Everyday Encounter with God

Pastor Sylvia's Encounters with God in the Midst of Everyday Life


Good or Bad—You Choose

Sometimes my weeks have themes. This one sure has. I’m calling it “What is good and what is bad?”

Several people have come to me in a state of high anxiety. When we talked specifically about the source of their nervous negative thoughts there was an interesting pattern. Each one was facing a decision and felt fearful. “What if I choose the wrong thing? What if I make a mistake?”

Not surprising, the fear consistently tracked back to their childhoods. “My parents say I always make bad decisions. The wrong job. The wrong man. The wrong car. Wrong. Wrong. Consistently wrong every time.”

The universal fear of being wrong is fed by our misunderstanding about the sovereignty of God. Scripture gives us behavioral parameters in the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus. But we can read them all day and still pick a lemon at the “Previously-Owned” car lot. When choosing, love, hormones, and necessity often cloud our judgment. 

The potential for deciding “wrongly” is high and I’m not talking about sin. Just deciding where to go out to dinner can be fraught with landmines in some family systems.  

This is where it’s important for us to understand the sovereignty of God.

The Bible describes God as all-powerful and all-knowing (Psalm 147:5), outside of time (Exodus 3:14; Psalm 90:2), and responsible for the creation of everything (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1). These divine traits set the minimum boundary for God’s supernatural control of everything, which is to say that nothing in the universe occurs without God’s permission. God has the power and knowledge to prevent anything He chooses to prevent, so everything that does happen to us must, at the very least, be “allowed” by God.

Winston Churchill was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II. Fighting Hitler was a decision that caused the mass slaughter of British military and also innocent civilians. Certainly standing up to the Nazis was the moral choice, but what if it was your town that would be destroyed by German bombs? What if it was your family that would die?

Despite extremely harsh criticism, Churchill remained convinced that God was ultimately in charge, sovereign.

He said, “Destiny, fate, providence seem to me only different ways of expressing the same thing, to wit, that a man’s own contribution to his life story is continually dominated by an external superior power.”

I am assured that regardless of my choices, God the Father has a plan for my life and there is absolutely nothing I can do that will circumvent that plan. Often when I perceive I’ve made a mistake, it was God working to move me into position for something more important than my issue of angst.

And when my error rises to the level of selfishness and sin, Jesus already saw it coming. He gave his life to neutralize the sting of acid in mine.

And when I struggle to figure out what I am to do, the Holy Spirit is there speaking through circumstances, other people, scripture, and sometimes by whispering directly in my ear.

Finally I asked my anxious friends one question: “Was Judas Iscariot a good guy or a bad guy?” He was an essential player in the Passion of Christ. Without him there would not have been a crucifixion that day. But to betray a friend the way he did? To send his beloved rabbi to be beaten and tortured…

Maybe the key to extracting anxiety from our life decisions is to realize that both good and bad ones serve the purposes of our loving and sovereign God.