My children are all in the stages of discovering that their actions have consequences. The twins are learning that if they throw their food off of their trays, they might have to go hungry for the rest of the meal; that if they climb and jump on the couch, they can fall off and get hurt; that if they are being particularly sweet I *just might* let them play a little longer before putting them down for a nap. Charleston is learning that taking too long to finish his schoolwork or meals will cut into his playtime; that leaving a jacket at home could make for a chilly walk to the park; and that Mom does not respond well to bad attitudes or complaints.
I say “my children” are learning about natural consequences, but truth be told, it’s something I’m having to learn as well. I’m susceptible to magical thinking, and too often I buy into my own falsehood that I am immune from the effects of my behavior: I ignore the fact that I’m too old to be pulling late nights, then pay the price with a tired headache the next morning; I neglect to update my computer and wind up with unretrievable files and glitches that are beyond repair; I fail to heed the dentist’s recommendation that I wear a nighttime mouthguard and wake up with a chipped molar from grinding my teeth.
I remain in denial of my own adulthood until I am forced to come to terms with the consequences brought on by my lack of adulting.
What happens, though, when our actions don’t have the intended outcomes? Sometimes this works in our favor, but often it doesn’t. Take, for instance, the health nut who exercises daily and follows a strict diet, yet succumbs to cancer. . . . Or the parent who models a faithful walk with the Lord but whose child chooses to walk away from the faith. . . The family who has always been fiscally responsible but is left destitute when an unforeseen tragedy wipes out their savings. . . . Or the couple who has exercised every possible option to get pregnant and is still left childless. . . . The job candidate who is entirely qualified but still gets turned down for the position . . . . Or the business owner whose company is thriving but is forced to close shop due to a global pandemic. . . . What do we do in these instances when things simply don’t go as they should?
If the past year(+) has taught us anything as a society, it is how very little control we have over our circumstances. We can make all of the right decisions, act responsibly and proactively in every way possible, and still our lives and our plans can be totally derailed. When this happens, and we are forced to come to terms with the futility of our own actions, it can seem easier to throw in the towel, living just for today and leaving the future up to fate—for better or for worse.
As followers of Jesus, though, we have a better option. Oswald Chambers writes, “certainty is the mark of the common-sense life; gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. . . We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. Immediately we abandon to God, and do the duty that lies nearest, He packs our life with surprises all the time.”
The Lord is our certainty, even when all else remains unsure. We cannot control our outcomes, but we CAN remain faithful to Him.
The future may not be as predictable or as easily manipulated as we would like it to be. Our fates are not always within our control. But there is blessing to be had in remaining faithful to righteous living and truth. Acting responsibly—in our parenting, in caring for our finances and health, in our treatment of strangers and our political choices—may not yield the outcomes we hope for, but we can have peace of mind knowing that we did the best that we could, acting faithfully with what we have been given.
We can choose to live out our lives in the best way we know how, holding outcomes loosely while clinging fast to the One True God who always is and always was and always will be faithful.