Not long ago, I was talking with a friend who has been going through a lot of changes. He has been making some difficult decisions in order to get his life in order and I have been really proud of the direction his life is taking. But on this particular day, my friend was expressing regret about all of the time he had wasted, doing things the way he wanted instead of following God's directions. He was worried about the possibility that he had ruined the plans God had for him and that now it was too late for him. I told him, "I don't think that is the way it works. God is smart enough to know we are going to be stupid and how long we are going to be stupid and plan accordingly."
He appreciated the sentiment and seemed encouraged, but when the conversation was over I decided it would be nice to find something from scripture that either confirmed or denied what I had told him. There are of course numerous places where God's knowledge of our lives is expressed. In Psalm 139, the psalmist confesses, "You know what I am going to say even before I say it. You both precede and follow me….You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed" (Psalm 139:4-5 & 16, NLT). But that just reassures us about God's knowledge, not that God does anything with that knowledge to plan for our shortcomings.
So I started looking at the lives of people. The first person I thought of was Peter. Peter, of course, was the disciple who denied that he even knew Jesus while Jesus was on trial and about to be executed. Luke 22, records one telling of Peter's story. In verse 34, Jesus warns Peter that the brash disciple will deny him three times before the rooster crows. But in the verses before that, Jesus tells Peter, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers" (Luke 22:31-32, NIV). Notice, Jesus knew that Peter was going to fail him, he knew precisely when it would happen, and he knew that Peter would eventually get himself straightened out and become a source of strength for the other disciples.
I found another example in the lives of the sons of Jacob, when Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery. If you remember, Joseph spent time as a slave and as a prisoner before a providential encounter with Pharaoh's cup-bearer gave Joseph the chance to interpret a dream and become Prime Minister of Egypt. As a result, Joseph was able to help Egypt survive during a time of famine and provide for his family. In Genesis 50:20, Joseph describes to his brothers what God had done when they are fearful of Joseph's revenge. Joseph states, "As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil. He brought me to the high position I have today so that I could save the lives of many people" (NLT). Not only, was God able to plan around the sin and malicious spirits of Joseph's brothers, God actually used their sin and malicious intent as an avenue to save them!
If you are trying to get your life back on track, attempting to follow where God leads, but you are worried that you have already messed up too much and ruined God's plans for you, take a word of encouragement from my friend. God knows we are going to be stupid. God knows how long we are going to be stupid. And not only can God plan accordingly, God can even take our sinful pasts and turn them into something useful for good.
Don't be discouraged, thinking your past has disqualified your from receiving God's blessings. God has a way of planning around our stupidity.