Life is complicated. We all know this. Sometimes there are things beyond our control that make things so much more difficult than they have to be. Like trying to go shopping these days; ugh. The two places I go to shop the most have both completely re-organized their stores. Now I can’t just run in and grab what I want; I have to take a map and GPS to find the bread and jelly. Or home improvement projects. They look so easy on YouTube . . . . My husband and I often moan about how it would be nice if just ONE home improvement or fix-it project would go the way it was supposed to. But that neverhappens and things are always complicated when we don’t have the right tool, the right supplies, or the right information.
Sometimes we complicate our own lives. I know I am guilty of taking a very simple project and making it more complicated. After all, we could just buy bunk beds, but how cool would it be if we built them, and how about we suspend them from the ceiling? Doesn’t that sound like fun? No potential for disaster there. Or, hey, there’s a potluck Sunday. Let me look up a brand new recipe, buy all of the supplies, spend all day Saturday cooking and then hope it tastes good on Sunday, rather than using a simple, tried and true recipe from my own repertoire. Then I have to listen to everyone’s comments to decide if I should claim which dish I brought.
Complications can be much more serious than a simple home improvement project or potluck, however. I know a loved one who made some really bad choices as a young person and is having to live out the consequences. Her life would have been far less complicated had she made better choices in her youth. I think we all know someone in a similar situation.
I recently completed a short study of the book of Jeremiah. I don’t think I’ve ever looked at the book as a whole before, just small sections at a time. But stepping back and looking at the book in its entirety I saw several lessons for us in today’s age. Isn’t it fascinating how God spoke to the nation of Judah andto us at the same time . . . thousands of years ago?
One lesson I found was about how obedience to the Lord will help reduce the number of complications we suffer in our lives. I saw how Jeremiah prophesied the words of God to the people, and over and over again they ignored him. If they would have simply listened and obeyed the word of the Lord, the outcome would have been very different. God Himself said,
5 “For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings, if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor, 6 if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt, 7 then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever. Jeremiah 7:5-7
God would have relented from the evil he had determined to do to the people. He would have stayed their punishment if they had just listened. But the leaders of the nation of Judah complicated their lives by ignoring the wise counsel of the prophet of God, instead following the more pleasant sounding prophecies given by the false prophets.
But we can back up a bit. The nation of Judah had already complicated their lives years before by asking God for a king. God told them,
11 And he said, “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. 12 He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. 14 And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. 16 And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. 18 And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.” 1 Samuel 8:10-18
They were warned that having a king would complicate their lives, but they were stubborn and insisted on having one anyway, thus rejecting God from being their king and putting a human on the throne instead. This complicated their lives in ways they never anticipated, eventually leading to the scenes we see in Jeremiah when they were ultimately taken away into captivity.
But we can back up even more. Look back to when the children of Israel entered the land of Canaan. God commanded them to destroy all of the people of the land. They started off well, but ran out of steam partway through conquering the land and eventually gave up on the entire campaign. By leaving the people of the land in place they allowed themselves to be surrounded by nations of idol worshipers and were influenced to follow their behavior.
11 Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals; 12 and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger. Judges 2:11-12
The lives of the people of the nation of Israel were much more complicated because they left the people of the land in place. God said He would no longer, “drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, 22so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the Lord, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not.” Judges 2:21-22. We know that, as a nation, the children of Israel fell into the trap set for them by these idolatrous peoples, and ultimately, it brought about the destruction of their land and the captivity of their descendants.
We can see over and over again how God’s people complicated their lives by choosing to follow the lies of false prophets, the wisdom of the nations around them, or even their own desires. Consider a few Biblical examples:
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Genesis 3:6
Adam and Eve chose to follow their own wisdom rather than the wisdom of God. Their choice not only created a huge complication in their lives, but had consequences that we still suffer from today.
32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father.” Genesis 19:32
36 Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father. 37 The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab; he is the father of the Moabites to this day. 38 And the younger, she also bore a son and called his name Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the people of Ammon to this day. Genesis 19:36-38
Lot’s daughters complicated the lives of the children of Israel by following their own wisdom instead of waiting on God to provide children for them. The nations of Moab and Ammon became a constant thorn in the side of the nation of Israel.
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. 2 So Sarai said to Abram, “See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai. 3 Then Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan. 4 So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes. Genesis 16:1-4
Sarai complicated her life and the lives of all of her descendants by choosing to introduce Hagar into the equation. The descendants of Ishmael caused problems for the children of Israel, and we see the consequences even today due to Modern-day Muslims claiming that Ishmael was the child of promise, not Isaac. Our lives are more complicated because of Sarai’s decision to fulfill God’s promise her way instead of His.
Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the Lord. 15 So Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them to let them life; and the rulers of the congregation swore to them. Joshua 9:14-15
Joshua was a godly man who served the Lord faithfully. But even he complicated his life. When men came to him claiming to be from a country far away and asking to make a treaty with Israel, Joshua made one bad choice. He did not take the time to ask counsel of the Lord before making this treaty. This caused complications for the nation of Israel, not only in allowing an idolatrous nation to live among them against God’s command, but now they also had to go to battle to defend their new allies.
But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites— 2 from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. 3 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. 4 For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. 1 Kings 11:1-4
Solomon knew that God had told the people not to marry women from the nations around them (Deuteronomy 7:3, Joshua 23:12), and had warned the people of the consequences of such choices. But Solomon followed the desires of his heart and complicated his life with eternal consequences.
There are many more examples throughout the Bible. Consider Samson who chose to marry a woman of the Philistines, and then was duped by Delilah. Or David, who followed his own desires for Bathsheba. Or Rehoboam, who followed the advice of his young, privileged peers rather than the solid advice of the older men. Or Hezekiah, who showed off all of his riches to the emissaries from Babylon. The list goes on and on.
In the examples above we see men and women making decisions that were impulsive, ill-advised, or maybe even downright defiant. They left God out of the decision making process and suffered the consequences. Some of these people were God-fearing individuals who served the Lord faithfully, but they still made mistakes. Looking at them I see that leaving God out of my planning process is a mistake that I will probably make more than once in my lifetime; I believe its part of our human nature. But I’m going to keep trying to do right, because I also believe the Bible shows us that when we follow God’s plan our lives will be much easier, generally speaking. We will still make mistakes and there will still be extenuating factors that we can’t control, but we can avoid making things more complicated than necessary.
Here are some lessons I have learned from this study: First, when I am making a decision, do I stop to consider God’s wisdom first? Before making any decisions in our lives we should stop for a moment and look at them from a spiritual standpoint. What does the Bible have to say about situations like this? Are there any Biblical principles that may apply to this set of circumstances? Are there any God-fearing Christians I can ask for advice about this decision? The men and women we looked at didn’t always listen to the advice of God’s prophets speaking His words of wisdom. Let us not make the same mistake.
Second, and just as importantly, I must take time to kneel in prayer before the Lord God. Nothingis more important than seeking the wisdom of the One who gives all wisdom and knows the lasting impact of every decision I am going to make. He might not give me a clear and immediate answer, but it is ALWAYS important to take the time for this step before making even relatively minor decisions in our lives. God wants to hear all of our thoughts and tells us in Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, 7and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” The individuals we looked at above neglected to ask God for His guidance in their decision making process and subsequently made very bad choices that greatly complicated their lives and the lives of many other people. Let us always include God in our deliberations and trust in Him to guide our decisions.
May God bless you as you look to Him for guidance and wisdom in the decisions you make in your lives!
By Fern Boyle