Partnering with God to transform imperfections to success

In my previous post, I discussed how important it is for us to overcome fear and act if we are to progress, and how God’s plan has made it so that our mistakes, by themselves, will not prevent us from progressing or returning to God. A very practical questions arises as we try to do this: How can we weave our mistakes, the consequences of others’ mistakes, and other difficulties into growth, and thereby prevent ourselves from just racking up a long list mistakes and problems?

One scripture that I find very helpful in thinking about this is 2 Nephi 32:8-9, which tells us to pray always and that when we turn to God, our performance will be for the welfare of our souls. In particular, I find two important messages in these two verses. The first is the importance of developing a personal relationship with Heavenly Father. Doing so goes far beyond obedience to God’s laws or performing the duties God has asked of us. Although these actions are important and clearly affect our relationship with God, we are invited to do more than this—to pray to Him always, which I interpret as bringing Him into our lives as we would a friend or a family member—partnering with God. By doing so, we open ourselves to His view and wisdom. We enjoy personalized encouragement or sympathy from God. We still direct our own lives, but we and God become personally invested in each other in a new and special way. Not only will the relationship be very meaningful to us, but when we take up God’s invitation to act in order to progress, we will do so in a way that far exceeds what could be expected based on our own resources. Thus, we can live in a way that accelerates our growth and brings more benefits to others.

However, even when we partner with God, the efforts we muster won’t always lead to the best possible results. Our imperfections will still result in mistakes. And these outcomes may lead to lost opportunities or other circumstances that are not as good as they could or ought to have been. This is where the second message comes into play. God doesn’t promise us that the best or even the right results will come from our actions, even when we partner with Him. But, He does promise us that when we partner with Him, He will help us so that the efforts we do muster can always be turned to our good, our growth, and our successfully returning to Him.

I find this second message to be one of the most refreshing and comforting in the Gospel. I don’t have to pretend that somehow, with good intentions and a commitment to God, everything that I do or everything that happens to me is for the best or how it should be. Indeed, it is easy for me, imperfect as I am, to see that this is not the case. Looking at my life, I can see many mistakes, missed opportunities, or other shortcomings that have had negative consequences that really could have been avoided (and things would have gone better had they been avoided). But, instead of a future that is restricted by lost opportunities or other disadvantages, partnering with God means that my future is always full of hope and promise. As long as I don’t let fears prevent me from walking a path, and as long as I partner with God on the path that I walk, I will find joy on the actual path that I take, and that path will ultimately lead to the kind of growth and progress that God ‘s plan is meant to foster.

14 comments for “Partnering with God to transform imperfections to success

  1. July 1, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Thanks for these insights. This was a timely post for me and my family.

  2. July 1, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    There’s value in understanding your line “our good, our growth, and our successfully returning to Him” in the penultimate paragraph. I believe that God’s blessings chiefly help us in the last of that triplet, namely returning to Him, and those things that are to our good and our growth are in relation to that goal, not necessarily to other (more worldly) benefits.

    I think your final paragraph does a great job of capturing the hope of the gospel.

  3. James Olsen
    July 1, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    I appreciate the reminder that our best intentions and a motivation to do what’s best doesn’t necessarily lead to the best (or even good) results. I can think of several times in my own life where I know I was directed, given revelation, to do a thing. Such experiences don’t come with specific instructions on how to accomplish it, however, and often botched the implementation more than once. I think we see something similar in the scriptures and in the lives of our modern prophets – times where the prophet is given direction to do a thing without instruction for how to accomplish it. Sometimes it works out great (like the brother of Jared lighting the barges). Other times…not so great.

  4. July 1, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    One thing that helps me is trying to consecrate my failures to the Lord – to consciously find purposes in mistakes that have been made or suffering that has been endured. Oddly enough, even though I’m imperfect even in learning from my imperfections, the lessons I do learn so often teach me more about how to love others and help them in their trials that I am sometimes able to make peace even with my failures.

    Success is something I strive for, but noble failure – failure that occurs despite my best efforts – is something I have learned is a success in itself.

  5. Geoff-A
    July 2, 2011 at 12:43 am

    My perception of the Gospel is quite different. Perhaps because I am in my 60s and retired.
    I and my family are perfect-in the nagative sense. We rarely do any wrong and repent within hours- the atonement,cast your burden on the Lord- no sin -perfection. We then apply ourselves to helping others and refining ourselves so we are more Godlike, and increase positive perfection.

    Unless you abuse your wife or family or are otherwise wilfully bad I have trouble imagining what these failures might be.

    Could someone perhaps give some examples of mistakes and failings you’re talking about.

    I do agree that most of what some describe as trials are the result of our previous decisions, but if you then realise they are the consequence of your previous decision you realise you chose these consequences and so they are not trials. There are exceptions such as major illness. But for example you will not have wayward teenagers if you don’t have children. You choose to have children there’s a chance you will have wayward teenagers.

    More information on specifics please. I’m not sure I understand what you’re talking about.

  6. Thomas Parkin
    July 2, 2011 at 1:47 am

    I think it’s worth remembering that we are sanctified by the Spirit. The companionship of the Holy Spirit has a cleansing, and well us instructing and developing effect on us. Much of the reason I keep the commandments, when I do, is to retain that companionship.

  7. Whizzbang of Winnipeg
    July 2, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Geoff-A-Some folks never get over divorce or losing a job or feel failure because others of their peers or people younger are called to “higher” callings then them. I know one guy quit the Church when a guy he brought into the Church became a Bishop and he himself wasn’t even a High Priest yet and the other one was and was subsequently called to be Bishop

  8. July 2, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    I count as a failure an experience I had last year when a man with a pregnant wife asked me for help at a gas station, and I gave him $20 and my card, saying to let me know if they needed more help. Well, they called and needed a ride for the wife in a terrific downpour that very next night, then I gave them rides a few other places, finally, getting a good feeling about them and knowing they needed a better place to stay, agreed to let them stay at my house if they would swap chores for rent.

    They agreed to the rules of no smoking in the house, and no drinking or illegal drugs. They did some chores, laundry and dishes, and helped me with grocery shopping. For a while things went along well. I lent them money to help them buy a truck for transportation and so the man could work as a painter and earn a lot more than he was making with his part time call center job.

    Well, once he had the truck, he did well for a few weeks and got plenty of work. Next, though, his business partner quit asking him to split jobs with him, for an unknown (to me) reason. Then he failed to make a payment to me on the truck. Next a very suspicious robbery occurred at my house, in which the man claimed he saw someone running away from the house as they arrived. We both lost cash, I lost the two pieces of jewelry which were of any value that I had, a few tools, and nothing was disturbed in the house otherwise. I called the police really just to make it possible for them to put in an insurance claim on the cash they lost, and the man acted very suspicious while the police were there. The police told me it was an inside job.

    Then a day or so after that, I went to my room to go to sleep, and the man was laid out on the floor beside my bed, not far from where the cash had been stolen. I attempted to rouse him but he was too drunk or drugged to get up. I got his wife out of bed (they both slept an inordinate amount of time) and got her to make him wake up and leave my room. I stayed up half the night trying to decide how to tell them they had to go. The next day when they woke around 4pm I let them know they had to move out. I gave them $200 to cover a week’s rent at the week-to-week motel where they had been staying when I met them, and to cover food for the next few days until he was getting some more money.

    He was very angry and blamed me, not taking any responsibility for anything himself. Looking back on it, it seemed to me that when he got the truck he began using drugs. It seems that the increased scope that gave him let him have access to friends or dealers, and the increased income he was pulling in at first let him afford to buy the drugs, but soon was used up and required him to steal and miss his payments.

    I had to pay to have the locks changed on my house, and all in all lost around $3000 including the theft, the loan that was not repaid, and the other unexpected costs incurred. And worst of all, it seems that the additional scope I gave them allowed the man to begin or resume using drugs. Had the woman chosen to leave him, I would have let her stay, but she stuck with him, which of course was her choice.

    So I feel really bad for the mother and especially for the child, but I don’t know that I can help them any.

    I also no longer give money to panhandlers at all, having been convinced in the meantime that it’s much more useful to give to shelters than directly to those in need.

    The episode has severely curtailed my desire to help local people in need directly, though I still give indirectly to food banks and so on.

    My feelings of sympathy and friendliness toward local people in need are greatly in eclipse. I struggle not to generalize, nor to lack charity simply because many of the problems people have are due to their own bad choices. I’ve made plenty of dumb choices in my life, too, particularly when I was young, and a combination of luck and a strong supportive family have kept me from having to pay too dearly for those mistakes. So I have no reason to judge others harshly.

    On the other hand, I’ll be much more wary in the future of people in need, and probably will not ever invite anyone to live with me again.

    I consider that a very bad mistake, and I’m not sure what lesson to learn from it other than to be wise as a serpent.

  9. July 3, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    I don’t have to pretend that somehow, with good intentions and a commitment to God, everything that I do or everything that happens to me is for the best or how it should be.

    Thank you. Oh, if this could be shouted from the pulpit at General Conference.

  10. Geoff-A
    July 3, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    In the eternal scheme of things you attempted to do good, the fact that you were taken advantage of has made you a wiser and less compassionate person, which is a shame.

    In the sense of good and bad you did good.

    #8 totally agree.

  11. Whizzbang of Winnipeg
    July 3, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    #9 if it isn’t what it should be then how does the atonement set us at one with God or how does it work with situations that we have no or little control over-like people who want to get married but never do or people doing or saying the wrong things and driving people out of the Church that God wanted them to do stuff in?

  12. July 3, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    I have so many experiences in which I made horrible mistakes while trying to do good. Some far more grievous than the one I related here. It’s not at all clear to me what I learned from each one, if anything. Does this not happen to everyone?

    When I was in high school, a good friend committed suicide. I wasn’t directly responsible in any way, of course, but I’ve spent 4 decades wondering what I could have done differently to reach out and help him, to realize what he was going through, to be a better friend.

    Armed with that experience, I intervened and persuaded, cajoled, and accompanied other friends through the years through some very dark times, and with many good outcomes to my great joy, yet one person in particular that I’ve spent years talking into staying alive calls me cruel and may end up having to live a life of anguish and torment as a paranoid schizophrenic now. So a creeping horrible question occasionally assails my eternal Mormon Hopefulness despite myself… Did I do him good thereby? Dear Lord, just thinking that question is a nauseating agony.

    Maybe I spend more time dissecting my every choice and agonizing over might-have-beens than I should, but if I don’t analyze and understand what I did and what happened, then I can’t choose better in the future, can I? I often feel I’ll never figure out this thing called life.

  13. Marie
    July 5, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Yes! 2 Nephi 32:9 is one of my favorite scriptures (the women in my last few Relief Societies have probably wondered if I know or care about any other scriptures :), and it sounds like you have been interpreting it the same way I have come to. That interpretation has all but obliterated the fruitless self-loathing that for most of my teen/adult life had dogged me in my repeated failed efforts to make my actions/performance match my spiritual desires/ideals — and it has been the key to substantial and lasting spiritual advances in the last several years, including loving and trusting God more. I used to believe that the scripture meant “if you pray before everything you do, God will give you the best possible outcome for your efforts.” But as the OP notes, it doesn’t say that at all. It says God will consecrate *your* performance for the welfare of *your* soul. Your performance in the task at hand may not be boosted by God’s power into something wondrous (or it might). It may not be the best — or even close to the best — of which you were capable, but your sincere desires, humbly expressed beforehand, to involve God in your earthly stumblings-about and learn what you need to learn from this messy life will be judged worthy and consequently God can use those desires, and the imperfect but miraculously consecrated actions that come from them, to bring about the most important outcome: the welfare of your soul. And of course as we come to love God more and more as he repeatedly makes good from our well-intentioned failures, fewer of our failures (whether slight or spectacular) will be the result of self-interest or indifference….which again comes back to the key role of our desires in the commandment to pray always.

  14. PL
    July 10, 2011 at 7:00 am

    I see much wisdom and understanding here in “Partnering with God to transform imperfections to success”. This is so all about Jesus.

    Jesus set the example for us with his life as to how to do just this — Jesus showed us how to live by the life he lived, he taught us in the Sermon on the Mount how our relationships should be with each other as we live our life. Then he paid the cost with his life and blood that day on the cross 2000 years ago to forgive all our sins and mistakes that one day — ONCE FOR ALL. This forgiveness on the cross that day for all who had ever lived before and after Christ makes it possible for us to progress in our day-to-day life here on earth and then after we die to be with God in Heaven.

    Our daily mistakes, imperfections, sins, etc don’t hold us hostage — Jesus already forgave us that day on the cross for every sin, imperfection, or mistake we ever did or ever will do as we live our life here on earth. Thus we learn from these mistakes, imperfections, sins — pick ourselves up right where we fell with faith and hope in God through Christ. We are already forgiven. Jesus died for us while we were still sinners & also for our sins, imperfections, mistakes, pains, & sorrows in the future that happen in our daily life.

    With hope & faith in Jesus we have nothing to fear — only to look to Jesus our Savior and King. As we learn from life’s experiences we gain wisdom, as we learn to love others as we live we (no matter what mistakes we make) — if we do our best, if we love God, & love others — we are following Jesus when he said these are the two greatest commandments in all the law and the prophets –Love God & Love others as yourself.

    To sum up what I have written — All of our sins, imperfections, mistakes were forgiven already that day on the cross by Jesus. Now we have our life to live the way Jesus told us to live it. The past is the past. Each new day is an opportunity to do better, to love God, and to love our neighbor. Developing a personal relationship with God comes daily with prayer and love. Mistakes, sins, and imperfections will happen, but we have no need for fear and regrets.

    As one follower of Jesus said: “Praise God for the hope we have in Christ”.

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