Yes, I suppose it is hard to just set aside your feeling that hearing God’s call is kind of scary. You’ve come to a fork in the road. You must choose. You might get it wrong.
What is the worst thing that could happen?
Yes, sometimes there are serious consequences.
In my first computer programming class the prof gave us a list of all the possible error messages. The one we didn’t want to see was
Program lost, sorry.
This was categorized, I think, as a
I’ll say. If you got it after staying up all night writing that program you would too.
It sounds like you fear something like this as you attempt to hear and follow God’s call. If you get it wrong at the fork in the road, if you stray from that mysterious path, it feels like you’ll be lost in the woods forever.
What if I told you that you actually can’t get it wrong?
What if you could be absolutely sure that, no matter what you chose, you would not make a fatal error?
Let’s take a worst-case scenario. I’m thinking about some people who clearly made a very bad choice.
It is even a biblical example, so it comes with some spiritual oomph and authority. The actions the characters took were not the kid of thing God advises: they actually broke several of the Ten Commandments.
But I’m getting ahead of myself: when the story took place the Commandments hadn’t even been given yet.
Consider Joseph and his brothers.
The story is back in the early generations of God’s chosen people. Jacob, aka “Israel,” had twelve sons. Little Joseph was Daddy’s obvious favorite.
The other eleven were steamed about that.
Here’s what they did. They attacked Joseph, their own brother, and sold him to slave traders. Then they staged an elaborate cover-up to convince their parents that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.
Commandments or no commandments, this is very bad behavior. Agreed?
So Joseph ended up in Egypt, got falsely accused of sexual assault, and was thrown in prison.
This is not getting better.
So far it is looking pretty grim, actually. God’s will wasn’t followed, and everything went down the tube.
Eventually, Joseph was able to do something that helped the King of Egypt. Pharaoh got Joseph out of prison, and gave him a position of power and authority. Joseph ended up in charge of Egypt’s massive stockpile of grain in a time of great famine.
Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to beg for permission to buy food.
Little did they know they would be begging it from long lost Little Joe.
Joseph strung them along for a while, having some private laughs. But when he couldn’t hide it any longer, Joseph, chief steward of Pharaoh’s riches, revealed his identity.
Eleven brothers figured they were toast. They had another surprise coming.
Joseph knew the God he served was the great Redeemer.
Getting out of prison had taught Joseph some excellent theology. Joseph knew that God takes really rotten stuff and brings amazing outcomes.
So when his brothers were terrified that Joseph was going to take his revenge, he turned the tables:
Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. (Genesis 50:20, NRSV)
Joseph knew that even though his brothers had made truly rotten choices, the God they served had bigger plans at work.
It is true for you too. God brings his intentions to full flower out of the most unlikely circumstances.
So assume you can’t make a truly fatal blunder.
Go to seminary? God will be at work. God will use you.
Take that job with the internet startup? God will be at work. God will use you.
You might make a bad choice. Chances are you’ll make quite a few of them along the way. Sometimes the consequence is suffering. Sometimes you may need to apologize and seek forgiveness.
Thankfully, with no perfect plan unfolding before you, there are still ways to make better choices. It is possible to choose “righter” paths and avoid “wronger” ones.
More on that next time.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments. What is a “bad” choice that you’ve seen God make “good” come out of?