When was the last time you really blew it? I mean, really, really blew it? Like, “This-is-the-end-I’ll-never-recover-my-life-is-over, blew it?”
Are you there now? Full of despair like the man in this painting?
If so, please believe this: Goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen. (Psalm 23)
Here’s how I know this is true…
❯ My Big, Stupid Mistake (one of many)
In 1990 I probably made the worst mistake of my life. It was big. It was stupid. It was expensive and risky and unnecessary. It came with years of negative consequences, financial stress, and tears.
And I was in the bulls-eye center of God’s will for my life at the same time.
Confused? Read on…
It was August. My first child, Häns, was three weeks old. I had completed 18 of 20 courses of my M.A. at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Massachusetts. Amazingly, I was almost debt-free. Plus, the church I had attended during seminary needed a pastor and asked me to apply for the job. Life seemed to stretch out before me on an opportunity-filled highway.
But I had a big, stupid, mistake-prone bee in my bonnet. It was buzzing in my ear, “You must move back to Minnesota. There’s nothing for you here.” I listened to it (for stupid reasons), borrowed $1,400 for a one-way Ryder truck rental and moved to St. Paul, Minnesota with no plan, no money, no job, no prospects, and no clue. I had blown my opportunity-filled highway to bits in the rear view mirror by an IED made of my own stupidity.
To buy diapers and formula I spent the first two weeks standing in line with homeless men to find day labor
lawn care, warehouse help, whatever. I was as discouraged as I have ever been (though, I have been so many times since). I remember one particular Sunday afternoon, taking a walk with Hans strapped to my chest, and despair strapped to my back. “What have I done?” I wondered. I felt I had ruined our lives, blown up our dreams. I was filled with guilt and begged God not to abandon us, though I felt I surely deserved it, and He probably already had.
But twenty-three years and many ups and downs later, I have learned a few lessons about God’s will and the big, stupid mistakes we average people make. And it all boils down to having a biblical theology of God…
❯ God’s Faithfulness
In regard to our mistakes, we sometimes say that God is the God of second chances. But, I think it’s more correct to say that God is the God of zero chances. We learn from Scripture that favor with Him doesn’t depend on us and our wisdom, or goodness, or faithfulness. He isn’t waiting for you to get your act together, your head screwed on straight, to try again and get it right this time.
He offers his favor freely because of Christ’s wisdom, goodness and faithfulness, not yours. It’s done. Finished. Sealed. If you belong to Christ, if you have come to Him, He will not turn you away, nor let you wander away. Ever. He is faithful to His people. No second chances offered. No second chances needed. He will not abandon you.
God’s faithfulness to you will set you free.
❯ God’s Sovereignty
When we make mistakes, we worry that we’ve fallen out of God’s will. You’ve probably heard people talk about “missing out on God’s perfect will.” And now you’re afraid you’re permanently stuck with God’s plan B.
If God’s plans were dependent on us, we’d all be on plan Z999…. And what kind of plan is that? Such a folk-religion understanding of God’s will rests on an insufficient grasp of God sovereignty.
Just check your Bible, any page, and you’ll see that God perfectly accomplishes all He desires, from the macro to the micro. His will is never crossed because your freedom is subject to His freedom. This means that His plan A for you is right on track despite your mistakes and sins. In fact, the mystery is, that your mistakes and sins actually serve His plan A. (Confused? Sorry, no time to explain now, but if you sit down with the Bible, you’ll find that’s the story.)
God’s will for you is right where you’re standing, whether in the sunshine of your hopes, or the storm of your regrets. And it always will be. He reigns. He rules.
God’s sovereignty over you will set you free.
❯ God’s Providence
Here’s a hard fact about your mistakes: God’s providence (His all-wise governing of all things for His glory and for your good) includes your choices, your actions, and the consequences that flow from them. So when you make bad decisions, stupid mistakes, rash sins, or careless choices, yes, you will have to live with the consequences in this world.
But not alone. Not to your undoing. God has a hopeful plan for you beyond this world that spans eternity. And no mistake of yours can undo it.
If you trust Christ, God is for you because of Christ. He leads before you, and supports behind you and beside you, and orders events around you. If you belong to Christ, His fatherly, providential care has been the most constant theme of your life. Look for it. Trust it. Hope in it even on mistake strewn paths.
God’s providential care for you will set you free.
❯ God’s Forgiveness
Maybe your big, stupid mistake was a sin. You know it because Scripture tells you so. It tells you God hates that sin, and you think God is punishing you.
Or, maybe you’re not sure if your mistake was a sin, but you can’t help feeling like God is angry with you anyway. An accusing voice haunts you day and night, and to you, it is the voice of God.
In either case, remember the gospel! The gospel is God’s wonderful promise that He has made peace with you through Christ, that He will never punish you in this life, or the next, for any sin or mistake.
How can that be? — Because Jesus lived a sin-free, mistake-free life for you, and then offered himself to God on the cross to be punished in your place. If you place your hope in that sacrifice, God promises to forgive all your sins, past, present, and future.
Christian, if you’re living right now through the consequences of your mistakes, whether sinful or not, God is still your forgiving heavenly Father. So when your mistakes feel like a 1,000 pounds strapped to your back, remember God’s forgiveness. Remember His faithfulness to you, His sovereignty over you, and providence for you. Remember that He has made a covenant promise to work for your good.
And these grand truths will set you free.
[photo by MatoWinyan via Photobucket]