Unintended Consequences

Photo by Bradyn Trollip on Unsplash

Most of my career I worked in the public sector. In my field unintended consequences are a big concern. Anytime decisions, policies, and/or actions are taken, we consider the possible outcomes and what might be the unintended consequences. This process includes determining as many “what ifs” as possible. Good intentions can have hurtful results.

Let’s start with the definitions and synonyms I am using from Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary and Thesaurus:

  • Unintended
  • Consequences:
    • Definition: 1. a conclusion derived through logic: inference; 2. something produced by a cause or necessarily following from a set of conditions
    • Synonyms: aftereffect, aftermath, backwash, child, conclusion, corollary, development, effect, fate, fruit, issue, outcome, outgrowth, precipitate, product, result, resultant, sequel, sequence, upshot

Sitting in my Lighthouse on Sunday, my mind and prayers wandered to the unintended consequences of the past sixteen months. The Lighthouse has fully opened. They removed the mask mandates and ropes limiting our seating. There are a few vestiges of the unintended consequences left over by the fear of the Bishops, no holy water in the fonts and cannot receive both species of the Eucharist. It feels good that our Governor and Bishop stood up for religious freedom and drop kicked fear.

While I sat in church, relaxation of the virus crisis rules was like bittersweet chocolate so sharp that it takes me by surprise and leaves me seeking the sweet. The harsh virus crisis response outweighs the sense of relief at lifting the restrictions. The whole thing leaves me thinking, how do we handle the unintended consequences?”

What will we do to the stem the increases in homelessness, crime, suicide, financial devastation, addiction, abuse, and neglect? How do we heal from the resulting suicides, overdoses, and homicides? And let’s not forget the suffering and death from loneliness, confusion, and lack of touch. Too many people have lost everything. The list of impacts is so large that I can’t list it adequately. These are only the most prominent short-term unintended consequences. The long-term impacts are only speculation right now. And they don’t look good.

Earlier in the week, I found 2 Kings Chapter 22. At the time I wasn’t sure where the Lord was going with it until I was in the middle of this post. Which caused me to do some rewriting. {ironic grin} Chapters 22 and 23 detail the reign of King Josiah over Israel. Verse 2 describes King Josiah:

2 And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord and walked in all the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.

In the 18th year of King Josiah’s reign, Hilkiah the high priest finds the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord. He has it delivered to the King. It appears, the Book of the Law was lost during the reigns of the previous Kings of Israel who worshiped Baal. Shaphan, the scribe, delivers the Book of the Law and reads it to the King. When King Josiah hears the words of the Lord, he tears his clothes. In verse 13 he says:

13 “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”

King Josiah’s repentance is immediate. The Book of the Law pointed out Israel’s sins and consequences. Reading this again I struggled with the need to forgive our leaders for their ill-thought-out responses. It makes me angry. I spent 30 years figuring out the probable results of governmental actions, couldn’t they have at least taken the time to do the same!?

Then understanding awakens in my soul. I also responded to the virus crisis with fear, then shock. Rather than pushing back against the fear and requirements, I stayed home and worked, ignoring the surrounding craziness. I hid myself. When things fell apart for my family last year, grief paralyzed me for several months. I didn’t want to go out and face the world. I had some good excuses; secular and political restrictions and religious dispensation. It was so tempting and I fell for it!

What are the unintended consequences of my actions? I was afraid. I hid myself. I did not see the rift in the family before it happened. I was not praying or trusting enough. I also did not stand against the injustices. I also need forgiveness.

At the beginning of this year I began to see the aftermath of the lock-downs and medical politics. Then we started seeking the truths behind the crisis. Like King Josiah, I now see the sins our leaders have committed against God. As King Josiah said “because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book.” Like King Josiah, we are beginning to understand the ramifications of our actions. I can start by forgiving those who have harmed us then I can ask His forgiveness for my sins. Let us return to God, repent, and ask Him to heal us. Please pray with me:

Oh my God, King over all, I come to you saddened by my sins. I forgive those who have hurt me, my family, friends, and country over this virus crisis. Help me release the hurt, anger and need for vengeance from my soul. You say “Vengeance is Mine.*” I am placing my trust in You to handle the injustices. Please forgive me for my sins of fear, despair, isolation, and hiding from the battle underway. Thank you for lifting the veil from my eyes. Guide me as I seek truth and knowledge. Guide me out of the wilderness of isolation. Fill me with your love, strength, and boldness. I understand that I cannot stand against this evil without your Holy Spirit. Fill me and Your people with a Holy Fire knowing that you, the King of Glory, walks with each of us on our journey and will stand for us in battle. In Jesus’ holy name, amen. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit amen.”

I wrote this prayer for us to use. If it works for you, tailor it to your needs. Just keep turning to our Lord and open up to Him. He is waiting for us to forgive others, then ask and seek Him. The adventure awaits if we step out of our isolation. May the peace of God be with you today.


P.S: I plan to study King Josiah further and will keep you posted on what it may mean for us. I am stuck on a new phrase: “he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left” Over the years, I have seen it many times in the bible but never really paid attention to it. I wonder… What does this phrase mean for us today?

*Genesis 32:35 “Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; Their foot shall slip in due time; For the day of their calamity is at hand, And the things to come hasten upon them.” [NKJV]

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