Victor Hugo’s literary classic Les Misérables tells the story of Jean Valjean, whose already difficult life is brought down by one lone decision when he steals a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving children. As a consequence, he spends the next 19 years in the notorious Bagne of Toulon prison. Unable to find work after his release because he is an ex-convict, Valjean begs at the home of the bishop of Digne, who feeds him and gives him a bed for the night. But Valjean, overcome by despair at what seems an impossibly bleak future, yields to temptation, steals some of the bishop’s silver, and slips away in the night.
He doesn’t get far, however, before he is arrested with the silver and hauled back to face the bishop. Knowing what will happen to Valjean if he is convicted a second time, the kind bishop takes a chance on Valjean and tells the police, “I gave him the silver.”
Valjean is free from the legal consequences of his action, but not yet from his bad habits. After he steals yet again, he is driven to another point of decision, and this time he repents, and from that moment on he is a changed man. He goes through more upheavals and faces more tough decisions in the years that follow, but he remains true to the new course God has helped him chart.
Les Misérables is a moving portrayal of the redeeming power of God’s love, but it also illustrates how our lives are shaped by our decisions. Even seemingly small decisions can be far reaching. How can we ensure that we make right decisions? The only way is to involve God in the decision-making process, because He alone knows what’s best. He wants to see us make good choices and is always there to back us up when we do. The smartest decision we can make is to ask for His help.
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