When Doing it Right Still Goes Wrong


I remember being in school and struggling through math – EVERY year.

My shoulders would go tense, and my brain seemed to suddenly quit. No matter how hard I tried, if I was stuck, I was stuck.

The one thing that did help me from time to time was the use of formulas; a repeat cycle of steps that, if used correctly, will guide you to the correct answer – EVERY time.

What a relief this was.

If I didn’t know the answer, that didn’t matter. Knowing the answer wasn’t nearly as important as knowing the formula. All my problems were solved!

How we wish life were the same way. Oh how nice it would be if life were the same way! How simplified and assuring would it be to make decisions? Shift gears. Start new chapters. And close old ones. Just apply the right formula, and voila…everything is just right!

Sometimes, you follow the “right” path. You follow the rules. You cooperate. Contribute. Serve, and serve well. Sometimes you’ve been obedient to the Lord and your ways are pleasing (Look at Job in the Bible). Sometimes you proceed with caution. You study for the exam. You become more knowledgeable. And healthy. And astute.

And then… when doing it right still goes wrong happens.

You’re laid off from a job you’ve given 10 years of your life to.

A friend betrays you.

A spouse abandons you.

A door slams shut on you.

A loved one back bites you.

It simply wasn’t supposed to be this way. After all, you followed the right formula.

These kinds of disappointments that jolt us can lead to deep discouragement.

I talk about some things you can do when feeling discouraged here. Discouragement can cause us to:

  • Give up
  • Give in
  • Point the finger at God

Unfortunately, formulas may always lead to the right answers academically, but when applied in real, everyday complexities of life, doing it right can still go very wrong.

Rather than a formula, and better than doing it right is the understanding and application of two things:

  • Righteousness


  • Holiness

I believe firmly that God is more concerned with the cultivating of these two principles in our lives than on us getting it “right”. Imagine all the ways that we can “get it right” and still be miles and miles away from the Lord’s standard of righteousness and holiness. Imagine inserting life formulas for every complex equation, and still missing out on the richness of the Kingdom that is developed in us?

On our journey to righteousness and holiness – and the very encounters when doing it right still goes wrong – are the very moments that hold the principles needed to mold and prune us into righteousness and holiness – The very image of God

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. John 15:1-2 

Where does this leave us? Where do we go from here? One of my favorite scriptures and personal prayers come from Proverbs 4:7, which reads:

Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom.

And in all your getting, get understanding.

That’s it. That is Divine Formula. As opposed to tirelessly trying to get things right – which can become an entanglement of perfection and great disappointment, get these two things:

  1. Wisdom
  2. Understanding

In fact, this entire chapter is dripping with jewels and gold regarding the assuredness that comes from God’s great wisdom.

The divine formula of Wisdom and Understanding will sustain you when doing it right still goes wrong. Here are a small handful of other glorious sums derived from the formula of heaven:

  • God’s Wisdom + Understanding = Patience in Suffering (James 5)
  • God’s Wisdom + Understanding = the joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8)
  • God’s Wisdom + Understanding = the crown of life for standing the test and persevering under trials (James 1)
  • God’s Wisdom + Understanding = Blessed. The Kingdom of Heaven is mine. (Matthew 5)
  • God’s Wisdom + Understanding = Spiritual development in patience, character and hope (Romans 5)
  • God’s Wisdom + Understanding = The capacity to both know and accept that His grace is sufficient for me in weakness (2 Corinthians 12)

What I cherish most about the wisdom and understanding that comes from God is that it is all encompassing and all sufficient – especially when doing it right still goes wrong. In other words, there is no pickle that I may find myself in that is too sour!

Even in the messiest of messy, God’s divine formula reminds us that He is Lord over all and that He is the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). As He graciously prunes and allows us to be tried, He is training those hands for battle and those fingers for war (Psalm 144).

So. Where does this leave us when doing it right still goes wrong? In the very place that it should – more deeply nestled in the hands of the Father.

Growing in Grace,


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