Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Be Careful What You Promise God, or You May Learn a Lesson the Hard Way by Zoe M. McCarthy

Image by romankac

Early in my faith walk, a woman in my prayer group emptied her heart about her daughter on drugs. Her daughter’s addiction affected her entire family. Her husband spent nights in his car outside their daughter’s apartment so he’d catch her if she left to buy drugs. Their daughter attended three-month treatment programs but quit mid program. 

As I prayed for this family, I cried to the Lord, “Why can’t this young woman see what she’s doing to herself and her family! They’re all sucked into her problem. Why can’t she stop using drugs?” 

Immediately, a voice within said, “How many times in your dieting have you failed to resist eating a simple cookie? How much more is this young woman’s addiction?” 

I needed to understand this young woman’s plight as I prayed for her. I set up tasks to help me understand. These are the promises I made to God. 
  1. I’d eat nothing after 7 p.m. 
  2. I’d walk 20 minutes 3 times a week.
  3. I’d pray for the daughter and family. 
  4. I’d do these things until the daughter completed the 3-month program or died.
  5. I’d keep the details of this promise to myself until the daughter succeeded or died. This prevented me from the temptation to garner peoples’ sympathy or have them think me noble. 
  6. I’d tell people who asked why I couldn’t eat food that I’d made a promise to God. 
My prayer group didn’t know I was doing this. 

After remaining faithful to my promises for two weeks, the woman announced that her family was moving away. My jaw dropped. We weren’t close friends. How would I know whether her daughter completed the program? Would I be keeping my promises for the rest of my life? 

Rashly or not, I had made these promises, and I had to keep them. 

Many times, I ran to food to eat something before 7 p.m. For an out-of-state business dinner, our group didn’t arrive at the restaurant until after 7 p.m. I dreaded telling our host I couldn’t eat because of promises I made to God. But I did.

After a month, my promises were obvious to friends, family, and colleagues. Having no idea why I made the promises, they did such things as invite us to dinner well before 7 p.m. My husband scheduled activities around my walks and often joined me. 

I hadn’t anticipated care and kindness from others in my self-imposed predicament. The promises were about teaching, not blessing, me. I expected responses like, “You idiot. What we’re you thinking?” But God favored me. 

Months passed. Often I went without dinner and sometimes I trudged 20 minutes in driving rain under an umbrella begging for a lightening bolt. Or in the dark when I forgot to walk earlier. 

I botched my promises only three times. Two bites and one missed walk. 

My promises seemed to control my life. On my walks, I told God I trusted Him to somehow let me know about the daughter’s progress. As I prayed for her, I felt a tie growing. 

After five months, I entered the prayer group and there sat the woman! My heart beat wildly. She talked and talked, but said nothing about her daughter. I squirmed. Was continued bondage in my future? Certainly, God wouldn’t mock me with her presence.

Then she said it. Her daughter had completed the program, was doing well, lived with a family out West, and had a job. I burst into tears. Everyone gaped at me. Freed from silence, I related my pledge in a gush. The woman said those three times I failed in keeping my promise were like her daughter shooting up. 

Looking back, I wonder whether God did more than bless me for my faithfulness to an impulsive vow. His great orchestrations come to mind. However, I’m now careful about my promises to God.

When have you made a promise to God that was difficult to keep?

About the Author
Zoe M. McCarthy
Zoe M. McCarthy believes the little known fact that opposites distract. Thus, she spins Christian contemporary romances entangling extreme opposites. Her tagline is: Distraction to Attraction, Magnetic Romances Between Opposites. Now retired actuaries, Zoe and her husband evaluated the financial risks for insurance companies. Nick, in Zoe’s debut novel, Calculated Risk, is an actuary. Christian Fiction Online Magazine published two of her short stories. Zoe self-published two books of contemporary Christian short stories. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She enjoys leading workshops on the craft of writing; speaking about her faith; planning fun events for her 5 grandchildren; and exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains, where she lives with her husband, John. 
Learn more about Zoe M. McCarthy at her website: http://zoemmccarthy.com

Calculated Risk
Calculated Risk
by Zoe M. McCarthy

What happens when an analytical numbers man meets a mercurial marketing Rep? Romance is a calculated risk…

Jilted by the latest of her father’s choices of “real men,” Cisney Baldwin rashly accepts an invitation to spend Thanksgiving weekend with a sympathetic colleague and his family. Nick LeCrone is a man too much her opposite to interest her and too mild-mannered to make her overbearing father’s “list.” Now, Cisney fears Nick wants to take advantage of her vulnerable state over the holiday. Boy, is she wrong.

Nick wants little to do with Cisney. She drives him crazy with all her sticky notes and quirks. He extended an invitation because he felt sorry for her. Now he’s stuck, and to make matters worse, his family thinks she’s his perfect match. He’ll do what he can to keep his distance, but there’s just one problem—he’s starting to believe Cisney’s magnetism is stronger than he can resist.

Purchase links for Calculated Risk: http://zoemmccarthy.com/books,


  1. Great story, Zoe! A long time ago God impressed on me that my writing was becoming a bit of an obsession. I promised Him I wouldn't write on Sundays. Sometimes, an idea will pop up and I want to do SOMETHING!, but I have to trust Him that it will be there on Monday.

    1. Sandra, I understand the urge, and admire you for keeping to your promise. It's a good one.

  2. Sandra, that particular promise has the potential to drive a person crazy. Do you feel you can even write down the gist of the idea? Anyway, I can relate to this conundrum Zoe describes. A very legalistic young Christian, I made a promise to God about giving money I didn't have to support some missionaries. But I had no way of earning it, and when the time came, an older, wiser devoted believer explained that if God didn't provide in some other way to fulfill my promise, I needn't despair. He was bigger than my well-intentioned vow. I don't know what I would have done without her compassionate, clear-headed guidance.

    1. Gail, I certainly learned to pray about anything that is a promise to God. I'm glad I learned the lesson and that God worked on and with me in the learning.

    2. That does happen, Gail, and I will make a quick note or two if an idea pops into my head, but I won't dwell on it. What I meant by working was actually sitting down at my desk in my little room and devoting all my focus to putting words on the page or marketing--the same thing I do the other five or six days a week. Frankly, I don't GENERALLY have a hard time keeping that promise. There are times when I itch to do something, but I've found it can wait. My FIL promised not to watch TV on Sundays. It was years ago and he's kept that promise. Now THAT would make me crazy!! Gotta watch my football! :) I agree that if God leads you to do something, He will provide the way to fulfill it. It's why we need to be so careful and not take lightly any promise we make, whether to God or someone else.

    3. Great response, Sandra. I'm loving what I'm learning from you all.

  3. Wow,Zoe. I admire you for sticking to it.

  4. It was a long 5 months, Dawn. I never realized how often we ate dinner after 7 p.m.

  5. Zoey, I appreciate your post today. As a baby Christian, I made promises to God that I thought appropriate. Now, I've learned it seems simply listening is the best practice. If He prompts me to do something specific I say, "by Your grace, Lord," and do my best. He's so amazingly faithful.

    1. Marilyn, learning to listen IS the better answer. I incorporate into my time with God time to seek and listen to what He wants to tell me. I get answers, and I think He's teaching me how to listen.

  6. Years ago, I made a rash promise to God--but it was more accurately prompted by pressure from a zealous, paid, church fundraising consultant. I donated a piece of heirloom family jewelry, given to my by my great aunt and worn at my wedding, to the capital improvement fund because I didn't have cash to donate. Gifts in kind of jewelry were being sold by a local jeweler. I loved the necklace, but I wanted to honor God and help the church. A year later, the jeweler called me to say that they'd had an offer on my necklace, but it was a little lower than the value. He wanted my approval to sell or hold. I thought it had been sold right after I donated it. At that time, my finances were better and I timidly asked if I might purchase it back at the offer price. The kind Christian jeweler said nothing would make him happier than for me to buy it (and the money was going to the church fund). I have struggled with this for many years--I hope I didn't fail the test of keeping my promise by buying the necklace back.

    1. Vie, once, I felt guilty that I had avoided a woman in the grocery store. I felt guilty because I realized God may have put her before me to minister to her. I told my prayer group about my unrelenting guilt that I'd asked forgiveness for. I said I would not avoid people in the grocery store again. One friend said that maybe the particular guilt I felt, was God using the incident to teach me so that in the future I would not avoid people He put before me. I accepted the teaching and stopped beating myself up. Vie, I wonder if it is not so much whether buying the necklace back was wrong or right. Perhaps God used your incident to teach you something. God knows your repentant heart. I hope you can be at peace.

  7. GREAT post, Zoe! I remember when I committed my writing to God and how that commitment was tested when I wrote The Visionary....be careful what you pray LOL! Thanks for the reminder.

    1. Pam, tested is another good word in our making promises to God. I think God was testing my conviction, and even though I failed a few times, He showed me I wasn't perfect, that I needed Him, and that He is a merciful God.

  8. What an awesome post. In so many ways I can't go into. But yes, I've made rash promises to God. I learned the hard way not to do that anymore.


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