You always have to deal with the consequences of your actions, even if you are sorry. This does not mean that God does not love you. This does not mean that Jesus is not going to walk beside you through it all. Having consequences does not mean that you will not get to spend eternity with God, for we are told that, “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Consequences here in this world are proof though that often, feeling sorry just isn’t good enough. If we really are saddened by our actions, or saddened by the situation we find ourselves in, then we change our actions or work to change our situation. If we do not change, then we are not really sorry.
As painful as it is to admit, all of us have made some bad decisions throughout our life. This author can attest to quite a few, some far worse than others. Some decisions are short lived and leave us mostly just with a sense of regret and hopefully a lesson learned. Some, though, last for the rest of our lives and are a constant reminder of the young person in proverbs who bemoans how much he scorned instruction and ignored his teachers as a youth and “was soon in serious trouble.” Perhaps you feel this in your life. Perhaps you realize what a mess you have made and how mired you are in the consequences of your actions. Or perhaps you want to blame others and maybe you can to a small extent. In the end however, responsibility for our own actions must rest with ourselves. For the young mother who is not married, for the man who finds himself alone after ignoring the wife of his youth for decades, for the children who find themselves estranged from the family because of poor decisions, we must look to ourselves for the person most to shoulder the consequences of our decisions. Thankfully, we must not shoulder those consequences alone. There is a Man who will help you carry that burden and lighten your load.
This is not a discussion of salvation and eternal life, folks. For that gift we can do nothing to earn and must count wholly on Jesus Christ. But in our life, in the day to day and year to year decisions that we make, we can indeed lean on Him to help us deal with our actions. Again, this will not take away the problems that we have created for ourselves. Jesus will not pull you out of jail for murder. He will not erase the baby growing inside of you (or a girlfriend) after a late night. He will not give you a new spouse years later because you married after a week. He will not refill your bank account with money that you frittered away. And Jesus will not replace holidays and weekends that you spent at the office instead of with your family. What He will do however is give you mercy, and perhaps even more important than that in this situation, grace. He will give you the grace to acknowledge your mistakes, and to “suck it up” so to speak. Jesus will give us the grace to serve our time, to raise a baby, to pay off debts and to earn more money, and to heal, if both sides are willing, hurt relationships. This doesn’t mean life will turn out perfectly rosy, but it does mean it will turn out better with Him than without. But in order for that to happen we have to do a couple things.
First, we have to repent. This seems to be a nasty word in our culture today where we do not like to ever admit we are wrong or failed. If we do not repent, if we are not sorry for our actions, there can be no help from God or Jesus. If we say we are sorry but continue doing the very things we are sorry for, then (a) we are not that sorry, and (b) we cannot hope for things to get better. We must truly be sorry for the wrong we have done in such a way as to wish we had not done the thing, not simply to get us out of our current trouble, but more to the point because we are sorry that we did something wrong. Without acknowledgement of wrong done, we cannot hope for our situation to get better.
Second, we have to trust God. We have to trust that when He says he has, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” that He actually means just that. We must trust that God wants what is best for us and that as long as we are following Him, that is what will happen. Now, I know here the line about “bad things happening to good people” will come up. But we have to have a little bigger picture than this. What was “intended to harm me … God intended it for good.” If whatever bad comes our way brings us closer to God and eternal life through his Son, that cannot possibly be bad in the end. I know, I know, easier said than lived.
Lastly, here, folks, this line of thinking also applies to our country. We would be foolish in the extreme to think that America can simply ignore all the bad she has done and move on with God’s blessing. But we should also realize that God will remain by us and walk with us as we traverse the consequences of our actions. If we truly repent as a nation of our support of sexual deviancy, the murder of babies, of stealing from our neighbors, and of leaving the poorest and neediest out in the cold, God will be with us. We must change our actions, however, and the place we must almost assuredly start is by changing our personal priorities and our national voting habits. We’ll spend a little time talking about these two in the next articles. For now, just remember, if you truly are sorry for something, you have to change your actions to have any hope of anyone believing you.
-JT Cope IV