You Can’t Screw It Up!

God has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. There is nothing better for man than to be joyful and to do good as long as he lives, and that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. Whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before Him (Ecclesiastes 3:11-14).

I’ve known and loved the beginning of Ecclesiastes 3 as far back as I can remember, in large part thanks to the Byrds and their popular song, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” released just a month after I was born back in 1965. But it wasn’t until the early 2000s, when my own older children were heading off to college, getting engaged and then married, and charting their future paths, that I discovered the rest of the chapter and fell in love with it. I guess there is a reason this is “wisdom literature,” and it struck me just right, at just the right time, in a way that has served me well ever since.

It came to mind again recently – as it often has in a variety of contexts over these past fifteen or twenty years now – in this case as I was visiting with a brother pastor who had received a couple of different Calls. In discussing his weighing and deliberating of those two different possibilities set before him, I simply shared with him the comfort and wisdom that I have gathered from this Word of the Lord. Unlike some of our Protestant brothers and sisters, we shouldn’t tie ourselves up in knots trying to figure out “which door” or “which curtain” the Lord is hiding behind, as we seek to determine which choices to make and which directions to go. The Lord goes with us, and He is with us wherever we go – because we are His own – He loves us, and He has baptized us and named us with His Name. For Christ Jesus’ sake, He is accomplishing His purposes in us, and through us, and for us, to the praise of His glorious grace! That is our confidence and hope.

We seek answers, we strive forward, we make plans and pursue paths, because God put eternity into our hearts; He has created us for something more than what we presently see and feel and experience in this poor life of labor. He calls us to live by faith in His Word and promises, and there is much that is yet hidden from our eyes and perception. Our joy and pleasure is found, not in knowing all that will happen, but simply in doing what is set before us – what God has given us to do in our own place at any given time – and in receiving the many good gifts of body and soul that He graciously bestows upon us, our meat and drink and all good things in due season.

The mystery is that God allows us such freedoms to live our life in this world – and our words and works of faith and love, as well as our sins and failings, do have an impact and consequences in this body and life on earth – and yet, nothing can be added to what He Himself is doing, nor can anything be taken from it. Or, as I have liked to paraphrase, especially in counseling and caring for people who are struggling with big decisions or challenging circumstances, “You can’t screw it up!” You’re not going to thwart God’s plans and purposes, nor prevent Him from doing what He is going to do. He will be gracious and have mercy on whom He will (Exodus 33:19).

None of which is to say that we should live recklessly or irresponsibly, nor that we are free to be negligent in our callings, nor that we may sin with impunity. We are not called to such behaviors. Rather, it is in confidence and hope that we stride forward in faith and love, making decisions in the joyous liberty of the sons of God. In the midst of such ventures, in the face of many options, we don’t know what all the ins and outs and ups and downs may be, but only that the Lord has us, our past, present, and future, in His care and keeping. You really can’t screw this up! The final outcome has been determined, established, and revealed – for you – in Christ Jesus.