Do you ever look back at your life and ponder over the incredible series of events that led you to where you are right now? For Christians this mental exercise can sometimes be exasperating. This is because we forget who is in charge and have a limited scope on the extent of His power. Sometimes I think back to what a knucklehead I was when I was young and I say to myself, If I could do it over again I would do it much differently! But then I stop and think, Oh wait – that different sequence of events would not have led me to meeting my spouse and having all the blessings that I currently enjoy – who knows what my life’s situation would be. But the truth is, it’s a dilemma we needn’t burden ourselves with. This line of thinking is flawed for two reasons.
The first reason is: We don’t get to go back and do that – it is simply not possible and therefore is an exercise in futility (except, perhaps, for the fact that it displays the important Christian characteristic of repentance). It is true that we all have free will and that changing one little insignificant decision at any point in our life would probably alter the course of it significantly. However it is also true that God knows exactly what all of our decisions will be, both large and small, and sees the course of time played out in its entirety before Him. That is what He has to work with and so He knows exactly what to tweak here and there to work His will in our lives.
The second reason that it is futile to feel conflicted over your past decisions is: God is the supreme architect. He can actually make good things out of bad parts, unlike human engineers. The computer-age adage of garbage in garbage out does not apply to God. After all, He made us out of dust. In fact in many places in scripture it almost seems as if God prefers to work with bad parts.
Most of the significant Bible characters were less-than-perfect people who stumbled and made bad decisions in their lives. The scriptures are very pointed to make us aware of that. Even major figures like Abraham, Moses, David, and Elijah screwed-up royally at times and experienced failings of faith. The apostles themselves often resembled Larry, Curly, and Moe before the Holy Spirit came and empowered them. I think this is intentional. God is showing us that we can be useful and valuable in His kingdom regardless of our background, embarrassing history, and recent failures. He doesn’t need you to be capable – He just needs a willingness of heart.
When bad times occur for Christians, we reach for Romans 8:28. We all know that verse by heart, and keep it handy like a can of carpet spot-remover. As we mature in our Christian walk we really start to believe in it. Time after time after time, we see God rescue us and then turn what seemed like personal catastrophe into the best thing that could have happened to us. It is simply amazing how He does this, over and over and over again.
Another handy verse is Jeremiah 29:11. I will quote the NIV for us here:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Is that comforting or what? And because we have seen God come through for us time and again on Romans 8:28, we can also rest comfortably in that Jeremiah passage. It was, after all, a statement made to His people. You and I are among His people now, if we have received Christ. God has good plans for us. The best plans possible in fact. A sparrow does not fall without His knowledge. If His eyes are on the sparrow, He will watch over you and me.
What about non-believers? I shudder to think of it. While God’s eyes are certainly upon them, and He absolutely cares for them, they have no promises – other than to eventually come under God’s judgment if they do not repent. But God does know who will eventually repent and turn to Jesus for salvation. He can see the end as well as the beginning, and all parts in between, equally clear.
This is why the debate between Calvinistic and Armenian viewpoints is unproductive and leads nowhere. God chooses those who choose Him. He knows who will choose Him. Yes everybody is given the chance to repent and become a child of God through Christ. Most will not, although God wishes everybody would and all have been invited. God knows who will choose to become His children. He chooses those people. As soon as you choose God you will find out that you did not choose Him; He chose you. And you will be amazed at what He can make out those bad parts, if you just give Him the chance.