Friends of ours asked various people to offer their counsel to their eighteen year old son. Here is what I wrote:
I was not a Christian at eighteen so you are blessed to know the Lord at an early age.
There are many things I would like to offer by way of counsel, but let me highlight a few.
It might get confusing at times determining whether something is God’s will or simply the desire of well-intentioned Christians. You will need discernment and courage to be able to decipher which is which. I have found meditating on the book of Proverbs very helpful.
A few years back I had an unexpected stroke. The doctors don’t know why as my arteries were clean and I have a strong heart. Then I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and shortly after that was back in the hospital because I have a problem with the electrical current for my heart.
Seeing others suffer around me in the ER was sobering and gave me a greater compassion for them. Being sick and keenly aware of your own mortality can produce good fruit. You are wise if you prepare now for unexpected twists and turns. I have seen many Christians get bitter at God, and I have seen many trust Him in deeper ways. Developing strong roots now will help you be the second person.
It is too easy to get caught up in good things which are not the best. I have many interests and am curious about many things which are not bad things per se, but they can keep me from focusing on the few things which are truly necessary. Make primary things primary.
Be grateful for family and friends. They know you best and will be loyal in ways others won’t.
One of my all-time favorite books is The Pilgrim’s Progress. John Bunyan understood better than most that Christians are individuals. Some people struggle more with doubt, some more with worldliness, and so forth. Read widely and read the best books. Bunyan’s book certainly helped me through my stroke.
Most of all, remembering that God is merciful, loving, and good no matter how the circumstances turn out. Mine turned out very well, but God is good irrespective of the outcomes of one’s circumstances. Notice how often people attach the words “God is good” to prayers where the desired outcome occurs. Well, God is good whether you get healed or not. The cross of Christ settles once and for all that God is loving. Looking back at Christ’s work on the cross is what gives stability to the Christian’s life.
Determining God’s goodness based on whether He is fixing my circumstances in the way I deem best is what an older believer in the faith calls a spiritual cul-de-sac. If we measure the goodness of God by how well He fixes our negative circumstances, we will find suffering a constant threat to “growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.”
Sincerely in Christ,