Responding to a plea for help, the message “You should have done x,” seems unhelpful. “X” is what you could have done right.
Study the Bible and your own life also. Most people seem to realize why things went wrong. They already know that had they done “x,” they would not have to deal with the mess that is now on their hands. Most of the time it is obvious.
What genius was it that said, “Hindsight is 20/20″? Let’s see how this relates to the truth in the Bible.
Focus on the solution
Imperfect people make bad decisions, bad judgements and careless mistakes that often cause problems in life. However, life has no rewind button. You did “X” and it cannot be undone. Now what? Many counselors probably say that you should learn from your mistakes and work toward a solution. How many times have motivational speakers advised people to focus on the solution, not the problem? Preoccupying oneself with the problem wastes time and does not help solve the problem.
Even a study of the Bible scriptures seems to encourage us as Christians to get over some things.
… forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before… (Philippians 3:13)
What happens when God says, “You should have done x”?
While looking for a solution to the problem at hand, what happens when we pray to God and He replies, “You should have done x”? Here you turn to the Almighty for mercy and grace in the time of need and He says, “Things could have been different.” How frustrating, but that really can happen. It happened to Israel in Psalms 80, a Psalm of Asaph which is the text for this study in the Bible.
Israel is in trouble with God
Israel and God were at odds; the Psalmist thought that now was a good time to clear the air. He asks for the ear of the Shepherd of Israel (v1) and begs him to save them in verse 2. Asaph acknowledges the need for deliverance in verse 3 and asks for God to deliver His people.
The name of the game has been trouble for some time (v4) during which sorrow and grief have been the staple of life in Israel. Asaph asks God to “turn us again” to fellowship with God and life according to His will.
That prayer sounds really good at first, but God’s answer gives us cause to think again.
God’s answer to prayer
Unswayed by the prayer in Psalms 80, God reminds Asaph of past deliverance (v6-7)
I removed his shoulder from the burden: his hands were delivered from the pots. Thou calledst in trouble, and I delivered thee; I answered thee in the secret place of thunder: I proved thee at the waters of Meribah.
Then God reminds him of His requirements…
Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee: O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me; There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god. I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it. (Psalms 81:8-10)
… and of their disobedience.
But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. (Psalm 81:11)
Because of this, God let them go their own way (v12). In verse 13, God says, “You should have listened to me.”
Rubbing it in
The “You should have done x” answer wasn’t good enough in this situation. God went on to remind them how they should have a good life right now.
- Enemies subdued and afflicted (v14).
- Those enemies would have turned to God (v15).
- After being converted, those enemies should have endured forever (v15).
- Israel should have feasts on the best wheat and honey out of the rock (v16).
God’s criticisms continue into Psalms 82 and beyond. God answered the call for deliverance with a response that seems totally useless.
I didn’t do that!
Why would God deny His people of His salvation? Why would He not deliver when their enemies laughed at them? Look in Psalm 80 verses 5, 6 and 12 for the answer.
Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and givest them tears to drink in great measure. Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours: and our enemies laugh among themselves. Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? (Psalm 80:12)
The Bible study here shows that the Psalmist says that all these bad things came upon the people at the hand of God. These statements did not sit well with God, so He decided to set the record straight: He didn’t cause their pain; they did.
This truth in the Word in these Bible verses teach us an important lesson. When life goes bad and we ask “Why?”, God might tell us why. “It’s your fault, not mine,” He says.
True religion must accept personal responsibility. God wants to forgive. God wants to restore. Have no doubt about that. However, when we hold God responsible for the results of decisions we make, we set ourselves up for a huge lecture and a delay in deliverance. James put it this way:
Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss…(James 4:3)
Ask better questions and you will get better answers
Rather than asking God, “Why are you doing this to me?,” Better results might come if you prayed “God be merciful to me a sinner” instead.
Don’t ask amiss. Ask better questions of God and His answers will dramatically improve.