The poor guy was overwhelmed. In what felt to him like an avalanche, in just a short few months, he was diagnosed with a major health problem, lost his job, watched his car catch on fire, and saw his girlfriend dump him for another guy.
As we sat down, he seemed a bit in shock and was having trouble processing all that was happening. When asked why these things were happening and how he would respond, he would simply say, “I don’t know why this happened or what to do”.
Have you ever been there? Are you there now?
Trying to be delicate to build the guy up instead of beating the guy up, I asked him if the pain he was feeling were things that had been a long time coming. He struggled to see his life truthfully according to reality and respond wisely.
If honest, we’ve all been this guy and love someone who is this guy. He talked a lot about his pain, and a lot about other people and how they had either brought the pain or not helped him through his pain. But he was also a backslider. He had stopped walking with God, stopped taking advice from wise people in his life, slid back into bad old habits, and still expected his life to go well. Proverbs 14:14 [ESV] says, “The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.” Everything in his life was harder and nothing was better because he had been in a long season of backsliding.
The difference between wise people and other people is not that they fail, but rather wise people learn from their failure and make life changes to avoid the same failure in the future. Proverbs 23:23 [NLT] says, “Get the truth and never sell it; also get wisdom, discipline, and good judgment.” Truth is how we find reality, wisdom is how we should respond to reality, discipline is the habitual making of wise choices, and all of this is leads to good judgment.
This man, and all of us to varying degrees at varying times, overlooked two basic truths.
- He neglected the principle of sowing and reaping that the Bible mentions often. If we do not sow today, we won’t have anything to reap in the future. A farmer can eat well every year, then take a year off and starve to death. He had stopped exercising and eating well, stopped showing up to work on time and prepared, did not do the routine maintenance on his car, and stopped putting forth real effort to invest in his romantic relationship. His entire life was one of deferred maintenance.
- He neglected the principle of delayed gratification. When he wanted something, he simply treated himself to it, whether or not it was wise. So, he made impulsive purchases on his credit card, which stacked up until he could not afford to maintain his car. Whenever he wanted to reward himself, he sat down with ice cream and a spoon to dig until he hit the bottom of the container.
These two principles work together. If we neglect what we should do today, and do not wait for the future, we bankrupt entire parts of our life (e.g. relationships, health, finances). As we feel the pain, it is helpful to ask, “what foolish choices have I made that have made my life harder?” Although this question can be painful, if heeded, it could stop the current pain and prevent further pain in the future.
What foolish choices have made your life harder? What exactly do you need to do to make a change?