“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” Psalm 119:71
I am somewhat hard-headed and tend to believe that my way is the best way. I don’t always think things all the way through and then I wind up scratching my head, wondering what went wrong. I tend to learn life lessons the hard way. Know anybody else like that? Could it be that you and I are classmates in the “School of Hard Knocks?” As I read the Bible, I see that we are in a pretty large class, because God has had to deal with a lot of hard-headed people, from Adam and Eve to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the entire nation of Israel, King David, Jesus’ disciple Peter, Saul…and the list goes on and on.
Often, the most effective teacher in life is consequence. When he was little, I told my son many times, “don’t touch the stove, it’s hot, it will burn you,” but it wasn’t my words that convinced him – it was his own little red and painful hand that made him understand. Needless to say, he didn’t go near that stove again. Of course we then moved on to other hard lessons like not playing in an ant hill, not leaving your bike in the driveway, not driving over the speed limit – I think you get the idea. He is still learning difficult lessons, and truthfully, so am I.
My Mom used to say “Bought lessons stay with you longer than taught lessons,” and I have paid dearly for some lessons. I learned to choose my friends more carefully by sitting in a police station on prom night. I learned the value of money when I found myself deep in debt. I learned to pay attention to my driving when I ran a red light and t-boned a car. But the most important lessons I have learned came from the Word of God as we read in our key verse, and in verse 67: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your Word.”
Lesson #1: When I disregard the Word of God I will wind up in trouble. God’s Word is chock-full of wisdom for life. It is written by our Creator, who knows best how life should work, and we are wise to read and study it and put its principles and teachings into action. Jesus told the parable of the wise and foolish builders in Matthew 7:24-27. He said the wise man built his house on the rock and the foolish man built on the sand. The wise builder illustrated a person who built his life on obedience to Jesus’ words. No storm could destroy the house built on the rock, and no storm can destroy the person who builds their life on – not just reading the Bible – but putting its teachings and principles into practice. The Psalmist said, “Oh that my way were steadfast in obeying your decrees! Then I would not be put to shame” (Psalm119:5-6a). Knowing and obeying the Bible can save us so much trouble and heartache in life.
Lesson #2: It’s not over just because I messed up.
I didn’t banish my son from the kitchen, the police didn’t lock me up for good (however, now that I think about it, my Dad did say I was grounded for the rest of my life), I paid off my bills and got my finances under control, and the DMV allowed me to drive again. How much greater is our merciful and gracious God to give us second and third and tenth changes? Look back at verse 67 and see my favorite words: “but now.” But now – after I have suffered the consequences of my actions and am a little wiser for it, God forgives me and says, “Try again child, I know you can get it right.” The mistakes we make, our failures and missteps are not the end. God doesn’t write us off, wash His hands of us or give up on us because we are hard-headed. If that were so, mankind would have never made it past Adam and Eve, much less to you and me. All through the Bible God tells us that He is patient, forgiving, compassionate, merciful and full of grace. He loves you, even when your knees are bloody because you fell. He loves me, even when I am covered in the mud of my own choosing. Jesus died so you can be forgiven; He died so I could have a second chance at life. Do you really believe that He would give up on you so quickly?
Have you made a mistake somewhere along the way? Have you run in the wrong direction, played with the wrong people, touched something that left you in pain? Take heart friend, God has not given up on you. Take this affliction, this difficulty and place it before your loving Heavenly Father. Put your blistered hand in the nail-scarred hands of Jesus and start walking, a little wiser, in the right direction.
Holy Father, God of second chances, I have made some mistakes and the consequences are painful. Please take this mess I have made and teach me to walk in the wisdom of Your ways. Amen.