“Oh, if only (fill in the blank) hadn’t influenced me, just think where I would be by now!” How many times are we tempted to make such a complaint?
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
If we are following Christ and do what he has told us in the Bible, and whatever He leads us to do (the definition of truly loving Him – see John 14:21), we can be sure that whatever happens – good or bad – is for our benefit.
It is easy to feel that if only we hadn’t had certain bad influences or a lack of certain good influences in our every-day lives as well as our spiritual lives, we would be much better off. “If only my brother wouldn’t have been so nasty when I was young and made me mad so many times, I wouldn’t have an anger problem.”
Or (this is something I’ve felt) “if someone had just told me how to feed my sheep better years ago, I wouldn’t have to still be learning that, and could be a much better shepherd by now.”
We may feel that we are victims of our own selves. I know from experience how painful it is when we make bad choices and have to pay the consequences that naturally come along. However, God can teach us though these times if we are willing to listen. We need to learn from them, put them behind us and go on.
We may also be tempted to feel as though we are victims of things totally out of our control. Victims of bad teachings, wrong thought patterns, or bad choices made by our parents, grandparents, church leadership, the government, leaders such as Bill Gothard, or whoever. However, God does not want us to act as though we are “victims” of our circumstances. He knows all these things. He knows how they have affected us, and He knew before they happened that they would affect us. They were part of his plan for our lives!
I do want to note here that just because God can use the adverse things that make their way into our lives to teach us does not mean that it is okay to act carelessly and make foolish choices just so we or others around us can “learn from them”. God wants us to use His wisdom in making decisions in all of life, and to seek His direction.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Whether our problems are in our spiritual lives, in relationships with others, in our every-day work, or anything else, it doesn’t matter! Jesus cares about every area of our lives, and it is through these times that He shows Himself strong to us and brings us through.
You know what that means? We can thank God for our problems!
1 Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
What? Be happy and thankful for our problems?! We as a human race tend to be near-sighted and focus on the here-and-now. However, if we can get past the present and look to the future, we can see that God has a purpose for what we are going through and we can thank him for that. When we can’t see a purpose at all, we must have faith that God knows what it is all for and be patient. We may never see the good in this life.
Romans 8:37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
We have a choice: we can ether wallow in our trials and become victims of our circumstances, or we can learn what we can from them and go on.
Philippians 3:13-14 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
If we allow God to teach us through the trials, through the errors, through the things that we wish were different, and then rise above them and go on, we don’t just endure them. We don’t just conqueror them. The rest of our life is better because of them! If we are following Christ and doing His will, whatever happens is for our long-term good. We are not victims!