“Everything happens for a reason” is a phrase I’ve heard more times than I care to remember. It is often stated during times of difficulty from well meaning people who have found themselves as the main character of a bad story. The statement suggests that because God is in control of everything the path that He has chosen for us has led us into a situation that we don’t understand, and really don’t enjoy. That what has happened to us must be the result of God’s sovereign will and therefore if it is His will then there must be some purpose behind it. The statement comes close to painting us as mere creatures of happenstance subject to the winds and waves of life while completely removing ourselves from the consequences of bad decision making.
Certainly there are things we encounter in life that are out of our control. Wether or not it was God’s will is perhaps an article for another time. Outside of those situations there is a present reality that we seem to ignore, or at the very least would like too. That is, that you and I are very capable of making a bad decision, and those bad decisions have consequences. More often than not it is those decisions that lead us into seasons of our lives where we like others before us find ourselves attempting to find some level of comfort by quoting the phrase “everything happens for a reason”. The danger is missing the fact that the real reason for this thing happening is the direct result of a poor choice and in reality has very little to do with God’s will.
I want to be honest with you, I have recently made some bad decisions. Within a six month period I resigned a well paying position, bought a house that needed completely renovated, moved into that house, started a new job, planted a church, and restructured other areas of my life. The result, nearly fatal. I find myself looking back on the situation asking myself: “what was I thinking?” It’s not that any of those decisions were necessarily bad in themselves but the timing of lumping them all together in such a short period was foolish on my part. It has cost me more than I was willing to pay. I will be the first to admit that the reason behind this was not the will of God, but rather my will, and very poor decision making.
The good news is even when we make a bad decision God is still redemptive. Perhaps the reason many believers have quoted the phrase above, and have subscribed to the poor theology behind it is because they have experienced the redemptive work of a gracious God in the midst of a situation that was caused by their own choices. What they actually experienced was God working His goodness into a situation and bringing transformation to it so that they wouldn’t have to reap what they sowed. That even though God didn’t cause it to happen He did and does have the ability to change the end result. It might be better for us to understand that God has the ability to bring reason to everything that happens.
King David made a horrible decision when he chose to commit adultery with Bathsheba and murder her husband. Because of that decision the child who was conceived was lost, and David was rebuked by Nathan the prophet. There was great consequences to the decision David made. David humbly admitted his guilt, repented and was restored. It was after this event that God declared David to be “a man after His own heart.” God brought redemption to a destructive decision. It was Solomon the son who was later born to David and Bathsheba that succeeded David as King and became the greatest, and arguably the most famous of all the kings of Israel. Even though David paid a great price for his poor decision the redemptive work of God was evident and ultimately brought about a gracious result that David’s actions did not warrant.
As one who has made bad decisions, and will possibly make some more in the future I am in need of the redemptive work of God and quite possibly you are as well. I believe that there is some responsibility on our part that is required for the process of redemption to begin.
- First, we admit that we made a mistake. When we admit our failures we posture ourselves into a place of humility. James 4:6 says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Some define God’s grace as “God giving us what we don’t deserve”. Ultimately we do deserve the swift consequence of our bad decision, but thankfully God’s grace will bring about a different result.
- Secondly, we ask God for help. We got ourselves into this mess but He is the one who can get us out. Psalms 46:1 says: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” We have to trust that when we ask for help He begins the process of impregnating the situation with His goodness so that not only are we free from the effects of the poor decision but actually become recipients of God’s good work in it.
- Thirdly, we learn. Solomon stated in Proverbs 1: 5 “let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” Sometime failure can be the best teacher. It is wisdom to learn from our mistakes and allow the lesson of missing the mark to be a guide for us in the future. Not only do these lessons benefit us in future decision making, but they can become a source of wisdom that we can share with others.
Although we have discovered the path to God’s redemptive work in our lives I do believe that there is also a pathway to making sound decisions whereby we can avoid the potential fallout of poor decision making.
- We pray. I know it seems so simple but if we were honest we don’t always pray about every decision. In the book of Acts on more than one occasion the disciples would fast and pray before they chose individuals for ministry positions. Also Paul indicates that in 2 Corinthians 6 & 11 that he fasted often. To the early church fasting and prayer was apart of their lifestyle. When we fast and pray we are positioning ourselves at a greater vantage point to hear what God is saying, and to see from His perspective. The result is a clearer perspective from which we can make a better decision.
- In our prayer we specifically ask for wisdom. James 1:5 says: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” At the same time just prior to this verse James states “…you do not have because you do not ask.” James 4:9. Therefore while wisdom is readily available in abundance it is required that we specifically ask for it.
- We find counsel from others. Many people have already made similar decisions, or at least have some experience in areas that we may be attempting to delve into. It is important to seek them out and gain wisdom from their experiences. Even those who have failed can offer insight and direction into the decisions we are contemplating. It is wise and beneficial to talk to as many as possible and acquire every possible perspective that we can before we make a binding decision. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22 NIV.
- We count the cost. Luke 14:22 Jesus says: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it.” Subjectively we weigh out the results of the decision and the impact it will have on our lives. Every decision comes with a cost the end result may include the desired outcome but there will be a price to pay. we should conclude before hand that we have the necessary inventory emotionally, physically, monetarily , ECT… to carry us through to the place of fruition.
God is good all the time. We shouldn’t credit the product of a bad decision to a God who only intends for us to experience His goodness. It would be more beneficial for us to understand that we are a key player in the outcome of life’s decisions both good and bad and recognize that when we do make a bad decision that costs us more than we can afford to pay we can place our trust in a gracious God. Who at His core is a good Father that will redeem the situation and change the outcome for our benefit.