But Make Sure Now: on failure and a clear path forward

Idyllic rural landscape in golden light

“Don’t be afraid,” Samuel reassured them, “You have certainly done wrong, but make sure now that you worship the Lord with all your heart and don’t turn your back on Him.”

1 Samuel 12:20


Life is full of bad calls. There are plenty of moments where I demand the wrong thing, when I put my trust in something unsure, when my heart chooses to worship someone or something less worthy, where I take a step or make a choice I can’t take back.

Here in this passage, Israel finally acknowledged their sin in rejecting God and demanding a human king, and I thought it was worth considering Samuel’s response:

Yes, you were wrong, but now do this.

“…but make sure now…”

Words that breathe the life of moving forward into the hollow emotion of regret.

When I acknowledge that I’ve been off, the very next right step is just what Samuel describes: worship the Lord with all your heart and do not turn your back on Him.

The natural response to failure is to pull away from the light that exposes it, but God asks us to do the opposite and lean in.

But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

1 John 1:7-9

His answer is not to withdraw, to pull back, or to turn away. His directions to Israel were this:

Give yourself wholly to me again. Don’t turn away. Don’t turn back. Remember who I am and all I have done for you. You have certainly done wrong. BUT NOW DO THIS. Because we are not finished.

Step one to moving forward from failure is always this: Take your eyes off of the regret and put them on the One who moves you past it and into new chances and clean slates. Because He is not finished with you.

…I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Philippians 3:13-14



Help me this day, as I acknowledge my own stumbling, to lay down  my obsession with getting it perfect and take up an excitement toward a God who is not limited by my failures and always offers me a way forward from my heaviest moments.

Donkey-Hunting Days: on small tasks and grand purpose

lost donkeys

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord, “And my ways are far beyond anything you can imagine.”

Isaiah 55:8


I was reading 1 Samuel 9 this week, a story that starts out with a young Saul looking for his father’s donkeys and ends with an unexpected twist. After searching everywhere for the lost donkeys, Saul and his servant seek out the man of God, hoping, as a last resort, that he might be able to tell them where else to look. The seer does eventually answer their question about the donkeys, but not before announcing that Saul was the one God had just chosen to be Israel’s first king.

How bizarre that must have sounded to Saul, who started his day with one goal: find the donkeys.

He was not expecting meals of honor and anointing oil and prophecies about ruling the country or being the chosen one. He was barely expecting to be successful at donkey-hunting.

And yet, God had a different purpose for this day than Saul did.

I think, especially on the day I read this: sick-in-bed day #3, at the end of 9 months of nausea, in the midst of 10 months of transition, the story of Saul’s day was reassuring. Sometimes I look at all I’m working toward and it’s moving so slowly that I wonder if it will add up to anything at all. I feel like I have a lot of donkey-hunting days.

But the way Saul’s day turned out is a reminder to me that all I need to do is be faithful with the task before me and open to the possibility that God might have something entirely different in mind.

We never know for sure what our many, simple donkey-hunting days are building toward.

And He can build grand, sweeping moments into any one of them. 

It is His to infuse my moments with calling and purpose. It is mine simply to listen and look for His direction – even in small things like “where should I look next for the donkeys?”

So may I lean forward, content to do my best with what’s in front of me and, at the same time, expecting Him to use a life that seeks Him out in ways I could never imagine.



Help me to trust you even with days that feel monotonous and unimportant: with transition days and sick days, with moving days and just meet-basic-needs days. You have made each of them and I can treat them as sacred unto you.

If I use them, even the simplest of them, just to be faithful to set my heart on you, you will be faithful not to waste it.


“…He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Hebrews 11:6