Life, Hope & Truth

Speaking of... Life, Hope & Truth

Unintended Consequences

One of the most prized aspects of living in a free society is the opportunity to make our own choices. We are properly grateful that we have the freedom to choose our occupations, where we will live, who our mate will be and even what religious beliefs we will have—if we choose to have any at all.

As children, our parents make most of our choices for us; but as we grow older, we begin to make more of our own decisions, ultimately gaining the opportunity to make decisions that will have a profound impact upon our lives.

One of the more challenging aspects of parenting is knowing when to stand back and allow a son or daughter the freedom to make big personal decisions on their own. As adults, we have learned that seemingly small choices made in haste can alter the entire course of a person’s life. Our son or daughter may feel they are ready to make their own decision, but we’re often hesitant because we’re not sure they understand the consequences of the choices they want to make.

No one wants to make poor choices. We try to weigh out the pros and cons and make decisions that will produce the right results. We try to make sure we’re not being swept around by our own emotions and desires. We learn—often by sad experience—that we can’t make decisions based upon what someone else thinks is important.

But, in spite of our best efforts, we’ve all made decisions we later regretted. How many times have you looked at some choice you made in your life, considered the results and wished there were some way you could go back and choose again?

This happens so often that people call it the “Law of Unintended Consequences.” The basic idea is that it is virtually impossible to anticipate what the ultimate outcomes of our choices will be, and those outcomes are often not what we intended at all.

The Bible is a book filled with examples of people receiving unintended consequences from their decisions. In fact, the very first man and woman made a decision that led to unintended consequences very different than they imagined when they decided to exercise their power to choose for themselves.

While the biblical stories are all unique, there is a common thread running through all of them—God had already shown them what the best choice was, but they insisted on doing it the way that appealed to them.

The Bible is an amazing book. It can show us how to make the best choices today by listening to the instructions God gave thousands of years ago. Consider how many times the Bible tells us one thing is “better” than another. Each time we read those words, God is showing us how to make better choices.

Are we willing to listen to His advice, or would we rather reap the unintended consequences of our own foolishness?

And there’s another side to this. Even when we don’t fully understand why He tells us to make a certain choice, when we do it His way, there can be unintended consequences that are far more rewarding than we ever imagined.

For Life, Hope & Truth, I’m David Johnson.