Can We Have Hope When We “Ruin” Our Lives?

I received a heartbreaking message yesterday.

A mother told me about her son who had committed a crime and is currently serving a prison sentence until 2020. Even though her son now knows Jesus, the nature of his crime has consequences that will extend long beyond when he is released from prison.

Because of this, the son often feels hopeless about the rest of his life. As if there is nothing for him in the future – no hope, no joy, only bleak wasteland. They both know that there is hope in trials when those trials come from external circumstances (a tragedy, persecution, etc.), but what about trials brought on by our own stupid, sinful decisions?

Does the Bible give us hope for those situations? Can we be optimistic when it seems that we’ve “ruined” our lives?

This is a heavy question, pregnant with grief and tears. I can’t imagine the difficulty of being in this situation.

I can say, however, that the Bible offers not just some hope for those who have screwed up their lives, but great hope. In fact, I believe that much of scripture is written exactly for those who find themselves in this situation.

The Bible offers not just some hope for those who have screwed up their lives, but great hope Click to Tweet

Unfaithful People, Faithful God

Scripture is packed with stories of people making incredibly stupid, sinful decisions. And we’re not just talking about wicked pagans who have no relationship with God. We’re talking the heroes of the faith.

Abraham was called by God to leave his home and go to a strange land. God repeatedly promised to make a great nation from him and his offspring.

And yet despite these repeated promises, Abraham consistently made incredibly foolish, sinful decisions. Multiple times, he pretended Sarah was his sister so that he would not be executed by jealous kings. By doing this, he “jeopardized” the promises of God.

And yet, again and again, God was faithful Abraham, rescuing him, protecting him, doing good to him, and fulfilling his promises. If the promises of God hinged on Abraham’s obedience, Isaac would have never been born and the hope of a New Covenant would have been dashed.


I want to give you FIVE of my books...for FREE. Right now. I believe that books are a great way to grow in your relationship with God, which is why I want to give these to you. Just enter your email and they'll be delivered right to you!

For most of his adult life, Jacob was a deceiver who thrived on manipulating other people. He tricked his dying dad, stole his brother’s blessing, and then fled so that he wouldn’t be murdered. He wasn’t a righteous, godly guy. And yet God wrestled with him and ultimately changed his name to Israel.

Joseph was a bratty braggart whose boasts got him thrown into a well and ultimately imprisoned in Egypt. Yet God eventually rescued him and used him to preserve the people of Israel through a famine.

David, God’s chosen king and man after God’s own heart, committed murder and adultery. And yet out of his sin, Solomon was born, the temple was built, Proverbs and Song of Solomon were written, and ultimately Christ was born from his line.

Peter vigorously, passionately denied that he ever knew Jesus. Yet Jesus didn’t abandon him. When he rose from the dead, the angels told the women to tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus had risen. Later in his life, Peter fell victim to legalism and essentially denied the gospel a second time. And yet the Lord used Paul to restore him to fellowship.

Before knowing Christ, Paul took great delight in hunting down and murdering Christians. He looked on in approval as Stephen was stoned to death. Then God hunted him down, knocked him off his horse, and saved him.

The Bible is NOT the story of godly heroes accomplishing great things. Rather, it’s a tale of broken, sinful people being constantly rescued by a faithful God. If God’s goodness, blessings, or faithfulness depended on human righteousness or obedience, we’d all be doomed.

Scripture makes it really clear that people are unfaithful and God is always faithful, and that’s extraordinarily good news.

If God’s goodness, blessings, or faithfulness depended on human righteousness or obedience, we’d all be doomed. Click to Tweet

We Can’t Mess Up God’s Purposes or Plans

Our sins can’t thwart God’s purposes for us or promises to us. Yes, our sins have consequences. If I commit adultery and then repent, there will still be lots of pain and grief to deal with.

But God IS faithful, and even my own willful sins can’t turn aside God’s faithfulness. He has promised that mercy and goodness will follow me all the days of my life (Psalm 23:6).

He has promised that I will wake every morning to new mercies (Lamentations 3:23).

He has promised that he will finish the good work he began in me (Philippians 1:6).

Neither height nor depth, angels or demons, life or death can separate me from the love of God in Christ. I have a future and a hope and even my own sin can’t break God’s love or promises.

Yes, some of these promises will ultimately be fulfilled in eternity, but these are also here and now promises. David was confident he would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13).

Honestly, if these promises didn’t exist, I would despair.

I’m not confident that I’ll always make wise, godly decisions. I know both the sin and stupidity that reside in me. I need a hope that goes far beyond me, and I have that hope in Christ. Because I’m united to Christ, I always have great hope for now and the future.

Trials are brutal. They break us and squeeze the life from us. But God is present, he is faithful, he is good, and there is much hope for the future.

So to the mother and son, I would say what Aslan said to Lucy when she was surrounded by impenetrable darkness: “Take courage dear heart.”

Or perhaps the words of Psalm 27:14 are more appropriate:

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

Stephen Altrogge

I'm a husband, dad, writer. I drink too much coffee and know too much about Star Wars. I created The Blazing Center. I've also written some books which people seem to like. You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook


  • Thank you for an excellent post Stephen! This is something we all need to remember (especially when we sin/mess up constantly. I hope you don’t mind but I made a post about this on my church’s Instagram page. I linked it back to this page and included your name/hashtag. Prayerfully, more people will choose to read the whole post and be edified.

  • Your message is heart warming I’m also going through something difficult in my life right, i have broken with my girlfriend and we have a child together I’m torn apart a part of mine says leave her another says she’s the mother of your child i have been praying and I’m waiting upon the Lord to answer me. So to the mother may she not give up on her son first thing she must pray for him day in day out course there’s nothing impossible with our Lord Jesus Christ, as for you Stephen continue to do the good work that your doing and may the Lord bless you.

  • Thank you so much for this beautiful article filled with truth. I was raised in an extremely legalistic environment and it has been so hard to shake it. I need constant reminders in order to truly live in freedom and God’s grace. Thank you so much again.

  • What a wonderful reminder! So good to hear -my unfaithfulness can not change the fact that God is indeed faithful.Thank you

  • Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful article. What a comfort is it to know that my hope is not in what I am or what I do but in Christ alone! My future is secure in Him and nothing can steal away my blessings in Christ. Praise be to Him!

  • It is a nice post, but frankly, to someone like me it gives very little hope. Yes, God’s plan can’t be ruined supposedly, but that’s only because God would have to put you on a different plan if you mess up his first plan too badly. And since the new plan isn’t what God originally wanted, it is inferior at best. Sometimes we just have to face that our lives will never be as good as God originally wanted them because of things we’ve done no matter how good things get…

  • This compassionate and truthful response to the mother of a son in prison could only come from one called to be a pastor. This lady might also benefit by looking up the teachings and writings of the infamous Carol Everett who also has or had a son in prison. It’s been a loooooong time since I’ve read her book called something like “Putting My Isaac on the Altar,” but I hope she could read it.
    Also, Stephen, is there opportunity for me to become a patron to your ministry with a one time gift instead of a monthly pledge?

  • Pastor Stephen,
    The Lord is so merciful to bring to my attention today that I used the wrong name ( in my previous comment) as a resource of comfort to the lady who has a son in prison. The infamous Carol KENT is the woman of faith who has a son in prison. I was blessed to “just happen” onto a series of Carol Kent’s teachings. This is what I hope our hurting friend can tap into. Thank you. MLW

Submit a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *