[The following is a brief version of a devotional I’ve done for years at Freshmen Orientation at Samford University.]
“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
In 1986, at the age of 17, I left home for college. I loaded up my car with all my possessions, and drove, for the first time by myself, the 60 miles from my hometown of Lafayette to Louisiana State University. I got directions from my dad, who told me to drive East 60 miles and take the first exit after crossing the river. “You can’t miss it,” he said confidently. But after 60 miles I saw no river, no city, only farmland. I pulled over and called my dad to tell his directions were less than adequate. He asked me for a landmark. The last sign I’d seen said “Lake Charles – 10 miles.” After a long pause on the phone, my dad sighed and said, “Son, you drove the wrong way on the interstate.”
As a result of my directional faux pas, I arrived 2 hours late to check-in at my assigned residence hall and I was assigned a different floor and a different roommate. Denis McCain, a guy I knew from my hometown, later introduced me to Jon Barton, who introduced me to Chris Place, who introduced me to Jonlyn Robson, who later became Jonlyn Kerlin – my wife of nearly 20 years and the mother of my 3 children. The moral of the story is that because of a driving error, I met the love of my life.
The author of Proverbs recognizes two realities that we sometimes see as contradictory. First, we must make choices, and hopefully wise ones. We consider our options, weigh the pros and cons, seek wise counsel, pray and follow what we know from God’s word, trust the direction of God’s Spirit, and then make a decision. We don’t always hear with crystal clarity the obvious voice of God telling us specifically what to do. Sometimes our choices are between two seemingly equally good options. Often, we must make decisions with limited information and take risks. Decision-making is a complex business, especially for those seeking to follow God’s will. We will often get it right and we will sometimes get it wrong. We are redeemed and we are fallen. Such is life.
But the author of Proverbs also recognizes a second reality – the Lord’s purposes prevail. This means that sometimes God creates, from our worst mistakes, His greatest plans. Consider Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers, mistreated by his owners, but ultimately promoted to second in command in Egpyt. “You meant it for evil,” Joseph tells his brothers, “but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50.19). Consider Judas, that most reviled of biblical characters. Who greedily sought to profit from Jesus’ downfall. Could there be a worse mistake? Yet all that he did was to fulfill prophecy and to accomplish God’s overarching purposes for His creation. This is difficult for us to wrap our brains around, to be honest. That God can take our mistakes and those of others, and use them to accomplish his greater purposes, is a testament both to our frailty and God’s sovereignty. So take courage and make decisions boldly and wisely. Do not be paralyzed by the fact that you aren’t sure which way to go, which school to attend, where to live or exactly what to study. Do the things you know you must do to consider wisely your ways. And then, even if God has not spoken to you in an audible voice (God does this rather rarely you know), be bold, make a choice and own it, whether it turns out well or not. Sometimes your most embarrassing choices, rather than your best ones, will result in God’s greatest blessings.