, or if we were on it? Maybe He changed the rules and didn't give us the memo. Still, as absurd as a mutable, changing God sounds, we, in fact, try to change God all the time.
My two oldest children pray the Our Father every night before bed. My four year old daughter has trouble saying the word "thy," and instead it comes out "my." So, she often prays, "My kingdom come. My will be done. On earth as it is in heaven." Funny and cute, right? I certainly laughed the first time I heard her say it. Then I realized: wait a second, that's the version I've prayed for most of my life! And that is how we try to change God--by following our own will instead of His, or at least hoping to bend His will into conformity with ours.
Fortunately--as with all of His divine attributes--God gave us the perfect example to follow in Jesus. For Jesus never changed in his perfect obedience to the will of the Father. "I honor my Father" and "do not seek my own glory," Jesus told those who questioned His authority and divinity. (John 8:49 - 50) "I do nothing on my own . . . [but only] what is pleasing to him." (John 8: 28 - 29) But nowhere was Christ's ultimate obedience to the Father's will more evident than in the Garden of Gethsemane, as the full weight of humanity's sins bore down on him:
"He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, 'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will." (Matthew 26:39)
What great comfort there is in our Lord's asking for the cup--His Passion--to pass from him. How often do we similarly ask God to deliver us from some hardship or to give us something that we think we need. If we didn't ask for such things, we wouldn't be human. All to often, however, we stop our prayer there. But if we will continue, as Jesus did, and pray "yet, not as I will, but as you will," we will truly imitate our Savior. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done. Therein lies true peace and joy.
God love you.