The longer I live the more I value the biblical doctrine of the providence of God, which is stated succinctly in Romans 8:28: "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose."
Parents of teens need to recite that verse daily. We parents spend untold hours making sure our children receive the best formal education offered. Then, long after we have raised our children, we have to smile to think that the education which most profoundly affected them came the hard way - via the school of hard knocks.
In 2 Chronicles, Manasseh's acquiescence to the religious practices of the Assyrian kings must have grieved God profoundly. It would be like parents painfully watching a child abandon the faith and the family-nurtured values and instead yield to the nihilism and secular values that dominate society.
Some say Manasseh was seduced into abandoning the way of Yahweh. Yet we realize all too well that no seductive power can have its way with us without our consent. God's judgment fell upon Manasseh and as a result he cried out to Yahweh for deliverance. We are told that God was moved by his entreaties, listened to his prayers, and brought him back to Jerusalem. "Then, Manasseh knew that Yahweh is God."
Why is it that we stubbornly insist on doing things "our way," on trying to become our own god? Why does God have to allow his judgment to descend on us before we admit our error and turn back to God for deliverance and salvation?
The answers must rest on the fact that we are sinners and without hope, save in God's redeeming love in Christ Jesus.
We should remind ourselves of this conviction every day of our life, for we have within our power the capacity to do great good and great evil.
God can redeem us and bring good even out of evil actions, but God cannot remove the consequences produced by our actions, which often affect others as well as ourselves.
We don't always have to learn things the hard way. There is Jesus' way: "Follow me and you will experience life in all its fullness." Thank goodness God provides us a way to get back on track when we yield to temptation. "Repent and renew your faith in the gospel again. And go and sin no more."
Dr. Gene Norris is a Presbyterian minister who now serves as a marriage and family therapist.
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