The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way? Proverbs 20:24 NLT
If only. Two little words in the English language that convey so much meaning, so much angst and despair. If only I had listened. If only I hadn’t done that. If only I hadn’t said that or said something else. If only that hadn’t happened to me… If only I could do that over again. Regret, like bitterness, is a prison that we put ourselves in.
But the Christian does not need to live in this prison called “If only,” for this line of thinking comes straight from what we call our flesh. This is the part of all of us that secretly believes we can figure it out, we can think it through and we can handle life pretty well on our own. “The Lorddirects our steps,” Proverbs 20:24 asks us, “so why try to understand everything along the way?” But we do try to understand because it gives us a sense of control. Because that’s whatthe flesh is all about. Me, being in control.
Pastor Erwin Lutzer says that the Christian should list all of his or her “if onlys” and draw a circle around them. Then we should label the entire circle “The Providence of God, for God is greater than the Christian’s “if onlys.” Lutzer explains, “His providential hand encompasses the whole of our lives, not just the good days, but the ‘bad’ days too.”
What does God’s Word say about your “if onlys"? Here are eight truths that tell you just how involved God is in your life if you have a personal relationship with Him. You can read these for yourself in the Bible!
- Psalm 31:15 says that the timing of all events in your life are in God’s hand. So, there’s no such thing as too late…or too early.
- Acts 17:26 says that He has determined where and when you will live
- Read Genesis 50:20 and you will find that God works in bad circumstances for your good.This is from the story of Joseph, who tells his brothers who sold him into slavery, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.”
- Proverbs 16:9 and 19:21 say that you make your plans, but God determines your steps and His purposes prevail.
- Your entire future is in His hands, according to Psalm 31:15.
- Acts 5:39 explains that if something is of God, you can’t overthrow it. If you think that you’ve irrevocably messed up God’s plan for your life, think again.
- Any riches or honor in your life come from God (See 1 Chronicles 29:12).
- Even the timing of your birth and death is set by God, says Deuteronomy 32:39.
When we realize that we’renot Godand that He is in full control, our “if onlys" seem to lose their power, and thankfully so. Yes, when we’ve failed, we can come to Him and ask for forgiveness. But we don’t need to stay there in regret. The believer lives inside the Circle of the Providence of God. Maybe that’s a comfort that you need to focus on today.
What “if onlys" have you been imprisoned by? A painful childhood? A moral failure? A missed opportunity? If you have relationship with God through His son, Jesus Christ, He is intimately invested in your life and your eternity. Take the time today to look up the verses that assure you of His investment in you and intensely personal love and care for you.
We all forget from time to time that He is God and we are not. Believer, thank God today for the sure hope of living in the Circle of His Providence.
Resource Reading: Psalm 103:8-17
Erwin Lutzer, One Minute After You Die(Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1997) 123, 124.