He made all the right decisions. He dated slowly, chose wisely, did everything I asked of him in pre-marital counseling, and despite all his wise choices, his wife left him just months into the marriage.
She made all the right decisions. Three job offers were on the table. Her knowledge and ability was recognized by everyone. She prayed, sought wise counsel, and made the best decision she knew to make. Within the year the company failed and she was without a job.
There is a common assumption regarding God’s will. It’s the belief that success is the ultimate sign of choosing correctly. It’s the belief that if you make a decision which honors God, God will honor you with success. It’s a dangerous assumption.
I hear it as people are:
debating which job to take. The assumption is that if they chose the right one they will be happy, make money, and experience tremendous success. (See: How Tyler Wilson Made a Good Decision that Cost Him Millions)
choosing a spouse. Choose the right one and the marriage is guaranteed to make it. (See: The Number One Cause of Divorce)
making faith decisions. If they obey God, they assume everything will turn out for the best.
In part, this is true. In the end, God will use everything for our good. Yet the end is a long way off, and between now and then we are not guaranteed health, wealth, and success.
As a matter of fact, it is very possible to make a wise choice and have a bad outcome.
As much as we want to control our lives and guarantee outcomes, they are rarely controllable and never guaranteed.
Of course there is a general principle that good choices lead to good consequences and bad choices lead to bad consequences. Some of life is controllable and some outcomes are guaranteed. Addictions will not end well. Disobeying God rarely benefits in the short-term and will never benefit us in the long-term.
Yet making good choices does not guarantee an outcome we will love. Praying, listening to wise counsel, reading the Bible, and doing everything in our power to make a wise choice does not mean a new job will be easy, that a marriage will be perfect, or that doing what the Bible says will lead to a reconciled friendship or popularity. (See: Karma or Grace)
The best example of this might be a popular verse. For many people, Jeremiah 29.11 is a life verse. The promise of God is that He has a plan for us—a plan to prosper us and not to harm us, a plan to give us a hope and future. It is a tremendous verse.
But do you know the context of Jeremiah 29? It’s in relation to God’s people being in exile. God is reminding His people that even as they suffer, He has not forgotten them. It’s a verse of great hope, but it’s a verse which shows that hope will not come immediately. They would spend 70 years in exile. Entire generations would pass before this verse would be fulfilled. The verse is often the exact opposite of what many people assume about God’s will. (See: How We Respond to Suffering)
Remember, God’s will was for John to be exiled, Paul to be jailed, Jesus to be executed. Why do we assume God’s will for us is to have a great job, a happy wife, and a large bank account?
We have a responsibility to do everything we can to make wise choices and obey God’s commands. However, our obedience will not guarantee immediate success. We are guaranteed that when we obey, a day will come in which we will never regret it.
Obey. And if suffering or failure follows your obedience, don’t be too quick to assume you have chosen wrongly. You obey and leave the outcomes to God.