When Our Best Intentions Make a Mess of Things:

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Nothing is better than having a second set of hands around the house, in the office, or while working on a project. Having a second set of hands makes any task easier and faster, unless that second set of hands are those of a toddler. I know this because I happen to have two toddlers, and they’ve entered the horribly wonderful stage of wanting to help with everything… and I mean everything. “Daddy, can I help you with the dishes?” “Daddy, can I help you in the yard?” “Daddy, can I help you type on your computer?” Don’t get me wrong, I love that my girls are watching, learning, and wanting to pitch in, but I’m also a guy who values efficiency. It takes me five minutes to do the dishes or pick up the yard on my own, but 25 minutes with my toddler sidekick. A couple of days ago, my girls wanted to help clear the table. The result was a mess that ended in a fully swept, vacuumed, and mopped kitchen floor.

Anyone with kids knows the wonderful tension of balancing the attempt to teach young children basic life tasks with making it anywhere on time. The reason is that, despite a toddler’s best intentions, they will make a mess. It’s as sure as death and taxes.  My daughters want to help, but in that desire, they often create more work.

We’ve all tried to make something better and had it backfire on us. It’s one thing for a toddler to make a mess cleaning up the kitchen; it’s something completely different when you, as an adult, despite your best intentions, make life worse while trying to improve it.  Our culture is filled with “self-help” books, experts, seminars, podcasts, and more that represent a 10 billion dollar per year industry in the United States alone. We live in a culture that is all about improving, achieving, and making ourselves better. There seems to be a desire for something more wired into all of us. Unfortunately, when we attempt to achieve this “better” life on our own, we nearly always find ourselves falling short. Perhaps that is because we are using our own human wisdom to find what we think we need. If we’re attempting to find the “better” in our life based off the advice of this world, then we’re missing the most important part. In 1 Corinthians 1:20b, the Apostle Paul wrote, “God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish.”

This past weekend, Ben talked about this idea of how sometimes when we try to make something better, we can actually make it worse. In fact, he showed how Jesus turned the culture and wisdom of his day upside-down. In Matthew 5:3-10, Jesus shares what we know as “The Beatitudes.” The Beatitudes are a collection of sayings that reveal the foolishness of the world’s wisdom. The Beatitudes tap into the way that God has wired life to actually work better.

Our culture tells us things like, “If you believe it, you can achieve it,” “Ignorance is bliss,” “No good deed goes unpunished,” or “Nice guys finish last.” Jesus flips that thinking on its head as he reveals the Beatitudes:

Matthew 5:3-10

3God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,

   for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

4God blesses those who mourn,

   for they will be comforted.

5God blesses those who are humble,

   for they will inherit the whole earth.

6God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,

   for they will be satisfied.

7God blesses those who are merciful,

   for they will be shown mercy.

8God blesses those whose hearts are pure,

   for they will see God.

9God blesses those who work for peace,

   for they will be called the children of God.

10God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,

   for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

 

This past weekend, Ben unpacked how the first three Beatitudes fly in the face of common cultural beliefs. Americans love to say things like, “If you believe it, you can achieve it.” In the first Beatitude, Jesus taught us that it’s okay to admit our limits. Those who are “poor” are really those who know their limits, especially spiritually, and admit their need for Christ above all else.

The second Beatitude, “God blesses those who mourn,” confronts cultural thinking that says things like “ignorance is bliss” or “never let them see you sweat.” To mourn is to admit that something is wrong. Jesus is saying that it is important to be present in reality and not try to avoid or ignore the issues we face. Those who mourn understand that things aren’t perfect. By being in touch with reality, they’re able to be comforted.

The third Beatitude, “God blesses those who are humble,” confronts the notion that to get ahead and achieve, we have to show strength and make progress at the expense of others. Those who are humble understand that life isn’t all about them. A humble person can set their pride aside and receive what Christ has in store for them.

Every one of these Beatitudes helps reveal the fact that following Jesus makes life better and makes us better at life.

Questions:
What are some sayings you’ve used to try to make life better that may actually make life worse?

What are some actions you’ve attempted to make life better that backfired?

How does your approach to making life better change when you factor God into the equation?

Prayer:
Dear Lord, you are all wise. You created me, and thus you know what I need. Forgive me for attempting to use worldly wisdom to make my life better instead of relying on you and your wisdom. Help me to see the areas where I’m trying to make my life better without you. Align my thinking with your teaching in the Beatitudes so that I am poor in spirit, humble, and able to mourn properly. Thank you for inviting me into your story. In Jesus name, amen.


This post was written by Alex Woody. Alex is the Director of Students at the West Toledo Campus of CedarCreek Church. He has an amazing wife and two joy-filled daughters who can regularly be found filling the West Toledo lobby with laughter and smiles.


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1 reply
  1. Ben Snyder
    Ben Snyder says:

    Its true, Alex. I have moments in my past that I embraced things that I thought would make life better and it didn’t. One in particular was in college when I assumed I could live with “no regrets.” Only to wake up one day after months of doing whatever felt right in the moment – with regrets.

    The good news is that God doesn’t just leave us there to figure it out and “help ourselves” – he meets us there to offer help and hope.

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