Take Responsibility – When Life Doesn’t Go as You Expect #5

After I shared my story of learning to trust God through not getting into my university course, my dad pointed out that I wasn’t without blame. And he was right. I was so keen to be like the girls in the newspapers that got four or more A’s at A level. But if I had listened to my head of sixth form I wouldn’t have sat so many and may well have got the grades I needed.

There are many difficult things that come into our lives through no fault of our own, and we have to be careful that we don’t assume that someone has done something wrong when they go through a trial. Job’s comforters were wrong in accusing him of having done something to deserve what happened to him when he lost his family, possessions and health.

However I think we too often take the view that the bad things that happen to us just ‘happen’ when often we do need to take at least some responsibility.

When trials come, along with trusting that God has a plan, and holding on to what we know about God’s love and care for us, and praying, I think we also need to examine ourselves.

Have we acted unwisely and brought the consequences upon ourselves? Or are we sinning, and this is a form of God’s discipline?

Natural consequences

If you want to know more about this, just read Proverbs – it is full of warnings about the consequences of sin and foolishness. It is also full of practical advice on how to live wisely!

Sin often brings about its own consequences, like stealing might give you guilt and trouble from the police, and sexual immorality might give you emotional stress and problems in relationships. ‘His own iniquities entrap the wicked man, and he is caught in the cords of his sin’ Proverbs 5:22

Acting unwisely also brings problems. For instance, if you are lazy then you may well have financial issues. If you hang out with the wrong kind of people then you can be influenced to do the wrong kind of things. ‘He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.’ Proverbs 13:20

I think it is good to analyse what has led up to these things happening, though not so that you feel condemned and depressed. Rather that if it is sin, you can acknowledge it to God, repent and change your ways, and if you were unwise then you can learn from it and act more wisely next time.

In my case I needed to learn not to focus on being the best, but rather focus on what God was calling me to do. I also needed to realise that I couldn’t necessarily do everything I set my heart on and learn some humility, and listen to counsel!

God’s discipline

It seems to me that we often shy away from talking about God disciplining us. But if you read through the Bible it is definitely there!  And if you think about it, a loving father who wants his children to grow up well, will discipline them.

‘Do not despise the Lord’s discipline, nor be weary of His reproof. For the Lord reproves him whom He loves, as a Father the son in whom he delights.’ Proverbs 3:11,12

Jerry Bridges says this: ‘Can we tell if a particular adversity is related to some specific sin in our lives? Not with certainty, but it is my own belief that the Holy Spirit will bring such a connection to our attention if we need to know in order to deal with a particular sin. If nothing comes to mind, we can pray asking God if there is something he wants us to consciously learn.’

I think if we are aware that God sometimes uses adversity to discipline us then sin may come to mind as a possible connection, and when it does then we need to repent and forsake our sin.

Having said that, I want to repeat again that just because these things can be related to some fault of our own, doesn’t mean that they are. If you think that, just read the story of Job!

But it is also good to be aware that they may be, and to grow from what we learn as a result, and use it to warn and help others not to make the same mistakes.

You can find the rest of the series on when life doesn’t go as you expect here:

1. Being Prepared For Trials
2. Trust that God has a Plan
3. Hold On to What You Know
4. Prayer Changes Things
6. Keep Pressing Toward the Goal
7. 10 Ways to Support Christians in Trouble

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