Why Does God Let Us Mess Things Up So Badly?

By Mark D. Roberts

December 27, 2017

Why, LORD, do you make us wander from your ways
and harden our hearts so we do not revere you?
Return for the sake of your servants,
the tribes that are your inheritance.

Isaiah 63:17


As the prophet looks upon the mess Israel made of its life, his thoughts turn to the mystery of God’s inaction, or even God’s participation in the rebellion of Israel: “Why, LORD, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you?” (63:17).

A broken Christmas ornament shattered on the floor.If you’ve walked with the Lord for a while, I expect you’ve had questions like these. If you’ve made poor choices for your life, and these choices have led to much suffering, you’ve no doubt wondered why God let you make such a mess of your life. Why didn’t he guide you differently? Why didn’t he intervene?

Isaiah does not answer these questions for us. Nor does the Lord, in response to Isaiah. Yet Isaiah reaffirms just how much we need God’s help, even if we don’t understand God’s ways. “Return for the sake of your servants” (63:17). Implied in this cry for God to return is the belief that when God does this, he will help and heal his people.

Similarly, when we suffer because of the poor decisions we have made, we realize that we need God’s help. The good news is that, although God’s ways are often mysterious to us, nevertheless God is there to help us. As we read in Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Take that to heart. God is your “ever-present help” in the tough times, the sad times, the times when you feel overwhelmed and afraid.


Have you ever wondered why God allowed you to make such a mess of your life? When?

Why do you think God gives us such freedom?

Do you need God’s help now? In what way or ways?

Have you asked for this help in prayer? If not, will you? If so, will you ask again?


Gracious God, you know there have been many times in my life when I have asked questions just like those of Isaiah. I have wondered why you have let me make such painful mistakes in my life. And sometimes, Lord, it even seems as if you have given me a stubborn heart to oppose you. None of this makes much sense to me.

Yet what I know without question is that you are a wise and merciful God, and I am constantly in need of your help. So, even when I can’t figure out what you’re doing in my life, or not doing, I still come to you for help. Return to help me, Lord, for I am your servant.

Today, I pray for all who are suffering because of poor choices they have made. May they turn to you in humility. May you reach out to them in your mercy. Help them, Lord! Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
Christmas Reflection: When the Going Gets Tough

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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