At the age of fifty, Celeste Brown wondered how she had made such a mess of her life. She had worked hard most of that time, raising two children and trying to be a good wife. Now, looking back, she wondered what she had to show for it all.
The truth is, Celeste was going through a time of feeling lonely and unfulfilled. It wasn’t that she had no one in her life: she knew people at work, enjoyed a few of her neighbors and had her mother and brother living close by. She had a pretty comfortable life with enough to live on and the ability to indulge some of her wants as well. But as she pondered her situation, she kept coming back to feelings of emptiness.
Josh Miller had been thinking much the same thing for the past few years. At thirty-six he had a challenging job, made good money, had friends and enjoyed recreational activities– but nothing seemed to satisfy. There was a hollowness that seemed to dog his steps. Then, when his wife left him last year, taking their 10 year old, his world just caved in.
Though the circumstances of their lives were different, Celeste Brown and Josh Miller had made the same fundamental mistakes years before they became so unhappy. Both of them were genuine Christians. Because of this, they both knew their eternal destiny with God was assured. They were members of solid churches. Neither were living openly sinful or rebellious lives
In both cases however, their mistake came shortly after their initial step of faith in Jesus. Neither had felt early on that it was important to take their commitment to Christ seriously. They each had their own goals and desires to pursue, and since they believed their salvation was secure, it couldn’t make that much difference how they lived. Jesus Christ, whom they named as Lord, had come to make very little practical difference in their lives. As a result, they experienced a very stunted spiritual growth.
What directions their lives might have taken had they chosen to take their faith in Christ more seriously is difficult to say. Josh had felt a strong calling to the ministry in his early walk with Christ, but instead, he chose a career, which gave him immediate financial returns. His financial success had indeed brought him closer to several of his life’s goals, but in his more lucid moments, Josh wondered whether his success was a blessing or a curse. For her part, Celeste had been painfully aware that her plans to marry Bryan were not God’s perfect will, but she was determined. She had assured her worried parents and friends that Bryan’s open distaste for religion would not affect her faith negatively. Now, she had to admit that at least some of the concerns about her marriage she had resented so vehemently were actually justified.
At the very least, the lives of Celeste and Josh would have been much different had they actually trusted God and seen his will as the source of joy, rather than as a roadblock to happiness. But all that was water under the bridge now. Any joys, growth, ministry and blessing were reduced to might-have-beens.
How sad for an entire life to be summarized as a “might-have-been”. Josh and Celeste are merely characters invented to make a point. The real tragedy is the fact that there are thousands of people whose stories fit theirs. Before I conclude, it is important to make it very clear that I am not one of those preachers who continually push people to be better Christians or be more faithful in church activity. In my experience, that is a quick way to get burned out on the whole business. Jesus came with the message “I have come so that they might have life and have it more abundantly,” (John 10:10). I take these words at face value: following Jesus is nothing less than the way to fulfillment and joy and peace.
The truly good news for the many people like Celeste and Josh is that they still have a choice. In God’s mercy, it is never too late to make a fresh start. So, whether you are 36, or 50, or 21, or 87—simply stop and ask God to help you make a clean and long-lasting break with the old ways. Take the first steps toward that new life of abundance by plugging into a church or group which can help you not only develop new life patterns, but encourage and equip you in serving others. Find some folks to hold you accountable. Take some risks for God (be sure they are the kind of risks affirmed in the Bible). Look for God’s blessings and watch your life change!