“Who can understand his errors?” (Psalm 19:12)
Have you ever felt like you’ve been “set up”? Sometimes God orders our circumstances (Proverbs 16:9) to make us aware of the imperfections inherent in us. He does this, not to find fault with us or bring accusations against us, not to knock us down – that’s all the work of the devil!! No, God’s purpose in allowing us to stumble is to purify us in order to remove the flaws so He can then work in HIS perfection (1 Corinthians 15:10). While the devil and his minions delight in our sins and mistakes and shortcomings, and try to focus our attention on them to keep us in bondage, God lovingly permits them to show forth in order to teach us how to become victorious over them through Christ (2 Corinthians 12:9,10).
However, many times our reaction to this process is to become upset with ourselves, judging ourselves to have “failed”. One definition of “fail” means to lack success, not to achieve a desired result or reach a set goal. Don’t misunderstand – God doesn’t desire that we fail; He just knows that we will because that is inherent in our human nature (Romans 3:23). So often we aren’t even aware of the failings we have until God brings them to our attention. Then our natural tendency, in our foolish pride, is to think that we can “fix” them, or hide them again and prevent their reappearing. WRONG!! The response God is looking for from us is to surrender them to Him. He’s not afraid of, or surprised by, or appalled at our failings; but we are! We don’t like to “look bad” or think of ourselves as imperfect. After all, we’re Christians and the myth is that we’re not supposed to have flaws and imperfections – at least, not so anyone should notice! But we don’t stop being human by becoming a Christian, and God’s plan is not to “cover up” or annihilate our humanity, but to change us into the image of His Son, who is also fully human except without sin (1 Peter 2:22). This is a process (which means it’s not quick!) called sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3a, Hebrews 2:11).
It’s important to keep in mind that God’s focus is not on our imperfections but on His perfection that He’s working in us (Philippians 2:13). Do you realize that God is a very “positive thinker”? Of course He confronts and condemns all that is evil (Proverbs 8:13), dark, deceptive, destructive, “negative”; but His very nature, His character, the essence of His Being is light (1 John 1:5), beauty, and truth (John 16:13) – all that is “positive” and good (Psalm 100:5)! Therefore, His approach to our failings is not condemnation of us (John 3:17), but encouragement toward improvement and spiritual maturity.
Remember, God’s purpose is always to conform us into the image of Jesus. But in order for Him to do that, we must first recognize and “own” our imperfections so we can give them to Him, trade them in so to speak, for His perfection (2 Corinthians 5:21). There are at least two major hurdles here. First and foremost is our pride – thinking/wanting only to give God what is “good” – and we are right to put our best efforts into everything we do in order to honor Him and bring Him glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). But any and all goodness within us has originally come from God, so the only thing we can really give Him that is of ourselves is our self, which is by its very nature, flawed. Yet, that is the exact thing He wants us to do – surrender to Him our mistakes, shortcomings, failings, etc. It’s important to realize that all of these may not be “sins” in and of themselves. It’s not morally evil to play or sing a wrong note in worship, for example. But “stewing” over that error instead of giving it to God can be sinful and destructive. While it’s one thing to honestly assess our actions and attitudes, as the Bible instructs (Romans 12:3), it’s entirely different to become “the devil’s advocate” in finding fault with ourselves or others.
The second problem we struggle with in dealing with our imperfections is our lack of depth. We tend to be surface-level in our thinking, but God is intent on digging deeper into our souls. This is because He is not so much concerned with the external and temporal as He is with the internal and eternal. He wants to make a change in our hearts and our thinking patterns, not just in our behavior. We, on the other hand, when confronted with our own limitations and mistakes, think we have to fix them by trying harder, or changing our plan of action, or otherwise making some adjustment on a visible level. Although God’s purpose is less obvious, it’s far more important from His eternal perspective. Therefore, letting us stumble or make mistakes so we can see our flaws and surrender them is actually an example of God’s loving intervention in our lives.
Consider the experiences of Elijah as told in 1 Kings 19:1-16. Not once did the LORD scold him for his lack of faith in running from Jezebel. In fact, He graciously and supernaturally provided Elijah with provisions for his journey, which brought him to a specific cave on a specific mountain – “the mount of God”. There the LORD twice questioned His prophet: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” But Elijah’s answer revealed that his focus was not on his present encounter with God, nor on seeking God’s will for the future, but on past occurrences, which he perceived as a failure in spite of his best efforts. God’s multiple presentations in the mighty wind, earthquake, and fire were no doubt attention-getters, but they must have also reassured Elijah of God’s awesome might and complete control. Then a still, small voice called the prophet near so God could reveal His plans. This demonstrates that the greatness of God is seen and apprehended, not in His power, but in His gentle and relentless purposes. Neither Elijah’s sin nor his perceived “failure” had made him useless to God, for God is greater than all (1 John 3:20).
God does work ALL things together for our good (Romans 8:28) and for our growth in Him – even our shortcomings and “failures”! “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). HALLELUJAH!!!