Even as babies, we quickly learn there are consequences to the things we do. Scratching your face or poking your eye sends signals to your brain that results in feeling pain. The pain is meant to teach us that we shouldn't do those things. Parents use similar techniques to continue to teach; a firm "no" or grabbing of a little hand quickly communicates danger. But what happens when we grow up and life gets more complicated?
When adult decisions and consequences become more complex, it is easy to lose sight of the truth: pain is unavoidable no matter how "good" we are at making wise choices. We understand this to some level as we make lists of "pros and cons" to our choices. We do our best to weigh the positives and negatives so we can choose the path with the least discomfort. Yet, we still often seem to be caught off guard when A + B does not equal C as we intended.
There are Consequences
We grow up thinking mostly about negative consequences. If you don't clean your room, you can't go to your friend's house. If you don't study for your exam, you'll fail your class. Essentially, consequences are the result of any given decision. This means that there are always good, or positive, consequences in addition to potential negative consequences.
If you brush and floss your teeth every day, you'll likely avoid cavities. If you do your math homework, you'll likely get a good grade. Every decision we make yields a positive or negative consequence. As we grow up, we (hopefully) learn to avoid the obvious negative consequences. However, I think the older we get, the more we realize that there are trade offs to every choice.
Going on the business trip may mean getting the promotion and missing the basketball game.
Taking our spouse on the vacation may put the budget in a deficit but build the relationship.
Reading the bible and exercising in the morning may mean losing an hour of sleep but having a better day.
Breaking off a relationship may mean more future joy but more immediate pain.
For every decision we make, there is a sacrifice involved. It may be a sacrifice of money, time, comfort, personal desires, relationships, etc., but God calls us to sacrifice our own wants and needs in order to glorify Him and benefit His Kingdom. We can choose to experience consequences of our own selfish desires, or we can choose to surrender to the will of God and experience holy consequences.
Choosing Holy Consequences
If we do all the right things and make all the right decisions, we should never experience negative consequences, right? That seems to be the conclusion we make, but if that were always true, we would never experience pain, discomfort, suffering, or sacrifice. But as Psalm 34:19 says: Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
Even the righteous will experience affliction. The difference between the righteous and the unrighteous is not the presence of trouble, but whether or not she is surrendered to God.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.
- Psalm 34:4-7 (NIV)
When we seek God in our decision making, we experience holy consequences with God at our side. When we choose to do things our own way, we experience worldly consequences alone; we suffer unnecessarily.
Holy consequences are the temporary challenges we face by choosing to live in God's will, not our own.
Instead of seeing every challenge or discomfort as something to avoid at all costs, we must learn to discern the will of God. We can learn to consider our choices not by the level of unpleasantness, but by the faithfulness of God. When we trust in His faithfulness, we can choose to face the challenges He asks of us.
“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Luke 22:42 NLT)
Let's choose God's will.