AUDIO VERSION: YouTube Podbean
Your choices have consequences in this world. Some of us are still paying today for choices we made a long time ago: perhaps we have health problems, relationship problems, and financial problems. And when we can draw a clear line between our suffering today and some choice we made in the past, it’s pretty easy to leap to the assumption that God is punishing us for the past. And once we think our lives are an ongoing series of punishments, depression and despair are quick to follow.
To escape this trap of downer thinking, we need to understand how God views our past. He sees it as a series of opportunities. To God, everything is redeemable. Every bad thing can be turned into good. Life is like a series of hiking trails through some woods. There are many trails and they weave all over the place. Some intersect with each other, others do not. As you go along in life, God is walking with you down the path that you’re on and He’s making suggestions about which trails you should take. Perhaps when you were a teenager, you came to a fork in the road about finishing high school. You wanted to blow it off. God said that wasn’t such a good idea. You ignored what God said. Now, years later, you’re at some dead end job feeling like a failure because you never went on to get your college degree. As you take home your meager paycheck every week, is God punishing you? As you scrimp and pinch and disappoint your kids because of the things you can’t afford for them, is God standing there with some unending refrain of “I told you that you should have finished school. This is what you get for not listening to Me”? No, this is not what He is saying. This is Satan talking because Satan loves to harp on our past mistakes. Maybe you have regrets about some choices you’ve made, but God doesn’t. He’s focusing on your present and your future. The past is old news.
God just isn’t the limited Guy we often make Him out to be. Whether you finished school or didn’t finish school, He can still make your life a great success story in all the areas that He cares about. Maybe you got a divorce. Maybe you slept around. Maybe you were an abusive father. Maybe you did jail time. Maybe you lost a lot of good years strung out on drugs. So what? You’re here now and that’s what God is interested in. Any anchors you are lugging around because of your past mistakes aren’t forms of punishment in His eyes, they are opportunities for growth.
God has you on this earth for one main reason: to grow closer to Him. To do this requires spiritual maturity. We can compare spiritual maturity to building muscles in your body. Now if the goal is to increase your overall muscle mass, it doesn’t matter if you’re getting stronger arms or stronger legs. Any muscle group you improve is going to be contributing to the end goal. Every life has a different set of problems in it, and those problems are like personalized workout plans. What form your trials take isn’t what matters—it’s how you are responding to them. Are you willing to see your problems as opportunities for spiritual growth? If so, then all those anchors you’re carrying around will suddenly become quite valuable to you. Those hassles are not a cause for shame, they are opportunities for you to draw closer to God. You need to view your life like a never-ending stream of learning opportunities which are being presented to you by Someone who is most eager to strengthen your personal bond with Him.
The Holy Spirit is your spiritual Trainer in life and He is a very optimistic Fellow. He does not drone on and on about what you did wrong in life, nor does He beat on you for ten years over one bad move. The only time the Holy Spirit will get irritated with you is when you are willfully defying Him. That’s when He’s going to break out the disciplinary methods to drive you back into alignment with Him. Now maybe you cheated on your spouse because you weren’t listening to God. And then the whole thing blew up in your face so bad that you repented of your disobedience and wanted to get right with God again. The moment you repented, there was no longer any friction between you and God. You were back on His page and He was pleased. Now your life is still a mess, but that mess is no longer about disciplining your willful rebellion. Now it’s all about opportunities.
When you purposely defy God, you are like a child who intentionally smashes his father’s model plane with a hammer. All the delicate pieces get busted apart. What you don’t realize is that your father was standing right behind you the whole time and saw what you did. Now you’ve been caught red-handed. Your father demands an apology. You stick out your tongue. Your father spanks your defiant little bottom. You apologize. Your father now gives you a hug and says that all is well again. Then you both look at the pile of broken plane pieces. You feel bad about the mess you made, but your father shakes his head and says, “No, no, no. That’s all in the past. Now this is where the fun begins, for you and I will take all of these broken pieces and glue them back together, only this time we’ll make something totally new.” Of course you have no idea where to start, but your father has an excited gleam in his eye, because he is a master at this sort of thing.
This is how God views the messes that have developed from your bad choices: they are a pile of broken pieces with all kinds of fascinating potential. He is your Father, and He is going to guide you through His rebuilding process. Sure, the original dream is lost. You can’t go back to having never been divorced. You can’t bring your aborted child back to life again. You can’t relive the years that were lost. But so what? You’re working with a Genius here: have confidence in His creative abilities. God doesn’t want the original plan to be reconstructed—He’s moved on to something new and you need to keep up with Him. Now is the time for tearing up the original blueprint of how your life was supposed to go. You need to get out a fresh piece of paper for God to write on. He has all kinds of excellent ideas. And all the broken pieces in your life—they are going to be the perfect materials for the beautiful design He wants to construct.