Like the Turtle, Know & Guard Your Weaknesses

An illustration from the book, "Tortoises, Terrapins, and Turtles: Drawn from Life," by James de Carle Sowerby and Edward Lear, published in 1872.

An illustration from the book, “Tortoises, Terrapins, and Turtles: Drawn from Life,” by James de Carle Sowerby and Edward Lear, published in 1872.

My Darling Child,

The Bible is full of wonderful analogies and parables about animals. The writer of Proverbs 6 wants us to “go the the ant.” The prophet Isaiah laments that, “all we like sheep have gone astray.” Jesus declares that God sees even the smallest sparrow fall, so certainly He will care for His children whom He loves. Here is a little animal analogy of my own.

The turtle, or tortoise, is a vulnerable creature. His soft head, wrinkly neck, fleshy legs, and stumpy tail are easily torn by cat’s claws, dog’s jaws, or a hungry hawk’s beak. But the turtle knows his weaknesses, and when he senses danger, he tucks his head and limbs deep into his shell. Once he’s holed up inside, not even the cleverest or strongest predators can get at him without a great deal of difficulty.

Like the turtle, we all have our weak spots. Some of us are susceptible to flattery. Some to drinking. Others to lust or sexuality. The thing that makes us the strongest is not sweeping our weaknesses under the rug and pretending they don’t exist, but rather acknowledging our vulnerabilities so that we know when to tuck in and protect our extremities.

When you are confronted with something you know is poking and prodding at your weak spot, enclose yourself in the Holy Spirit by burying yourself in prayer. Pray that God would strengthen you, protect you, defend you, and uphold you. Confess your weakness both to yourself and to Christ. Once you have done that – once your holed up in the bulwark of God’s Spirit – not even Satan himself will be able to pry you out again.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.”
Psalm 27:1-5

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Never Regret Anything

Sorrowing Old Man (‘At Eternity’s Gate’), by Vincent van Gogh, 1890.

My Darling Child,

I have many regrets. I regret things I’ve done, things I’ve said, things I haven’t done – but most of all – I regret things that have happened to me. Part of this is because my childhood was filled with abuse and dysfunction, but I suspect that most people feel this way too. We all have dreams about how life is supposed to be, and so often we are disappointed.

Hurtful words and selfish actions can cause us to regret, but many times the things we regret the most are “what might have been.” Maybe looking back, we would have picked a different college degree, or called someone we loved one last time before they unexpectedly passed away. Maybe we regret buying something that didn’t turn out to be a good investment, or an innocent slip of the tongue embarrassed a friend or hurt someone’s feelings. Maybe we married someone who – in one way or another – wasn’t the kind of person we thought they were.

Many people will tell you not to have regrets. What they usually mean is, “Let the past live in the past. Everyone makes mistakes, so move on, and don’t worry about it.”

But can we really in good conscience not feel pangs of remorse for the bad or foolish things we’ve done? How can we not regret choices we’ve made – even those that seemed wise and good at the time – which changed our lives forever in ways we didn’t want?

My Darling Child, rest your heart in God’s sovereignty. Before the beginning of time, God knew you. He knew your strengths and your weaknesses, your challenges and your best attributes. He knew every mistake and sin you’d ever commit, and yet, He loved you!

Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”
Psalm 139:16

You see, God is a master-planner. He didn’t just design you and then step back to see what would happen. He is actively invested in you. In fact, He has invested His beloved Son’s very lifeblood in you! So never doubt that God has a plan for everything, even the things that you feel regretful about. In His wisdom, He foresaw every decision and happenstance – both good and bad – and in His mercy and providence He planned to bring about redemption through them all.

Even the worst atrocities of the wicked are used by God to bring about His sovereign plan. Remember Judas, and how he betrayed Christ. Jesus knew what Judas was going to do. Nevertheless, He courageously allowed Himself to be led like a sheep to the slaughter, so that – at the proper place, in the perfect time – the centurion would declare, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:39.

If God can use Judas’ infamous sin for His redemptive work, He can certainly use the sins of his children! Remember the three denials of Peter, and the violent reputation of Paul before he was saved.

All this is not to say that we shouldn’t learn from our mistakes, or avoid and despise sin, but we can find peace knowing that God’s righteous plan will come to fulfillment regardless of how badly we stumble. We can take comfort knowing that we are sinners, just like the very greatest saints of the Gospel, and we are demonstrating to the world that Jesus is powerful to save.

The next time you regret hurting someone’s feelings, think about what God has given you; the opportunity to repent, humble yourself, apologize, and demonstrate God’s redemptive work in your heart. The next time you make a decision that doesn’t turn out the way you planned, remember that it turned out exactly the way God planned. Pray, and be drawn closer to God through your struggles and uncertainty. Wherever life takes you, witness to those around you, and above all, find joy – not regret – in the opportunity.

God is sovereign, and God is good. He planned for it all, and He’s working through you – even on your toughest days – to bring about His will. Never look over your shoulder and regret the hazards God has guided you through. Instead, marvel at the beauty of His grace for guiding you through the hazards.

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:15-17

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Genesis 50:20