I recently had a wonderful conversation with a young man in his early twenties. He was experiencing a conversion of heart that had renewed his interest in Catholic teaching on living God’s will. This young man had come to the conclusion that all his actions and decisions, no matter how large or small, had an effect on his life morally, spiritually and practically.
We talked about the responsibility we have as Catholic Christians to monitor the people and things we allow into our lives. I was fascinated and impressed by his insights and his journey, but I cautioned him against one part of his thinking process — he was taking too much responsibility for everything that happened in his life.
I explained to him that sometimes things do just happen. Friendships end, people die or move away; and earthquakes and floods can’t be caused by the decisions we make. Yes, we can choose whom we allow into our lives and where we live, but we don’t want to leave God’s will and intervention out of the equation.
If we take too much responsibility (or even credit), then we can develop a kind of reverse pride. God can take any situation and make good out it — even our mistakes. Mistakes are how we learn, so maybe the focus shouldn’t be to avoid all choices that can lead to mistakes, but learning to seek God’s will even when mistakes are made or when tragedy occurs.
Our priest recently gave a wonderful homily that brought this point to light. He was explaining the story of Joseph and his brothers who left him to die. He pointed out that when they left Joseph, he probably felt hurt, abandoned and angry; perhaps he even questioned God. Yet, Joseph remarks (after being reunited with his family) that he was where he was to save lives. I bet that Joseph did not consider in his wildest dreams that while he was being abandoned by those he loved most, he would rise to a place of power under Pharaoh and would even be responsible for helping his own family to survive the famine one day. God’s plan, not Joseph’s. Good out of bad, a success out of tragedy. Love out of rejection.
It is a delicate balance to make choices in all things that are pleasing to God but accept things that just seem to happen in our lives. Our choices are very important, but we should understand and embrace that God controls everything. God has a plan that we cannot always comprehend. He can make good out of bad and he can forgive all our transgressions when we seek his forgiveness.