I agonize over decisions, especially big decisions like whether to move to another house or what kind of car to buy. That’s not to say that I take long to decide what kind of toothpaste or shampoo to buy or whether to plant petunias or pansies in the garden.
But too often I allow price to determine my choices rather than quality. Six months ago I bought a pair of attractive loafers because they were half price. They were a bit tight, but… Now I struggle to get my feet into them. And when I wear them very long, they pinch. I could give other illustrations but they would be too embarrassing.
Even when I determine to balance quality against price, it’s not always easy to make a good choice in our media saturated world. One report lists butter as harmful to our arteries. Another labels margarine as a dangerous culprit. Or take coffee, or chocolate. How do we navigate through all the shoals that we’re told can shipwreck our lifeboat?
Doubtless, bad choices can lead to great harm. And some of those bad choices are clear. Smoking. Overeating. Taking addictive drugs. Avoiding exercise. A steady diet of high calorie fast-foods. Too much sugar. Pornography. Sleeping with prostitutes. Drunkenness. The list is long; the effects devastating in terms of ill health, lost jobs and broken relationships.
Many of our bad choices lead to long-term suffering, or at least, suffering that catches up with us as we age. Why do we choose things we know will be harmful? Often it’s to find immediate pleasure through gratifying a sudden craving. Dare I say it, lust? Donuts and cookies and mega-burgers taste so good! Indulge. Enjoy right now. Personally, I don’t think there is anything wrong with an occasional indulgence but the danger occurs when indulgence becomes a habit.
The danger is magnified when the indulgence breaks one of God’s commandments. Outbursts of anger can not only shatter relationships, but, as Jesus said, even lead to murder. One pilfered item from a warehouse or act of cheating can feed into a lifestyle of dishonesty that ultimately ends in incarceration. Envy or jealousy indulged can foster lifelong discontent. One act of fornication or adultery might promote a careless approach to marital fidelity or lead to catching a sexually transmitted disease.
So why is there suffering in the world? Much of it is caused by human foolishness, indulgence, sinfulness and ignorance. We would be wise to re-read the book of Proverbs often. “He who speaks rashly will come to ruin. The sluggard craves and gets nothing…Dishonest money dwindles away…”(Prov. 13b, 4a, 11a)
Fortunately, God is a forgiving God. There is no sin, no matter how grave, that He will not forgive if one but bows in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ, God’s Son. “His blood can make the foulest clean.” Forgiveness, however, does not necessarily deliver us from the practical consequences of our sins. The forgiven smoker will still have damaged lungs. The forgiven murderer will still have to finish out his jail sentence. The indulgent eater who is forgiven may still have clogged arteries.
Let’s not blame God for suffering we cause. Instead let’s make wise and godly choices.