We did the math: A warm, sunny, fall day, plus an afternoon free of after-school activities, plus a four-year-old now confidently riding a two-wheeler equals one thing – time for a Desilets family bike ride! As Tim and I packed up the bikes, water bottles, and snacks, we wondered, “Why don’t we do this more often?!” We picked up the girls from school and headed over to the Schuylkill River Trail for a fun-filled adventure.
But less than a minute in, the fun quotient of our excursion went into the negative as the frustrations began to add up. Our failure to check the pressure in the bicycle tires (or bring the pump to remedy this problem) left one kid instantly in tears and unable to continue. Plus, our “if I don’t get food within five minutes of leaving school, I lose my mind” child had apparently neglected to eat the snacks we packed for her and quickly ran out of steam. We could have stopped and turned around right there, but our youngest was having none of that – she came for a bike ride and she wanted a bike ride!
What was supposed to equal stress-relief resulted only in stress-increase, and as we drove home, we wondered, “Why do we ever do things like this?!”
It’s discouraging when your best intentions end in frustration. You have a vision in your head of how something is going to go and expect the real-life outcome to match, or even exceed, your expectations. But when mistakes and mishaps occur (often one after another) you wonder if it’s even worth the effort!
This happens in our relationship with God as well. We all have next steps the Holy Spirit is leading us to take, and though they sound good ‘on paper,’ there’s a good chance that even with our best intentions, things won’t go the way we expect them to. Whether it’s reaching out to a friend who doesn’t know Jesus, getting involved in a ministry, starting a Bible reading plan, or kicking a bad habit to the curb, we often start out saying, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?” but end up thinking “Why did I even try?!”
Although there’s no mathematical formula to following and living our lives for Jesus, the apostle Peter does encourage believers to “make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8) I don’t know about you, but I sure do want and need all of those things in my life “in increasing measure”!
In Matthew 6, in His teaching on worry, Jesus assures us that rather than being distracted by the toil of adding things to our own lives, we should “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (v. 33) Notice that it doesn’t say “you will add these things,” it says they “will be added”.
In God’s Kingdom, He does the math and as we “make every effort” to take those next steps, He’s adding to our lives the goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, and love we’re seeking! Unfortunately, the method He uses to create those qualities almost always involves circumstances and people not going or doing things according to our expectations. Even our best intentions have some element of self-focus and it’s through frustration and trial that ‘self’ gets subtracted to leave room for His character to be added.
Though our perfect Desilets family bike ride didn’t happen that day, we did learn a few things – always leave a spare pump in the car, and make sure the snacks get eaten! But more than that, through the frustration, we all had at least some small amount of goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, or love added to us that day.
God’s math doesn’t always compute in our heads, but the solution is clear to Him. He’s not asking you to take that next step because He needs you to, it’s just that every time you do, He gets to add more of “these things” to you. It may not work out as you had hoped, but the “increasing measure” of His character in your life will always be a plus!