…the parched land shall become a pool, and the thirsty lands springs of water…(Isaiah 35:7)

Natural Consequences

Being a Child of God

By Rex Goode

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I recently came across a story** about an Anglican vicar who  regularly preached about the love of God and the hope of eternal life because of the mercy God shows to those who believe in him.

Much of his preaching was also about the effects of God’s love on our lives, how he deals mercifully with us from day to day, despite our many failings.

His flock took great comfort in his words and he was well-loved. He was tolerant, kind, and had a knack for solving mysteries.

He also had a knack for making poor decisions and saying little about the poor decisions his friends were making. The consequences of that were that other friends got hurt and his own relationships were damaged because he stood by and said nothing. In the name of friendship and tolerance, he remained silent.

As they always do, natural consequences followed and he suffered and many of his friends suffered. This led to a crisis of faith and he found himself in the archdeacon’s office complaining about the Church’s lack of compassion. In his mind, it was the Church’s rules that caused all of the misery.

Do we really believe that the love of God will not only help us find eternal life, but will also shield us from the natural consequences of our choices? Is the result of faith a wall of protection that keeps us untouched by the things that happen when we make choices?

I will hazard to say that faith is not a guarantee that we won’t suffer. In fact, not only will we suffer if we have faith, we may suffer more. We may even suffer when we make good choices.

Often, the consequences for standing for what is right are alienation, fear, and even violence. We lose friends who don’t want to hear the truth. We endure threats and anger.

It is also true that some people never seem to suffer consequences for the things they do. It is a harsh reality that natural consequences are not well-ordered. Positive and negative consequences happen for good and bad behavior. It may not seem fair, but is nonetheless true.

I was a pretty good boy. Getting punished was a rare occasion, but I knew well how to stay out of trouble, or at least how to not get caught.

I remember a few times when I was sent to my room for a timeout, and spent an hour or so waiting for one of my parents to come through the door and beg my forgiveness for being so harsh and unreasonable with me. It never happened. I would eventually fall asleep and wake up in a better mood.

Now, if I compare that to God, you might think I’m saying that He has something to do with the natural consequences we suffer, and I would readily agree that He does. As in all good things, His hand is in it. Yet, I do not think of it as punishment as much as education.

What I’ve tried to learn from natural consequences is that my Heavenly Father doesn’t want me to be a spoiled brat, a child of God who thinks that his faith is a free pass out of all suffering. I need to understand that what I do not only affects me, but that anyone around me might get hurt too. Misbehaving isn’t something to play around with.

I’ve been reading a lot in the Doctrine and Covenants lately, a set of revelations to the Prophet Joseph Smith, which we believe are the direct words of Christ to those of us living in modern times. He said this:

1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you whom I love, and whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation, and I have loved you—

2 Wherefore, ye must needs be chastened and stand rebuked before my face (D&C 95:1–2);

I have read verse after verse where the Lord talks about forgiving the sins of individuals that repent after He chastises them. It gives me great hope in the mercy of God. I need it very much.

I’m a child of God, simply because of my birth. As a child, I need to accept the guidance of my Father in Heaven if I am ever to receive the inheritance of a true son. If I suffer for doing good, it is a privilege (2 Corinthians 1:7). If I suffer for doing wrong, God deals with me as a son (Hebrews 12:7–8). I can’t lose.

Rex Goode

* By Francisco Masseria (1926-2002) (Own pictures) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
** Masterpiece Mystery! Grantchester Season 3 DVD

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