The message on the billboard caught my eye: Nothing Is as Uncommon as Common Sense. Driving at 65 miles per hour, I didn’t notice if the statement was attributed to anyone, but I recognized the truth in the saying. So, just what is common sense? Merriam Webster defines it
as: “Sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.” Albert Einstein had a more jaded view: “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.”
Back when I was taking a Psychology course in college, I read of an experiment
conducted with a group of student volunteers. There’ve been countless experiments with mice in
mazes, trying to better understand problem solving. This time, they used students. Instead of using a maze, they constructed a large round room with many doors. A student was lead into the center of the room, and then the door through which they came in was locked. Only one door in the room was unlocked. Then, an electrical current was passed through the floor, creating a mild, but uncomfortable shock. The student had to discover which door was unlocked in order to escape the room. The first reaction to the shock was for the subject was to run to the nearest door and try to open it. When they found that it was locked, they’d race to another door. Sometimes, after trying a door only to find it locked, the student would race to the center of the room, then turn around and try the same door again. I think that the mice probably did better.
Sometimes we try too hard.
When circumstances beyond our control snatch us out of the jaws of victory, we turn to
the old sayings for encouragement. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” The Bible is rife with passages that seem to insure success. Christ assured us:
If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove
hence to yonder place; and it shall remove and nothing shall be impossible to you.
Matthew 17:20 KJV
So, why do we so fail so often, even when we believe that we are trying to do God’s will and have prayed for his help? Is it our lack of faith? Are Christ’s promises empty words? After all, didn’t he say
Ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full? John 17:24 KJV
We’ve all experienced times in our lives when we almost killed ourselves trying to do
something, and yet we failed. Each time that we were unsuccessful, we pulled ourselves up by
our bootstraps, picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off and started all over again.
In my life there have been too many times when my dogged determination ended in
frustration and failure. Trying again and again didn’t work. In baseball, there’s an old cliché that says “The best trades are the ones you didn’t make.” That’s true in our lives, too. Sometimes the best thing that happens to us is that we fail. God is surely watching over us, protecting us from succeeding in messing up our lives. God sees things differently than we do. We only see the moment. He sees our whole life spread before him. As God reminds us:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
Isaiah 57:8 KJV
There are many reasons why “success” eludes us, no matter how many times we try. One
of the main reasons why we fail is that we are not doing God’s will. We are all capable of
deluding ourselves into believing that what we want is really what God wants. What we are
trying to do may even be good. That doesn’t mean that it’s God’s will. If you have been striving
to do something that is not his will, it is only through God’s mercy that you don’t succeed.
Another common reason why we don’t succeed is that we have not waited on the Lord.
If we are to do God’s will, we have to wait on him:
Wait on the Lord, and keep his way.
Psalm 37:34 KJV
Sometimes we fail because we are trying to do something that is not our job. God will
not place us in a battle that we cannot win. The words that Jehaziel spoke to the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem, ring true for each of us to this day:
Thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed … for the battle is not yours, but God’s.
2 Chronicles 20:15 KJV
Moses, when speaking to the Israelites in tring to calm their hearts said:
Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord
Exodus 14:13 KYV
God does not expect us to do miracles. That’s his business.
Perhaps the old saying about success needs some revisions for Christians: If at first you don’t succeed, give it another try, and if that doesn’t work, check with the Lord. You might ask him? “Is this really your will God? If not, tell me, so I can stop beating my head against the wall.” “If it is your will, let me know when you want me to try again.” The Lord may need to prepare you before you attempt to do it again. And don’t get discouraged if you fail. Maybe you just need to try easier.