Throughout my life, I seem to often find myself living in the same house with those who like to bake. (It is possible that this is not entirely coincidental.) As a result, there is often a temptation to snitch a few cookies, whether fresh from the cooling rack (and almost too hot to eat), or from the cookie jar (where multiple cookies stuck together might be considered “just one”).
Despite my preference, though, not all cookies – or other baked goods – that I see around the house are for me. On multiple occasions I have been told that the latest batch is “off limits”, or I have found a “No Snitching” note affixed to the container. Woe is me!
However, even in these situations, there is sometimes a loophole – a few of the snacks invariably don’t turn out just right. As a result, these “oops” cases can be eaten, since they aren’t suitable for sharing with others (although I don’t know why – I’d eat a misshapen cookie as a gift!).
As much as I’m the one enjoying snacks much of the time (probably too often, admittedly), sometimes I’m more like the broken cookies themselves: I make mistakes. I selfishly make wrong choices. I see the opportunity to avoid sin, but don’t take the “exit ramp”. I’m not the good example of a follower of Jesus – living like Him – that I would like to be.
Here’s the good news: Whether we make honest mistakes or overtly sin, none of this come as a surprise to God. He is able to – and does – use these failures for His loving plan.
Consider these examples from the Bible, where someone made a really bad choice, but God used it as part of His process to obtain positive results later on:
- Joseph’s older brothers literally sold him into slavery (Genesis 37:26-28).
- Think about this for a second – regardless of the situation, selling our siblings into slavery is not a good thing.
- In this case, God had planned to use this action as part of a chain of events that eventually saved the entire family (and, in fact, an entire country) from starvation.
- Judas’s betrayed Jesus to the opposing religious leaders of the day (Luke 22:3-6, and verses 47-48).
- Clearly, this was traitorous. There’s just no way around it.
- However, it led to the salvation for any who hear of and accept Jesus’ sacrifice for them.
- The apostle Paul (known as Saul during that time) persecuted the early church (Acts 8:1-3).
- While he probably believed that this was the right thing to do, he realized later that he had been fighting for the the wrong side.
- However, this persecution actually allowed the message of God to be spread out to a wider audience.
- This phase of Paul’s life also provided a reference point for his future ministry serving Jesus (see Philippians 3:1-10), once Paul had received mercy and grace.
- David slept with another man’s wife, then had the man set up to be killed in battle (2 Samuel 11).
- At that time, either of these could have resulted in the death penalty, and although David escaped this, he was punished for his behavior.
- Despite these compounding failures, God saw fit to have David and Bathsheba as ancestors to the family to which Jesus was born (see Matthew 1:6, and the rest of that chapter).
This should encourage all of us. I have heard plenty of sermons on God’s forgiveness, love, and acceptances of us, as well as the importance of moving on from past mistakes (rather than dwelling on them). These are both important. Let’s pause for a full stop here – taking a moment to ponder that.
However, to add to this, it occurred to me that God doesn’t just forgive us for our sins (with payment for them having been made by Jesus), but He actually uses our failures for greater things.
- That bad choice you made when you were younger – God can use that.
- That relationship you lost because you weren’t truthful – God can use that.
- That failed business that cost you everything because you bent the rules – God can use that.
To be clear, we shouldn’t sin. But, if we have, we haven’t somehow broken God’s plan. He knew what we would do – right or wrong – and His plan goes forward with both of those elements as building blocks.
My hope is that we (that’s right, I’m in this boat, too) can start to actively look for how God is taking our failures and actually “inverting” them – creating good things that build over those bad times, and result in something far better. I’m not claiming that this will happen right away, nor that the pain will somehow vanish. But, that hope gives us the ability to set aside the bad things from the past, and watch God do amazing things with whatever we have given Him to work with.
After all, I don’t think that the following verse was not written to perfect people, but rather for people who love God and – with His help – try to live for Him as best as they can…but still fall short sometimes:
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28 NASB