UPS AND DOWNS

Learn­ing and grow­ing

Activated - - FRONT PAGE - By Maria Fontaine, adapted Maria Fontaine and her hus­band, Peter Am­s­ter­dam, are di­rec­tors of the Fam­ily In­ter­na­tional, a Chris­tian com­mu­nity of faith.

Re­cently, I was con­tem­plat­ing the topic of wrong choices, af­ter hav­ing made a few my­self, and was feel­ing a bit dis­cour­aged. Most of us en­joy find­ing we’ve made the right de­ci­sions, and we can def­i­nitely see the ben­e­fits in those. But it’s harder to see any good that could come from our wrong choices. We make plenty of those, how­ever, from the small ones that we of­ten sweep un­der the car­pet, hop­ing no one else no­ticed, to some real whiz-bangers.

Have you ever felt use­less and de­feated due to hav­ing made the wrong de­ci­sion? Maybe you feel like no mat­ter what you do, you’re never go­ing to be able to make up for your mis­takes. Per­haps it seems like the bless­ings you could have re­ceived have been lost, and your life will never be quite as good or com­plete as it could have been.

I be­lieve that God wants us to see the ups and downs we ex­pe­ri­ence in life through the eyes of faith. Whether we make a right choice or a wrong one, there are many good things we can learn. In fact, I think it’s pos­si­ble to gain as much—and in some cases, even more—when we mess up.

Our right choices of­ten re­sult in bless­ings and con­nec­tion to God. With the wrong ones, even though they do of­ten mean that the road ahead will be longer and more dif­fi­cult, we can still gain price­less lessons and growth. As we learn to look to God to guide us in spite of our wrong choices, the harder path we find our­selves on can drive us closer to Him through our re­pen­tance. The wrong choices also pro­vide a means to re­late to oth­ers re­gard­ing their short­com­ings. Even­tu­ally, our lov­ing Fa­ther brings us through the dif­fi­cul­ties wiser and bet­ter pre­pared to pro­ceed to the next stage of our spir­i­tual growth.

Be­cause of His sac­ri­fice, Je­sus can ul­ti­mately turn even our mis­takes and wrong choices into greater vic­to­ries if we’ll let Him. He doesn’t con­demn us, and He can bring

No hu­man ever be­came in­ter­est­ing by not fail­ing. The more you fail and re­cover and im­prove, the bet­ter you are as a per­son. Ever meet some­one who’s al­ways had ev­ery­thing work out for them with zero strug­gle? They usu­ally have the depth of a pud­dle. Or they don’t ex­ist.— Chris Hard­wick (b. 1971)

us to where we need to be, to gain what we per­son­ally need from our life and cir­cum­stances.

The Bi­ble prom­ises that “There is no con­dem­na­tion to those who are in Christ Je­sus!” He is happy to see you

1 rec­og­niz­ing the ways in which you can grow as you ac­cept what He wants to show you from each sit­u­a­tion. That’s part of the “good” that He helps you to gain.

Look at the Prodigal Son. He will­fully re­belled out of self­ish greed. But although his path was longer and more dif­fi­cult than his older brother’s, he learned to un­der­stand his fa­ther’s love for him in a deeper way. He ma­tured through what he suf­fered. He lost his phys­i­cal in­her­i­tance, but he gained some­thing much greater. He learned to value his spir­i­tual her­itage and his fa­ther’s love, which was in­fin­itely more im­por­tant than the things he’d fo­cused on ear­lier. Though the older brother made a wise choice in stick­ing to the tasks the fa­ther had given him and was re­warded for it, he too made wrong choices that he could learn and grow from, as ev­i­denced by his lack of com­pas­sion and for­give­ness when it came to the fail­ings of oth­ers.

It’s all a part of the process. We should strive to do our best, to pick the right op­tions, and we can save our­selves a lot of hard­ship and strug­gle when we choose rightly. But we all have times when we fall short. It’s part of why we’re here in this life: to learn and grow. It’s im­pos­si­ble to avoid ever mak­ing a wrong de­ci­sion. The goal is to use the good and wise choices we make to the full, and to turn our mis­takes into learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences. Through these ups and downs, we can learn wis­dom and the depths of God’s mercy and com­pas­sion and so much more that will en­hance and deepen our re­la­tion­ship with him and oth­ers.

In my life, I have made the oc­ca­sional cat­a­strophic choice, and it’s just a case of mov­ing on and learn­ing from it.— James Nes­bitt (b. 1965)

How many peo­ple are com­pletely suc­cess­ful in every depart­ment of life? Not one. The most suc­cess­ful peo­ple are the ones who learn from their mis­takes and turn their fail­ures into op­por­tu­ni­ties.— Zig Ziglar (1926–2012)

Invit­ing Je­sus into your life is the best de­ci­sion you could make. And all you have to do is ask Him:

Dear Je­sus, please come into my heart and for­give me for the wrong choices I’ve made. Help me learn from my mis­takes and do bet­ter in the fu­ture. Amen.

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