God tries to steer us away from ‘bad life choices‘.
Choices that can cause damage to ourselves and possibly others.
Maybe damage our relationship with God.
Look out for his ‘tough love’.
Importantly, please read the introductory article, “God’s guiding hand” to this subsection of the website (with the same title) before going on. That is if you have not done so already. It briefly describes the various methods of God’s guidance, available to us. And it discusses how they can assist us during life, especially if we deliberately harness them.
(To read about the ‘who’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of this website please click here.)
Now this article may be a ‘little harder to swallow’ than earlier ones in this subsection of the website. I will say that I had already accepted Christian faith, and come to firmly believe in God, before finding that this guidance about bad life choices was ‘for real’. And, God began to encourage me to clean up my life … which I now admit was needed to allow our relationship to fully grow. And trust me, that guidance became very real to me.
2. BAD LIFE CHOICES
I suppose in some cases, people can need this kind of guidance from God even in their early days of faith. Seriously bad life choices can actually prevent the development of faith and belief at that stage. So, I ask all readers to be open to any efforts by God to change their ‘ways of life’. There will be a genuine, and probably obvious, reason for his efforts to bring about that change within us.
From my experiences in life, God’s methods for trying to steer us away from ‘bad life choices’ can actually offer strong evidence of his existence; his presence there in our lives. That is they can be more obvious than say everyday ‘leadings’, explained in the earlier article of that name. For example, God’s hints of disapproval at our seriously bad decision-making and wrongdoing – that can negatively affect ourselves, our relationship with him, or harm others – will become increasingly obvious as he tries to deter us.
With regard to bad life choices, we simply act poorly because of our selfishness or unhealthy desire for self gratification. Mmmm … “If the cap fits then wear it.” Yes, I have been guilty of that.
The article, “Rules, laws and commandments” relates to the best ways of life that God has preset for us. You should not be surprised to see that they are based on the concept of ‘love’ – love of God, love of our fellow human beings. And if we ignore those scriptures, then we are simply living ‘unfaithfully’.
3. GOD’S TOUGH LOVE
Look, God knows us better than we even know ourselves. He will try very hard to keep us on the ‘straight and narrow’. That is to lead us away from destructive ways. In other words, he will apply this discipline to our lives so as to turn us around, to leave those damaging bad life choices behind. This is all about God’s ‘tough love’. It is genuinely based on a balance of love and discipline.
From the Old Testament:
Know then in your heart,
that as a man disciplines his son,
so the Lord your God disciplines you.
3.1 Guidance can become firm
Warnings from God (i.e. potential consequences) about these bad choices of ours, whilst normally starting out at a subtle level may eventually become painfully ‘obvious’. I admit that on occasions, his obvious ‘warning shots’ at me have really ‘rocked my socks’. I mean these were serious warnings of ‘DO NOT go down that path!’
Sometimes too, I must add, these warnings from him in this area of life can even be embarrassing (as he possibly tries to shame us out of them).
3.2 Clear and real lessons
At this point of the article though, is it all starting to look a bit hard for you to believe? I certainly know it would have for me, when I was starting out on my road to faith. But it really can become clear and real in no time at all, once your mind opens to the possibility of God’s reality within your life.
But, I emphasise again that warnings about, or discipline for, these circumstances relating to bad life choices (i.e. heading down the ‘wrong road’ in life) are easier to recognise than in the case of God’s leadings. And all the more so if, and when, we are about to knowingly ignore ‘earlier’ guidance he may have given us about our wrong behaviour.
You know, he has to make them obvious, if they are going to deter us!
3.3 Guilt and forgiveness
Yes, he will make failures clear. And we can feel serious guilt as a result. The whole issue can in fact come to ‘eat away’ at us.
We ‘sinners’, suffering as a result in these circumstances, really only have one real choice left. And it has the best outcome for everyone concerned!
When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” –
and you forgave my sin.
[Psalm 32: 3-5]
In simple words, when you know you’ve failed him and yourself, then ‘fess up’ and he will forgive you. Then you can get ‘back on track’, and feel relaxed about it.
3.4 It is our choice
Bear in mind though, there is a limit to God’s attempts to put us on the ‘straight and narrow’ within our lives. God does not normally force himself upon us. And when the wrong things in life become just too much of an obsession for us, he may well just draw away from our lives.
In other words God respects our right to ignore him, and possibly even destroy our relationship with him, at our own peril of course. And as I have hinted, I have recognised that I was headed in that direction on a couple of occasions during my own faith journey.
Remember even then, after making these bad decisions and suffering from the results, he will take us ‘back into the fold’ if we ask for forgiveness and change our ways.
4. MY OWN EXAMPLES
Well, firstly, I am not brave enough to detail all my bad life choices or wrongdoing for you. However I can give you some idea of the Lord’s actions, towards me, in relation to a couple of incidences of the same type of wrongdoing. And I admit upfront my bad behaviour had the ability to negatively impact both my relationship with God and other people.
I offer my examples with the hope that they may help guide you in similar situations.
4.1 His first ‘obvious’ warning
I had evaluated, or ‘thought through’, the effect of God’s past ‘leadings’ in my life. I knew exactly how they worked to my benefit. And he used that previous experience of mine to make the point very clear about a bad life choice of mine.
In relation to the first case of an obvious warning (I hadn’t heeded his gentler ‘hints’ in the past), his action was fairly harsh. It was indeed a very unlikely event and costly to me; a standout. It had come after my wrongful behaviour, like just minutes later. Of course the combination of odds, relating to seriousness and timing, meant I immediately understood that I should not ‘try it on’ again!
And it stopped me even considering that behaviour again for many, many years.
4.2 His very clear reminder
Yet, in my human weakness, I did eventually come to plan to do it yet again. This time around, a very serious threat suddenly arose to hang over my head. And, based on past experience and the result, I was virtually certain that God was making his disapproval very clear again.
The threat continued for days, as my plan moved towards acting wrongly. And God’s “hand was heavy on me” as the Psalmist wrote. I knew full well that he was disappointed in me. Yes I was looking forward to the brief reward of my wrongdoing. But at the same time I was feeling both guilty and nervous about that threat. Virtually at the last moment, I turned my back on where I had been headed, closing in on that bad choice.
In other words, the threatened consequences, and damaging my relationship with God, were just not worth it to my thinking. My good sense had actually won. And I admitted my weakness to God.
‘Mind-blowing’ really – like a minute or so after my positive decision – I found that I was ‘in the clear’. That severe threat, which had painfully hung over me for many days, had totally disappeared just like that after my change of heart! Yes, I had been forgiven.
You know what … I do not believe that temptation will ever resurface again! And so many years have since past to justify that statement.
God is not to be seen as cruel or harsh in these actions of his. No, he does it because he loves us! He wants us all to have meaningful lives, and doesn’t want us lost in some mire that we cannot dig ourselves out of. Nor does he want us physically, emotionally or even spiritually harming his other ‘children’.
If we do get lost in life, then the possibility of an effective relationship with God is extremely limited. The underlying cause of the problem can even dominate our thinking; our very identity, and override our thoughts for others and God, often making us lost even to ourselves. And that means that the most important things that God wants of us are at serious risk.
In circumstances where we don’t heed his warnings, we can suffer the full consequences of those decisions within our lives. But, while there is life there is hope (as the saying goes). God will always use our mistakes to advantage for us when we re-join our true path of faith. He will also assist us to ‘dig ourselves out‘ of any hole we may have placed ourselves in … if we just ask for his help.
Let us now move on to the next article, “Asking for guidance”. This is where we begin to deliberately engage with God during our decisions making.
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