Seek the Lord’s Purpose
If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?
Time-travel movies are entertaining because they get us thinking about the choices that can change history. Back to the Future tells the story of Marty McFly, escaping to 1955 in a car-shaped time machine and entering the world of his parents when they were teen-agers. What choices will he make?
In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry and Hermione use a “time turner” to try to save Hogwarts. More recently, the superheroes of Avengers: Endgame use time travel to save the universe from a big purple monster man. These movies raise an intriguing question: If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?
The Book of Proverbs wants us to make good choices, so it says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, so you might grow wise in the future” (Proverbs 19:20). The writer knows that much pain and suffering would have been avoided if people had made better choices in the past.
For example, what if Reconstruction had been allowed to succeed after the end of the Civil War? Duke professor Sandy Darity says that former slaves would have enjoyed full political participation, control over the schooling of their children, and land grants of 40 acres for farming. The bad choices made after the Civil War created a climate of racism that still affects us today.
But God is at work, even when humans choose poorly. In the Book of Genesis, the brothers of Joseph abused him terribly, but when Joseph rose to power in Egypt he showed mercy toward them. They discovered that God was working toward a surprising conclusion, even when humans were acting in horrible ways. “Many plans are in a person’s mind,” says Proverbs, “but the Lord’s purpose will succeed” (verse 21).
In every time and place, God is working God’s purposes out. Sometimes we humans cooperate with God, and sometimes we don’t. But nothing deters God in the work of saving people from destruction. Even the bad things that we would like to change — in world history and in our own personal histories — can be transformed into good.
Nothing is wasted with God, even human tragedies. God made something good through Joseph and his brothers, and through Jesus on the cross. Each of us has made mistakes, but we don’t have to jump in a time machine and change the past. We can remember that God is always at work, turning evil into good. We can grow wise in the future, trusting God’s purposes to succeed.
Lord, help me to align my choices with your will each day. Amen.