In our last article, “Broken Bread: God’s Hand in Your Suffering,” we looked at the general subject of grief, suffering, trials, tribulations. We see that they are gifts from our Father to fill in our holes, our wants, and for us to take into ourselves and process for the life of those around us. We become bread, broken for the nourishment of others, bread broken in communion of the body.
But it’s important to dive a little deeper. Are all trials and tribulations the same? Do they all have the same results? Do we handle them all in a similar fashion?
I think there are about four different types of trials. The first “trial,” if you will, is a result of foolish decisions or behavior. Solomon writes,
I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding: and, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: so shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man. (Prov. 24:30-34)
Solomon had a habit of observing what was going on around him – he had a keen perception of the obvious, but he also had a perception of why something was the way it was.
In this case, Solomon understood why this particular property was decrepit: it was due to the ethical decrepitude of its steward or owner. The owner, described as “the slothful,” made an ethical decision. He decided to value “a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep” rather than diligent, faithful work. The result was that his vineyard – his means of survival and living – was destroyed; and the wall – both of protection against intruders, and as a symbol of wise judgment – was “broken down.” Indeed, just one short chapter later, Solomon expands on this wall: “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.”
The slothful man will soon find himself going through a trial. However, this is not martyrdom or persecution for our Lord, as happened to the Covenanters in Scotland, or those of the early church. This is not suffering.
This is because he was stupid. Biblically, he was foolish, fool-ish: “The fool hath said in his heart, … no God” (Psa. 14:1). God requires diligent work and thrift, stewarding the resources under our hands – and sure enough, this turkey said “No” to God and His ways – and now, by golly, look what happened! Everything is collapsing around this man’s head due to his foolish, unwise, and sinful decisions. This is a trial of his own making.
When we find ourselves in situations brought about by our own foolish decisions – perhaps to put off mowing the lawn this weekend so we can relax, or to decide not to work today (even though we know we should) because we “really just need a break,” we shouldn’t be surprised when God’s hard-wired cause and effect comes into play.
Some of us struggle with laziness and sloth. It takes work to overcome, of course – it won’t solve itself magically, nor by simply “being a Christian.” Overcoming sin requires a positive plan, a gameplan, to move forward with.
Our response should be, first, a humble recognition of our foolish decision. (Sometimes, we can find ourselves in situations due to genuinely not knowing something. That’s not what I’m talking about here.) We blew it. We see it now. If we don’t see it and we randomly find ourselves in this tough spot, we should look closer and pray for the Lord to help us see it.
Second, we should go to those who may have been adversely affected by our sinful decision – our family, perhaps – and acknowledge that we made a foolish decision or took part in foolish behavior. We’re to confess our sin humbly – own it.
Third, we need to change direction entirely. What does God require of us in this particular situation? If we were not taking care of our house, vineyard, and wall, we need to immediately begin to take care of those things. Draw up a very concrete gameplan – not simply “I’ll work to do better.” Show it on paper. What’s your business plan? Exactly how are you going to “do better”? If you need to, get outside counsel with drawing up your gameplan. Set aside time. Re-prioritize. Outsource. Make changes.
Fourth, we need to learn from our foolish choices. In God’s providence, we made them – and we need to learn from them. What happened when you chose to make that foolish decision? What was the result? What does God’s Word say about the decision or behavior? How are we going to get out of this mess – or, looking back, how did we get out of that mess? How can we package the experience and wisdom to pass on to others who either have made or are about to make similar foolish decisions? “Watch out! Here’s what’s going to happen.”
In God’s providence, I went through a lengthy period of foolishness with budgeting. I refused to use a budget because I found them challenging and difficult, hard to keep up with, and constricting. Then I bewailed my situation when I found myself running out of money halfway through the end of the month – when I found my vineyard and wall broken down due to my slothfulness. It took about two years to overcome these slothful patterns, working with a wise, godly man – and (not) learning the same lesson time and time again. It felt like I was suffering; my life was just so hard; we never had enough money; how would we ever get out of this hole?
The answer was personal discipline. I took two practical steps to overcome this issue of financial sloth. First, I started using a budget envelope system. I literally opened eight bank accounts for eight different categories – and on the first of the month, put the money into those “envelopes.” (This idea was due to someone else, who paid attention to their challenges and passed their wisdom on to me!) I also outsourced the financial paperwork largely to my wife – and it has been a great help me. Second, I realized I needed to increase my income. Even with budgeting, we simply didn’t have enough! So, I put out more advertisements for my services, contacted more prospective clients, grew more aggressive and diligent in closing deals, and ordered my daily and weekly schedule so that I could put the energy needed into such work. Wonder of wonders, we’re out of that hole, today! Perfectly? No, but we have made tremendous strides by God’s grace.
This is broken bread.
We take what our Lord sends us – even through our own foolish, sinful decisions – and we learn. We process it. We pay attention, we grow, we learn, and we repackage it for others.
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4)
May our Lord bless us in bringing us to faithfulness after our own foolishness. May we truly be grateful for all His providences, even the hard ones we pulled down on our own heads through being stupid and unwise – and let us give and break ourselves and our experiences for those around us.