Matt Coker | @BackRowOnline
Growing up, I never expected to be the guy that had federal agents tearing through my apartment.
I never expected to weep into my wife's shoulder as I confessed my sinful behavior.
I never expected to wake up in a concrete cell day-in and day-out.
I never expected to sit through a 12-step recovery meeting.
And most of all, I never expected, that if something like this were to happen in my life, that a few years later, I'd be extremely grateful for all of it.
Ten years ago, in December of 2005, I made the biggest mistake of my life. This mistake threatened to crush my faith, destroy my marriage, erase my future family, leave me friendless, churchless, homeless, and imprisoned for life, both physically and mentally.
Today, though my life still bears scars from that mistake, my life is far better than it has ever been. My faith is strong. My marriage is a rock. My family is growing. My friends are plentiful. My church accepts and loves me. My life is secure. And I am free -- physically, mentally, and spiritually!
And it's all because God gave me the gift of failure. He let me get caught. Let me face the consequences of my actions. Let me realize just how addicted I was.
Then, he used all of it to change me. To change my heart. To change my goals. To change my future.
And he's not done with me yet, oh no. I can still be better. I still have flaws. I still have fears. But because he gave me the gift of failure, I can learn and grow from it.
That's all failure is: A chance to try again. To start over. To be better. To get help.
If God hadn't let me fail and get caught, I could be still stuck in that addiction -- unusable by God and not even trying to grow in the faith -- or I could be far worse off -- driven even further into that addiction to the point that I DID, in fact, lose everything in my life except for it.
But I praise God for failure, I praise God for suffering, I praise God for consequences, because they made me realize that the only chance I have is to rely on Him!
It wasn't an easy thing to do, it took a lot of work to get to the point where I could have enough faith to put my addiction in the hands of God, but He got me there. He mapped out every step, put every person I needed in front of me, brought me to Celebrate Recovery, and gave me every chance in the world to work to look more and more like a reflection of Him instead of the failure I was.
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon... “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:4, 10-14
You probably recognized Jeremiah 29:11 in there, because it's used as an encouraging verse to high school graduates and the like... but when you surround it by the whole story, it's a promise in the middle of God allowing his people to fail.
The Israelites had time and time again abandoned God, and so this time, God allowed them to be captured -- to face their own consequences -- knowing that this would cause them to come back to him, to cry out for him, and he promised that when that happened, he would bring them back home.
He does have plans for you! But he's not going to force them on you. If you would rather sit in your addiction, in your sin, and let those plans pass you by, that is your choice. But until then, God is going to do whatever he can to get your attention and to bring you back to him (or to him in the first place, if you have yet to accept the gift of salvation). And if that means letting you suffer a little because of something you've done, so be it.
I praise God that he did that for me! Because if he hadn't, I wouldn't be where I am today, and even though where I am today is already amazing and a blessing beyond what I deserve, I get the feeling that that plans God has for me have only just begun!
Tomorrow morning, thank God for all the gifts he's given you. The gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. The gift of eternity in Heaven. And the gift of failure -- so you can learn to rely on Him.
Matt Coker is the Ministry Director of The Back Row. He is married to a beautiful woman he met when they were both in youth group and they have one mischievous son together. Matt collects Funko Pop figures, loves time travel movies, and enjoys exotic jerky meats. You can contact Matt via the contact page or on Twitter at @BackRowOnline.