Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

As I thought about the final article (1) for 2011, I was reminded of the fact that this is often the time of year that men begin to think about the previous year and years which leads to what I call the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” syndrome.  A man looks at his past and too many times gets focused on past mistakes and what the world might deem as failures and he says “I should have done this and I would have …;” or “If I could have done that life would be different…;” or “If they would have done this then I would be …”.

I find it interesting that few men have clear foresight but most have 20/20 hindsight.  In fact, most men have such good hindsight that we are quick to point out the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” in other men we know so we don’t have to deal with our own.  We say things like “I told you so” or “you wouldn’t listen to me.”  I am so thankful that our Heavenly Father has a different approach to hindsight.  I want to share with you some thoughts about how God deals with us … even in hindsight.

Psalm 37 is written by David when he was older and had some valuable life lessons to share.  In the second half of this psalm, he gives us some important thoughts about hindsight particularly as it relates to God.  David is described in God’s Word as “a man after God’s own heart” yet he was far from perfect and had a variety of tribulations to go along with his accomplishments.  A man would do well to pay attention to the life of David and how he learned from his mistakes to return to the path God desired for him.

The first life lesson that David gives us is that in hindsight, God never forsakes His own.  He says “If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.  I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.  They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed.” (2)   Not a one of us can say we have not stumbled at some point in our lives and in fact, some of us have made a practice of it!  Yet David is confirming a promise our Heavenly Father has made to us.

That promise is God will never leave us or forsake us!  If we are striving to live in righteousness (remember: nothing we do can make us righteous only what God has already done for us because righteousness is nothing more than having a right relationship with God) the more we will have the ability to recognize God being by our side no matter the situation or circumstances in our lives.  It is when we move away from that right relationship that we begin having those thoughts of being abandoned or left alone.  You see in those times it is not God moving away from us but us moving away from Him.

The second life lesson David gives us is in hindsight God always blesses His own.  While this may sound particularly controversial, especially in 2011, it has been demonstrated throughout the history of mankind.  Some of you reading this article have experienced significant challenges this year, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of a home or business and you are saying “Thunder I don’t get what you are saying because I don’t feel very blessed right now.”  David writes “Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever.  For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off; the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.  The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just.  The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip.  The wicked lie in wait for the righteous, seeking their very lives; but the LORD will not leave them in their power or let them be condemned when brought to trial.  Wait for the LORD and keep his way.  He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.” (3)

So what evil is David telling us to move away from?  It is the evil of doubt and questioning of God’s desire to bless us when we are facing hardships and challenges.  David tells us that the Lord loves the just and the only way we can be viewed as “just” is through what Jesus Christ has done for us.  You see when we enter into a personal relationship with Jesus, no matter what our life may have been before Christ, we are “justified” by what he did for us on the cross.  That personal relationship makes us just in the sight of God and even in the difficult times in our lives we must remember that God will not forsake the “faithful ones.”  David is talking about two very important aspects of our life in Christ and that is faith and patience.  He tells us to “wait on the Lord and keep his way” which most men find difficult because most of us tend to have little patience therefore we find it extremely difficult to wait on anything.  It certainly doesn’t help when we live in a society that is driven by immediate gratification but David’s words are just as applicable today as they were in the day they were written.  For many of us when we reflect on a past life situation that seemed to be undesirable, we now see God’s hand in it and we recognize what a blessing it really was.  There may be times when we think God has forgotten or forsaken us and then in hindsight we see clearly how God was right with us all the time and in fact He blessed us as we went through the situation.

The third life lesson from this psalm is in hindsight of what really honors God the most is to fully trust Him even when you cannot see what He has in store for you.  “But all sinners will be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be cut off.  The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.  The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.” (4)  You see it is in these challenging and difficult times in our lives that we must remember that the Lord is our stronghold.  God promises to deliver us but we must always remember that He is on His timetable not ours.  David closes this passage with a very, very important reminder.  He says “The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.”  WOW, what an incredible summary of everything David tells us in this passage.  Men, we need to take refuge in the Lord at all times and in all circumstances.  When we do this we won’t worry about what is coming in the future because we will be focused on fully enjoying the present moment with our Lord.

My prayer is that you will take this opportunity to learn from David’s advice given in this Psalm.  As we celebrate this sacred time of year let’s not forget the promises that our Heavenly Father has made to us.  The fact is we can fully and completely rely on God’s promises.  He has never failed to carry out what He has promised and with that kind of track record, we can certainly depend on Him continuing to do exactly what He says He will do.  MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU AND YOURS!  Remember, Jesus IS the reason for the season!

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(1)  This article is based on concepts and ideas from a sermon entitled “The Benefits of Hindsight” delivered by Dr. Michael Youssef, Pastor of the Church of Apostles in Atlanta, GA.  This sermon was heard on American Family Radio on 12/6/11.

(2)  Psalm 37:23-26.  All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV 1984 translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.

(3) Psalm 37:27-34

(4) Psalm 37:38-40

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