Did God Set Us Up to Fail?

Several years ago, I remember having a series of conversations with a good friend.  She’s one of the more thoughtful, conscientious people I know, so she was grappling with questions of cosmic proportions.

Specifically, her questions dealt with the role and nature of covenants.  In her mind, it seemed unfathomable that God would ask for commitments so steep and challenging that we could never truly fulfill our “end of the deal.”

“I won’t make a promise I’m not sure I can keep,” she’d tell me.  “I don’t understand why God even requires it.  It seems like He’s just setting us up to fail.”

At the time, I gave her the best answer I could: “God never gives us more than we can handle.  We can do it if we believe enough and try our best.  You’ve just got to believe more and try harder.”

Looking at it now, I wish I could go back in time and revise my answer!

You see, my answer, as sincere as it was, belied a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of Jesus Christ as Savior.  This misunderstanding is inherent in the very way I phrased it: “WE can do it if WE try hard enough and work hard enough and believe enough.”

The emphasis, the focus, was on us–on our effort.  As though it could ever be enough!

Well, I can’t go back.  But I can revise my answer.  For the record, my friend, here’s what I would tell you today:

“I know it seems hard to understand, but that is the miracle of grace.  We will NEVER be able to fulfill ‘our end of the deal’–not on our own. God knows that.  He expects it.  It’s a bi-product of our natural, fallen existence, and part of His plan.  Otherwise, why would He have sent His Son?

“God gives us challenges and commandments and covenants not to torment us with unattainable standards, but to bless us with His goodness and remind us how much we need our Savior.  That He allows people as sinful and imperfect as we are to partake of His blessings is truly a miracle!  But that is His very purpose.

“The Lord Himself says in Ether 12:27: ‘And if men come unto me I will show unto them their aweakness. I bgive unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my cgrace is sufficient for all men that dhumble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make eweak things become strong unto them’ (emphasis mine).

“When you make covenants, you are giving yourself to Christ.  And He makes you whole and complete–makes you strong–thereby fulfilling the covenant in you and washing away your mistakes.

“No, He didn’t set us up to fail.  He set us up to succeed.  The only failure is in refusing to acknowledge the hand of Christ.  The only failure is in attempting to do it on your own, without His help.”

So there you have it.  History revised.  As always, please feel free to contribute questions, comments, insights, disagreements, and massive praise in the comments below. 😉  The only requirement is that the dialogue remain respectful.

About Katie L

A doubter by nature, a believer by grace.

Posted on January 10, 2009, in Mormonism, Thoughts on God and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I think it’s also worth remembering that we sometimes refer to our covenants as endowments of power. We enter into covenants, in part, to partner with God in his power. And His power, when we let it work in our lives, does make us stronger.

  2. Laura, great point.

    Perhaps the covenant itself gives us more power to keep them.

  3. Katie-
    Thank you so much for that. I really needed to read this. Although I have not been questioning, I have been struggling with my personal obediance. And the more I think of it, it is exactly the reason that you have pointed out. I try way to hard to do it myself, not on purpose though. I am touched my your testimony. Thank you.
    Mel-Tho

  4. Hey M-Tho. Thanks for stopping by, girl.

    My mom always used to tell me: “Lighten up, let go, let God.”

    Mistakes, even disobedience, are part of the plan. Don’t let them get you down, but instead use the energy you would have spent beating yourself up to drive you more and more into the arms of Jesus.

    Just a little bit of friendly advice from a recovering perfectionist. 🙂

    Love ya.

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