Process vs Outcome

About 30 years ago while working with some friends in a recovery group, we hit on the idea that process is more important than outcome. That is, we realized that we actually had relatively little control over the outcome of any given situation or relationship. Much of what we experience in life is due to factors way out of our ability to control. The best we could hope for was to commit to a healthy process, which might include anything from our best effort to seeking help from God or others. But in many cases, we needed to let go of the outcome.

As helpful as that perspective was for me, it has some serious limitations. In particular, when the outcomes I see are terrible, or when it seems like evil is winning out over good, I begin to question whether my process matters at all and I get discouraged. Reading a couple of Psalms this morning, I noticed how the writer had great hope in a final outcome that will be glorious and good beyond what we can imagine. Outcomes do matter! Unless good ultimately triumphs over evil, we have no hope. We would be like someone trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon.

My vision needs to include room for a final victory of good over evil, whether by evil destroying itself (the psalmists knew that evil is very self-destructive in nature) or whether by God putting an end to evil (psalmists saw this as well), I know that someday everything will be made right. That outcome is what we hope for and part of what we are working toward as we participate with God to extend His Realm.

What’s more, God gives to us many first fruits of that final outcome — every time we heal, every time we give with joy, every time we see God bring life out of death. Wonderful glimpses of what is to come!

So instead of process vs. outcome, I am beginning to think in terms of process vs. immediate evidence. I often do not see immediate evidence of my process. But I know whom I trust, who will bring about all that is good — a final brilliant, amazing outcome of good.

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