Are you feeling left out? Do you look at those around you–your friends, and your acquaintances on social media and others you identify with–and see their lives unfolding differently over time than yours has? Are you happy for them in the joys and triumphs they experience, or do you feel a twinge of regret? Not jealousy or envy, because you are happy for the blessings they are receiving, and because you recognize the blessings you yourself have received–but are you wondering why your life isn’t turning out quite like theirs?
“Jesus answered, “If I want him to…[fill in this blank] until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”” (John 21:22 NIV)
Life is a funny: it unfolds the way it does because of one of two causes–the choices we ourselves have made, and the hand of God. And there are times we attribute certain things in our life to the wrong one.
We sometimes blame God when it is we ourselves who have directly or indirectly caused our lives, or the lives of our children or other loved ones, to unfold as they have. Ultimately, of course, God permits everything that happens, but it is not always His perfect will. He permits us to suffer as a result of foolish choices (to be abused, for example, because we married unwisely, to get pregnant when we are intimate with someone we are not married to, and so forth), and can use it for good in the lives of those who love Him–but that does not mean it was what He wanted for us. We simply cannot attribute the results of our foolish choices to the hand of God.
And the reach of foolish choices can be very, very, very long. Consider the repercussion of Adam and Eve’s sin–how long was its reach? All the way to the cross, and still we feel its effects! So whom can you blame for your life not turning out quite like you envisioned it? It’s a hard truth to accept, but most likely, yourself!
This does not mean that you had perfect foreknowledge–that you knew ahead of time exactly how everything would play out when you veered from Christ in obedience, or when you didn’t pray enough or seek sufficient wise counsel about an important decision, but it does mean things happened as they did because of choices you made.
If I am living in poverty at sixty-five, it is probably because of choices I made. If I have no happy family pictures, it is probably because of choices I made. If I have no viable career, it is probably because of choices I made. If I never got that graduate or even undergraduate degree, it was probably because of choices I made. If my children never did, it was probably because of choices I made. Not to lay too heavy of a burden on any of us, but even the choices our children make are impacted, directly or indirectly, by choices I myself made in the past.
But, there is the flip side to causality–sometimes I do what I’m supposed to, and things still go south. That’s when I can take comfort in the words of Jesus to Peter, whom He loved very much:
“If I want this other person to have this other life path, what is it to you? YOU keep your eyes on Me–YOU follow Me” (my paraphrase).
Yes, I impact an awful lot of what happens in my life through my own choices–by, in practical ways, planting the “seeds” for the future “flowers” I want to see–yet sometimes Jesus just has other plans for me. Sometimes the enemy comes and scatters weeds in my garden while I’m asleep, but Jesus can work even with that. I am imperfect, but He is not!
“The Lord says, ‘I will give you back what you lost to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts, the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts…'” (Joel 2:25 NLT)
God is perfectly capable of restoring to us what He intends for us, if it is the case that we’ve turned away from Him and now come back! For all of us, He also promises that “…all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NKJV)
I can rest in His promise! If I love Him, He will ultimately work everything out for good in my life, even though I don’t see it now–and for now, on my part I will walk by faith, if not by sight–that His will is good and He will accomplish that which He desires in my life and the lives of those I love!
So, are you feeling left out? Is your life path not unfolding quite the way you envisioned it, or the way other people’s is? Be encouraged that Jesus has not forgotten or abandoned you! Remember to “…not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9 NIV). Most of all, realize that Jesus’ words to Peter apply to us as well–if He wants someone else’s life to take a different path, what is it to me? I must follow Him!
Dear Lord Jesus,
Help me not give up, because You promise that at the right time I will reap a harvest! Help me plant good seeds faithfully, that my harvest might be good! Amen.