Here’s what I pray for you: Father, may their love grow more and more in wisdom and insight— so they will be able to examine and determine the best from everything else. (Philippians 1:9-10 VOICE)
As a parent one of my biggest struggles was knowing what was best for my kids. In each tough moment - those moments when you "want" to bail them out of the trouble they are in or just about to jump headlong into - you stand between the chasm of "helping" them through letting them go through it, or stopping them just short of making those really wrong decisions. Some of the time, I caved a little and bailed them out - but did they learn to avoid that same obstacle later on in life when I did that? Not usually. In fact, as kids all do everywhere around the world, they learn because they are exposed to the "consequences" of not having avoided some of those things. It would be nice to think every child understands the meaning of "hot" just by hearing the parent warn them it is hot, wouldn't it? It isn't until the child reaches for something which makes them a little uncomfortable when they touch it that they "equate" hot with a not so wanted discomfort. In life we often don't "learn" very much (or very well) until we are faced with the "discomfort" of the consequence of our actions.
While I am not an advocate of just letting children run a muck in our society today, I am saying we often need to allow them to fail in order to understand they either should listen closer, follow through on what they know they should be doing, or at least listen to the niggling of their own conscience warning them to avoid the next step they are about to take. In fact, being able to determine the "best from everything else" in life is often because we have come face-to-face at some point with something not "quite right" because of a choice we made somewhere along the way. Too many might believe we don't need to experience the consequences to learn from our missteps, but I don't know how that really plays out in real life. The child who is continually "redeemed" from their misguided behaviors by a parent will likely repeat that pattern of misguided behaviors long into their adult life. Why? There haven't been any consequences that changed their behavior.
Yes, God wants us to learn to avoid the missteps in the first place. Yes, he provides a way "back" from those missteps - it is called grace. Yes, there are consequences to our missteps - sometimes bigger and dirtier than we might have wanted to clean up after when we first headed down that path. God could do away with all the consequences, too, but I have to challenge us on this - would we be inclined to even want to avoid those steps in the future if we had no unpleasant consequences? Grace does the work of restoring us - it doesn't necessarily remove the consequences. For example, if we have abused our bodies by years and years of eating incorrectly, shooting up drugs, or consuming huge amounts of liquor until we were blacking out from the blood alcohol level being so high, are their consequences of our misuse of our bodies? Yes, indeed. The excess weight has put wear and tear on our bones, leading to arthritic changes; the skin has been stretched to unhealthy proportions and doesn't just "spring back" into shape; and the arteries clogged with unhealthy levels of cholesterol will have laid up fatty plaques along the way. The drugs and alcohol have taxed our livers, adversely affected our vitamin and mineral levels in the body, and sometimes even changed our physical appearance, as well.
The thing God wants most for us is to embrace his love extended to us in a very real way we call grace, and then allow that love to help us make better decisions as we move forward. It is his intent that we don't continue to pursue the misstep - we learn what is good and pursue it with passion, integrity, and unwavering determination. To this end, he gives us a "bonus" with grace - the ability to distinguish the "best" from everything else. It comes through trusting him to help us "see" what is right and respond to it differently. It comes by heeding that niggling within, warning us something isn't quite right in what we are about to do. It comes in small ways, but with very big returns when we are obedient to surrender to the work of grace and love in our lives. Just sayin!