Have you ever felt like life has conspired to do you in? Like when you’ve had just about enough of nothing going your way?
I recently had a bad run of luck that lasted for several weeks. It was like I kept drawing the short straw over and over again. It isn’t as though I expect everything to go my way. Not at all! But when every little thing turns out precisely the opposite of what you were hoping for it starts to get to you.
I was getting more and more aggravated by the day. After about three weeks I could physically feel the bitterness starting to bloom in the pit of my stomach. That’s not good at all.
I was silently mulling over how angry I was when, in my mind’s eye, I saw a red flag and heard someone call, “Time Out!”. I don’t know if it was me or Holy Spirit, but I heard it..and I heeded it. I stopped what I was doing and found a place to get down on my knees to pray. I repented for my entitled and prideful attitude and asked God to wash me clean of it (not for the first time!). I asked Him to change my heart and fill me with His Love and Peace.
God never said, “Don’t get angry.” He said, “in your anger do not sin.”
Getting upset over a string of disappointments wasn’t the problem. My attitude about it was. Arrogance, self-pity, bitterness…are all conditions of the heart and mind that can lead us away from God. This I know from experience.
Thankfully the Way back is always there when we are ready to choose it. Prayer, humility, and repentance.
I’ve learned to heed those warnings before things get too far out of hand (usually!). But believe me when I say I don’t deserve any pats on the back for that. I’ve blown past MANY a warning in my life. And paid the price for it. Sometimes a big one.
I suppose that’s what it is to be human though. We try hard to be like Christ every day, don’t we? But try as we might, we fail now and again. And again. And again.
When it’s petty, random stuff of little consequence we bounce back fairly easily. But what happens when it’s a series of events and mistakes that literally put an end to life as we knew it?
I don’t believe disaster and misfortune are capriciously brought upon us by Almighty God. Lots of things go wrong in this fallen world. People lose their jobs. Some get sick. Some die too soon. Many of the awful things we endure are the result of someone else’s sinfulness. We should not jump to the conclusion that every single thing that happens is a result of our sin or God’s will.
But sometimes it is.
The Bible says in Isaiah 30:21, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it”.
Holy Spirit works actively in our lives to keep us moving in the direction we are meant to go. If we are listening carefully, we will know which way He wants us to go. If we are listening carefully.
But we don’t always listen, do we?
Think about a time when something went horribly wrong because of a decision you made. Now, close your eyes and ask God to remind you of just one of the warnings that you ignored.
Show me a person who sits amid the ashes of an avoidable disaster and I’ll show you a person who blew past a few red flags and warnings from God along the way.
God doesn’t want us to come to ruin. But He’ll allow it …if there is no other way to reach us.
It happened to a friend of mine. If I told you her story you’d probably feel sorry for her. You might even defend her. True enough, most of it wasn’t her fault.
She tried everything she could think of to make things turn out well. In fact, she had nothing but good intentions.
Remember what the road to Hell is paved with?
As well intended as she was, she really wrong.
She was being sexually harassed by her boss -who also happened to be the senior pastor of her church. She avoided him as much as she could but she couldn’t bring herself to tell anyone about his behavior.
When she thought of all the people who would be hurt if he were found out, she convinced herself it was better if she just handled the matter in secret.
There was a lot at stake. She could be blamed. She could lose her job. The church could fracture over the scandal…
She genuinely believed that if she could just keep him at bay long enough he would come to his senses and leave her alone. Then no one would be hurt. Except her.
Only in retrospect could she see how God tried to spare her of the pain she endured. There were warnings and red flags everywhere. No doubt each one was God’s way of saying, “This is the way. Walk in it.”.
For nearly two years she endured a very ugly game of cat and mouse. Her boss would alternate between making passes at her and begging her to forgive him for wronging her. Over and over he would promise to leave her alone. Over and over she believed him. But things just continued to escalate.
She became anxious and depressed. She couldn’t eat or sleep and lost more than 30 pounds.
She withdrew from family and friends just to avoid their questions. She couldn’t risk the truth spilling out.
Finally, he gave up and left her alone.
Over the next year or so things slowly went back to normal. “I really thought I’d done the right thing in keeping it hidden. As awful as the ordeal was, I had protected my church by protecting his reputation.
Well, that’s what I told myself anyway.
But then one day my whole world came crashing down around me.”
Her boss had been caught having an affair with a woman in the church.
By the time all was said and done it was discovered he’d had “inappropriate relationships” with six women, including her. Because she’d kept silent she was thought to be complicit. It cost her her job, her reputation, her friends and the life she loved.
After all she’d endured protecting everyone from finding out about him, it came out anyway – because that was God’s will.
“What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.”Job 3:25
I have never known anyone more broken than she was in the aftermath of that scandal. She was humiliated. Bereft. Suicidal.
“I’d reached the end of my ability to cope with the situation. I was literally contemplating suicide. I don’t like admitting that, but it’s true. I just didn’t think I could go on in the face of so much pain and humiliation. People were talking about me and questioning what kind of woman I was. My husband was so hurt. My children were hurt. It was killing me!
For weeks I wept all day and night.
He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings, you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.Psalm 91:4
Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or terrified of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”Deuteronomy 31:6
“I didn’t think I could take even one more day of the pain and anguish. I was curled up in a ball absolutely overflowing with self-pity. Between sobs I choked out the words, ‘I’ve lost everything, Father! I have nothing left.’.
And that’s when I heard this:
“Now that I’m all you have left… you’ll have to decide if I am enough.”
I have never had such an awesome, TRULY awesome, moment. Not before or since. I was in the presence of God in a way I’d never experienced before. There was no burning bush but He was there and He had spoken to me.
I whispered, “Yes, Father. You are.”
My tears just…stopped. I felt calm. The pain was still there but thoughts of ending my life had disappeared so completely it was as though they’d never been. I felt life and purpose flowing through me. It was faint, but it was enough. I had no idea what my future would look like but I knew my faith would – really would – sustain me. No matter what.
I understood where I’d gone wrong. I had tried to subvert God’s will by attempting to control the outcome of a situation that was never mine to control. I thought everything would turn out alright because my heart was in the right place. I didn’t want to see it, but it really was self-serving.
Good intentions don’t provide reliable direction. Truth is what sets us free.”
It is not God’s will for us to come to ruin. Unless coming to ruin is the only thing that will bring us back into God’s will.
Romans 8:28 teaches us that God will work all things together for the good of those who love him. Even the bad things.
What happened to her wasn’t fair. But that wasn’t the point. The point is things might have turned out a lot better for her had she trusted God with the outcome. There is a lot we don’t know – but we do know this: God’s way is always the better path to choose.
In His love and service,