In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:6
In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory...Ephesians 1:11-12
That is a promise from God. I have often drawn out a tangled path drawing showing what happens when we do things our way, as contrasted by the much straighter line when we do things God’s way. As the mathematical theorem states: the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. God directs us more in a straight line fashion.
In Sunday school I was sharing about how several years ago there was a gal who hadflirted a bit with following God. She and her family ended up in a ten by ten hunting shack with an extension cord strung from the next lot’s RV line. There were five people jammed in a little shed, and it wasn’t insulated in a cold oncoming winter. They were determined to stay there, so some men at church had tried to help build on an extra addition and put in some insulation so they could endure the winter.
A friend at work was saying that no one should live in those conditions, which I agreed with, but I said, “you don’t just wake up one day in a ten by ten shack.” My meaning was that it was a series of choices that got them there. For them it was drugs and alcohol. It was also a lot of manipulating and not working steady jobs when given the opportunities. It has become my “go to” thought about being responsible for your choices. You can think that you’re a victim, but one day you have to examine your own choices to see what you did to get you in that shack.
Life is always a series of choices and we have to own our choices.
In Sunday school one lady got angered at the Proverbs straight line illustration and she said something to the effect that I was making it sound like a prosperity gospel where no one ends up in shacks. She has not had a straight line path, but a broken road. It has been at the hands of others: the brokenness of rape, an abusive x husband, a grandchild who died…I mentioned Joseph, who faced his brothers, slavery, false accusations, prison and was still able to say, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”
He was also able to say in Genesis 39: 9, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” when Potiphar’s wife called out to him to lay with her. He could have reasoned in his heart, “I am a victim. No one knows I am here. I deserve this. I had a bad childhood. I’ll sleep with her…” But no. He acknowledged and obeyed God still. Though his path looked like a crooked one to him, it was a straight one to God. And it was a path with a purpose and plan for the Kingdom. Joseph didn’t know that, but he stayed obedient. But once Joseph saw his brothers and his father with him in Egypt, suddenly the crooked paths became straight. They made sense.
He could be glad that he didn’t compromise and cave to the call of the world that says, “It’s not your fault if you live a morally corrupt life because that was the ground work that was laid for you…You were a victim…Keep the script going. Sleep with her.” My thoughts are about being obedient in the midst of the seemingly crooked paths. I didn’t have a fairy tale beginning, but by God’s heavy hand on me, His work of grace on my life, He kept me from buying that victim script. He kept me from falling. He gave me the grit to say ‘no’ when everyone else around me was diving in.
I can say with Joseph, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” and not make my path more tangled. It is so easy to make compromising choices and justify them saying, “I had to because…” and not be obedient, and then complain about the 10′ x 10′ shack.
Later, as the Sunday school thoughts were tumbling around in my mind, processing the questions of the seemingly crooked paths at the hands of others and the promise of Proverbs 3:6 about straight paths, God spoke Ephesians 1 to my heart. It was as if He were giving me an answer. He works all things according to the counsel of His will in order that we might be to the praise of His glory.
In other words, whether our crooked paths are because of others’ abuse or because of our sinful choices, or because of God’s sovereign hand that takes us to Egypt ahead of our brothers Joseph style–He has His hand on it all, working it out according to His sovereign plan. Just like Romans 8:28 promises, He is working it out for my good because I love Him and I am called according to His purpose.
There are three ‘according’s’:
- Ephesians 1:11 ‘according to the purpose of Him who works all things
- Ephesians 1:11 ‘according to the purpose of His will’
- Romans 8:28 ‘to those who are called according to His purpose’
The upshot of all of this is that I don’t have to be bitter at God, wondering why my path was crooked. Joseph wasn’t. He didn’t spew bitterness at his brothers and get revenge once his father Jacob was dead, which is what his brothers all feared might happen. The other thing Joseph didn’t do that we all must copy is that he didn’t use his harsh treatment at the hand of his brothers as an excuse to sin.
Joseph kept being obedient even when he had every right to do otherwise. Don’t use anything as an excuse to sin. Your choices matter in this life and they matter to God.
Finally, we can say that God will take our crooked paths and strange circumstances and weave them together for good because we love Him. We are His, and we are called according to his purposes. God works all things according to the counsel of His will, or according to His plan, so His glory will be worked out in our lives.