God’s Will and Your Big, Stupid Mistakes—4 Things to Remember

Lon —  May 14, 2013 — 32 Comments

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?

painting of a man in despair

[photo by MatoWinyan via Photobucket]

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.

Nonsense.

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.

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Lon

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Hi, I'm Lon Hetrick, an average guy who believes God is great, even when (my) life isn't. Grace mingles with our griefs in this life, so I write about spiritual life, emotional health, and being average to encourage you hope in God today. When I'm not putting my theological degree to good use on Average Us or writing Christian education and discipleship material for churches, I work as an interaction designer for a prominent automotive website. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+

32 responses to God’s Will and Your Big, Stupid Mistakes—4 Things to Remember

  1. 

    Excellent post. Thanks for weaving such truths with your own vulnerability. It’s real.

  2. 
    Roger Phillips May 14, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    Well said. One of the great blessings of God’s sovereignty is the freedom to live your life without regrets. This knowledge frees you to take risks, to pursue life and all its challenges with excitement, rather than living in fear, or wasting your best years in “analysis paralysis.”

    Do I want to weigh my choices, to seek counsel, to pray for wisdom to make the best decison? Absolutely! Does that sometimes take time? Yes! I have often missed God by getting “ahead of my headlights,” so to speak. And like Mueller, I believe the best time to make a major decison is when I have prayed to the “point of no opinion,” where I can make either choice with as little prejudice as possible. However, it is a HUGE comfort to know that God “has my back,” that He will never allow me to get outside His Providence.

    We ALL have had our miscues that (speaking in the natural, at least) we might do differently if we had it to do over. But as you said, God even uses our “wrong” turns to somehow get us to His desired destination. Sometimes that might not be OUR desired destination, and God will use the pain for our good and His glory.

    We would be lying if we didn’t acknowledge the pain of missteps, but that’s one reason it’s called the “fight” of faith. “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” I Timothy 6:6

    • 

      Awesome addition! Thanks for sharing, Roger. I agree that none if this is an excuse for presumption. But it is a relief to know, as you say, “God has our back.”

  3. 

    We all need to read this! I have to keep reminding myself that as I go through this life, making mistakes along the way, Jesus has paid it all. It is finished. Thanks for this post, Lon.

    • 

      Randy Pope of Perimeter Church has a great way to express your comment: “We lost it all. Jesus did it all. We get it all.” (Future glory with Him) Thanks for your comment Bobby.

  4. 

    Reblogged this on Sheréa VéJauan and commented:
    God’s Will and Your Big, Stupid Mistakes — 4 Things to Remember

  5. 

    This message was exactly what I needed today. I am in the middle of another emotional mistake. Is it OK to ask that others will lift me up – so perhaps this is the top of the mountain, and that from here on out, it’s a freeing down hill walk with Jesus to the destiny, and less mistakes and consequences now? I really believe it’s time for me to out grow this.The cycle. And Lon – in your initial sharing… do you believe you were duped, and did not hear God – or do you believe you did hear the voice of god in the transition?
    I have been very confused lately, as i believe most of the time I do hear the Lord, God’s voice – the guiding speak of the Holy Spirit. I so desire to know that all I hear is safe. If I cannot hear and trust then it makes me feel as if I should never listen. He clearly tells us His sheep ‘know’ His voice. I am still in the eye of the storm of my recent BIG mistake. I almost did not survive. Enduring was almost too much. Thanks for sharing. God uses authentic – real – transparent follower’s much more than those who keep things hidden. He started making this known in His very own living Word… as all who are in the hall of ‘faith’ all fell, stumbled, sinned, etc. Part of walking by faith is stumbling and falling, clearly. I really liked the sharing about HIS FAITHFULNESS. This ministered to me GREATLY. I have been struggling, so, so, so much with all my failures and my weaknesses – and I need to be focused on HIS FAITHFUL LOVE.

  6. 

    Just what I needed to read. God is Good. Thanks for your ministry.
    Chris

  7. 

    No TEST…no TESTIMONY! No MESS…no MESSAGE!
    I believe that God always works His perfect will despite our shortcomings but lately I’ve been messing up pretty badly. I needed that extra burst of reaffirmation that God is still in control despite my blunders. This is just what I needed. Thank you!

  8. 

    Nice post. Leaves me with a warm feeling. The other comments were all affirming, so I hope this isn’t out of place….

    The problem I can’t get past is that saying “God is with you in the crisis” (or something similar) is like saying that the cancer surgeon is holding your hand while you’re dying in pain… but refuses to operate, even though he could. ? It seems that although God *could* insulate us from the consequences and pain of our past lives, instead he chooses to let us suffer the consequences anyway; in which case, doesn’t it look a lot like it would if God was completely absent? Then… to what end faith?
    I’ve struggled with this for years, and so far I haven’t found an answer I can believe in.

    • 

      Thanks for this Sam. Your comment is perfectly in place and I’m so glad you raise, really, the question: If there is a good, wise, all-powerful God, then why is there evil and suffering of any kind at all? I don’t know that anyone really has the answer, but I believe Christianity through the ages from the Old Testament writers to the present day, has the only answer God has given us: evil, suffering, death, poverty, war, disease, even natural disasters are all a result of Adam’s rebellion (sin) and the curse God threatened, and pronounced for that disobedience. Another simple way to say this–that the Church has historically embraced, though it’s very un-PC today–is that we suffer because God cursed us, and we live in the world He cursed. (See Genesis 3). This sound so wrong to modern ears doesn’t it?

      Now the good news: God has purposed redeem a people for himself despite what we deserve. Scripture shows that God is bringing about this redemption slowly, in stages, and that the final consummation of redemption and removal of the curse is still future. This “in between” state seems incongruous, and forces me to this choice: Will I trust God’s goodness and power in spite of the fact that I will, most likely, suffer many things and, finally, die? Will I trust that He will save me from His wrath, His curse, even though I still live under the curse?

      It’s a big question isn’t it? I don’t know of any simple resolution. But I choose to trust because of Jesus’ words, life, death, resurrection, and his promise: “Though a man die, if he believes in me, yet shall he live.”

  9. 

    I learned something the other day that I never really thought of… God is eternal duh… but God created time…. rite? Yes he did. So time exists within God. Meaning that just as I’m writing this God is walking with my great great great ancestor in the midst of their trials and just as he’s walking with them at the same time he’s walking with me and everyone else he’s created or ever will create. We often really wander what it means when he said ” I knew you before you were in your mothers womb” I know now what that is saying. .. and this really set me free and helped me. I’ve made some BIG mistakes really BIG mistakes and am having to fight emotionally everyday to stay on top with the help of almighty God. He has the whole world in his hands!!!!!!!

  10. 
    Linda hodgetts April 13, 2014 at 5:08 am

    Was looking for an answer to my stupid decisions had already read one other post and still felt bad but after reading this one and knowing others make stupid decisions it gave me hope thankyou your words gave me strength to keep going again thankyou.

  11. 

    Très intéressant : je pense que cet article devrait intéresser un mec

  12. 

    I always enjoy the reads here. Thanks for sharing what was such a difficult part of your journey. You can speak of His faithfulness with earnest for having come through.

    Hope it’s a wonderful wknd,

    HW

  13. 

    Thanks for this great article, i need to hear this every day right now, begun to learn about sovereignty about 10 years ago when going through some severe testing, dont understand how people that dont beleive this cope to be honest, so glad im not the one in control! what an awesome God!

  14. 

    The bible confuses me … Some scriptures say God forgets our sins, and all we have to do is ask for forgiveness, and Jesus died for our sins.. And gods covenant with us is in the New Testament but why do we still bear the punishment if Adam and Eve if God forgives and forgets? I

    • 

      Hello Erika,

      I understand. Sometimes the Bible is confusing simply because there’s so much to read and learn. Other times it’s confusing because it contradicts what we were taught by parents, or preachers, or what we want to believe. Its particularly confusing when preachers promise things God never did (like Christians don’t have to get sick or suffer.) We all have to get past all of these unbiblical notions to grow in our trust in Jesus. After all, the whole book of Job is about trusting God while it hurts and never, ever knowing why. Christians believe God is trustworthy even when they suffer and He doesn’t answer.

      Your question is wonderful because it reveals a seeking heart. I can give you a short, simple explanation that may help you, but I encourage you to read some more on the doctrines of sin and redemption. Here’s a few tidbits that may help you get started…

      1. God promises to forgive the sins of all who belong to Christ because he paid the penalty for their sins on the cross. We belong to Christ by faith/trust that He is our one and only hope of having a right standing with God.

      2. Biblical statements about God’s forgetting or not remembering our sins are metaphors for forgiveness. It’s a symbolic way of saying that when God forgives, he really, really forgives (rejoice!). He will never change His mind and hold us to account our sins.

      3. As to you comment about “bearing the punishment” for sins, there is a sense in which this is true, and a sense in which this is false. It is false that those who belong to Christ by faith (aka, Christians) still bear the punishment of God’s eternal judgement and wrath for their sin. However, it is true that Christians still live in a cursed world, and have a sinful nature, and thus still suffer along with the rest of humanity. But, this will not always be true. God has promised to completely deliver his people from ALL the effects of sins at the end of the age. Until then, He gives His Holy Spirit as a promise, a sort of down payment on the full redemption he has in store for us. Forgiveness, justification, adoption, assurance, and promise now; full deliverance from the curse, eternal life, glorification, and removal of sin from the world in the future.

      I hope this gets you started at least in your study. Read Ephesians 1:1-14 (over and over) for a sense of what God has done for us, and what God will do for us in Christ. It’s what theologians call “the already and the not yet.”

      Grace and peace, Lon

  15. 

    Hi there,
    I’d just like to share my story of an exhausting mistake I made.
    When I was young I enjoyed a ridiculously close relationship with God. No joke, my mum and I had been through so many trials that my faith had been refined with fire and my joy was so consistent. I was very spiritually mature at a young age. I knew I had such a purpose.

    Then I met a boy at 15 and we started dating. I was under the impression (through someone else) that it was ‘God’s Will’, and it probably was for a short time. But then, 2 years in, he wanted to break up. I was actually relieved, because he was an exhausting and draining person to be around. I wasn’t even sure if I liked him. But for some reason or another, probably due to our immaturity, we got back together. And in that time I realised he had a lot of issues – he was very negative, selfish, a bully, narcissistic, and emotionally abusive. Being with him really rocked my strong faith. But I continued to try to sow goodness into his life. But while I was with him I kept thinking ‘he’s a stumbling block’, or ‘he’s poisonous’ and ‘this is temporary’. I had no idea where this was coming from, so I kept coming back with ‘God loves everyone, I should stick with him’. This back and forth went for years and years. I wanted a giant lighting bolt to say ‘NO, stop being with this guy!’, but I never listened to that soft still voice. I never had conformation that this was the right person for me, but I kept bulldozing on in utter denial. It wore me out. He eroded away my character, my personality, and all my hopes and dreams. Being with him made me anxious and confused, which blinded me to the truth.

    Over time his character improved immensely, but our relationship was poisonous to my life. Now we are 24 and he has grown into a wonderful man, I cannot fault him, but it has affected me for the worse. I put off my life and revolved it around him and neglected myself and my family. He proposed to me 6 months ago. We have since broken up. I still never had any peace about our relationship, despite him having changed so much.

    I’m so so disappointed. I feel like God had such an amazing plan for my life and I, in pride and denial, was disobedient and went into this relationship and ignored God. And even worse, not to see all my efforts come to fruition. I have more or less spent my adult years mothering another person while putting up with emotional abuse. I’m exhausted, I feel so behind with my life, like there’s a lot to catch up on. I don’t know what to do. I feel like I’ve made such a huge mistake.

    • 

      Such a sad story, Nicky. But not hopeless. Not the end. There is a path forward, and it sounds like you know how to find it: bow at the cross, embrace it, lift it, carry it, walk on. Walk in faith because God does not share His plans for your tomorrow. Walk in hope because His promise is to work in your life for your redemption, holiness, comfort, and joy in Him.

      I encourage you and every Christian to embrace these truths from the Heidelberg Catechism

      Question 1: What is your only comfort in life and in death?
      Answer: That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

      Read the Heidelberg Catechism with Scripture references here.

      Grace and peace,

      Lon and Dawn

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