I am minded to think that one of the worse judgements God can bring to pass is when he gives us over to something.
Much of the time, the Lord hedges us in. We may wish to do something, but he stops us. We may wish not to do something, but he makes it impossible for us not to get on and do it. We see him doing this throughout scripture at various points and few Christians will look back on their own lives and the decisions they’ve taken and not see him doing this with them too. But I am convinced one of the worst judgements is when the Lord – despite hedging us in and keeping us from whatever it is our heart desires in the moment – gives us over to it in the end.
The problem is that this sort of thing is so deceptive. Often, the thing we seem to really want isn’t wrong of itself. It might be related to our work, family or stuff we own. Whatever it is, the chances are that the thing is not sinful or a problem of itself. The issue is what lies behind our wanting it. The thing may be fine, but the Lord may have good reasons why he has chosen not to grant it to you.
This is when we may find the problems begin. Whilst the thing itself is perfectly acceptable, it is typically our heart-attitude and the degree of value that we place on this thing that is not. We begin to push hard for it. We will not settle until we get it. We may even begin to doubt God’s goodness because he has withheld it from us. It has, to all intents and purposes, become an idol to us.
Now, the Lord may be gracious and keep us from that thing anyway. He, in his sovereignty, may reckon it not to be for our good and thus stop us getting it. But sometimes, as we push and push for it, as we insist that we must have it, as we arrange our lives around the desire to get it, in the end the Lord may give us over to that thing. And that is rarely pretty.
Once we are given over to the thing, it consumes us. They start to get a hold of us. They demand more and more from us. The thing we spent so long chasing, and that we now finally have, comes with countless strings attached that we never foresaw. Even good things that we might have pursued become burdens on us. We realise that what the Lord was keeping us from was for our own good, but now he has given us over to it, we are having to suffer the reality of our pushing and pursuing. The green grass of the field we were admiring from afar proves to be full of more nettles and weeds than we were expecting.
Worse, our pride very often gets in the way all the more. We have been given over to this thing we pursued, but we daren’t give it up. It was the thing we set our hopes on. The thing the Lord was holding back from us, that we insisted we wanted – we needed even – and so to wind back from it now would be shameful. We would be seen, publicly, to have been wrong. We are facing hardships we needn’t have faced and yet we are driven to continue in them because to admit we were wrong to pursue it in the first place would dent our pride too much. We are given over, and then trapped, by the very thing we insisted we needed most of all.
As ever, the solution lies in the gospel. It lies in contenting ourselves with Christ. We don’t need to chase these things. We don’t need to be fulfilled by anything outside of him. We can patiently wait on him to give us all good things and, whatever he hasn’t given us as yet, is for our own good. We do well to trust him in that rather than pushing hard for what will not satisfy us. Because, if we keep pushing, he might well just give us over to it.