Robert Redford played a character named Roy Hobbs in The Natural. His promising baseball career tragically ends prematurely when he is shot by a deranged woman. Hobb’s dream of being a successful baseball player is revived and he attempts a late-in-life comeback. His statement to his wife summarizes his feelings: “My life didn’t turn out the way I expected.”
The quote resonates with nearly everyone who has lived enough life to have experienced the disappointments that are inevitable. A forty-five year old man made a contact with a former high school classmate, a girl he had once dated and even discussed marriage with. It was fun and interesting to catch up after a couple decades of no communication. But her revelations to him failed to bring him any satisfaction, instead, he felt depressed. She had finally married. Her husband was a very successful entrepreneur. She found great fulfillment in her three children and lived in an upscale home in California. She had traveled abroad, in fact, she and her husband owned vacation homes in Ireland and Italy. In contrast, her former beau was a simple man who lived a simple life. He drove an old truck. He never married and he had no children. The conversation caused him to say to himself, “My life didn’t turn out the way I expected.”
Maybe you have said as much. Did your life take an unexpected detour? Did you think that you would always be beautiful and athletic looking? Did you dream that one day you would be financially independent? Did you fail to marry or did your marriage fail? Did you think your drug addicted child was going to be a doctor or a lawyer? Did you lose a parent or child to an unexpected death? Do you now have health problems that have detracted from the joy in life you feel you deserve?
It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that we bring a lot of pain upon ourselves. We often end up where we are because we made a choice back at the fork in the road. We are often warned of this in scripture: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal. 6:7-8) “I have observed that those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it.” (Job 4:8) Roy Hobbs, The Natural, said, “Some mistakes you never stop paying for.” When we find ourselves reaping the consequences for our former decisions the best we can do is repent and seek God’s forgiveness. When our lives are all twisted because we trusted in our own plans its time to trust the Master Architect to reveal a better plan that will bring us satisfaction and contentment.
One thing we should have all learned from Harold Camping’s recent false prophecy, “You can’t put God in a box.” When God shows us a new direction we are tempted to try to put limitations on him. We say things like, “this is too big for me to handle” or “this is impossible.” So you feel doubt and defeat when God asks you to travel an unexpected path? Paul resisted these feelings when he said, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) If you hear God whispering something unbelievable, something that seems impossible know others have heard him whisper in the past. “Noah, build a boat in the desert.” Say what!?! “Moses, lead 2 million slaves up out of Egypt.” We tend to offer excuses because we approach God’s request in our own humanity and envision attempting to accomplish his directive in our own strength. He wants us to trust him as he miraculously turns our weakness into his strength.
If we can muster the courage to say, “Here I am, Lord, send me” when we hear his whisper then Satan will immediately attempt to waylay us. It was during the fourth watch of the night when Jesus approached the boat holding a group of fearful disciples. He comforted them by saying, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Peter, the impulsive disciple replied, “Lord, if it’s you tell me to come to you on the water.” Peter stepped out of the boat and did a miraculous thing. He walked on water.
But then things began to go badly. Peter took his eyes off Jesus and began to look at the wafting waves and he began to feel the buffeting wind. As he was going under he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out for him to offer rescue.
God will ask us to do some great things but to be successful we must keep focused on him. When we begin to focus on trouble and problems we begin to fall away from Christ. Satan wants us to focus on money problems, faulty policies and weak-minded, critical people in our lives. Jesus wants us to rise above these things and focus on kingdom work. Above all, he wants us to have courage like Peter and step out of the boat. How sad will be the day when many will answer to God for their failures to accomplish any significant thing for him. How dreadful to hear the Savior say, “You did so little because you were too fearful to step out of the boat.”
T. S. Eliot said, “You have to risk going too far to discover just how far you can really go.” Truly great men of God who have been used mightily in his service are those who were willing to step out of the boat. If your life didn’t turn out the way you thought it would, its not too late to choose another path. Abraham was seventy-five years old when God asked him to go on a journey that seemed to have no destination. At the end of that journey lay the Promised Land.