Tag Archives: circumstances

Handpicked by Love

25 Apr

When work is maddening and I am angry at the world…

When I longingly look out on a gorgeous day from inside an office icebox…

When I rush yet again from one thing to the next, feeling frazzled and exhausted…

When I grumble that I have a job that I don’t feel passionate about…

This quote from Elisabeth Elliot’s book, Keep a Quiet Heart, helps me remember that God has lovingly handpicked the circumstances of my life:

“When there is a deep restlessness for which we find no explanation, it may be due to the greed of being – what our loving Father never meant us to be. Peace lies in the trusting acceptance of His design, His gifts, His appointment of place, position, capacity. It was thus that the Son of Man came to earth – embracing all that the Father will Him to be, usurping nothing – no work, not even a word – that the Father had not given Him.”

So often I cause the loss of my own peace by rejecting the life God has given me.

“This isn’t what I want” is the refrain that echos through my ungrateful heart.

A verse that I have been repeating to myself over and over is “The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord.” It reminds me that joy does not come from getting my own way. It doesn’t come from my life looking exactly like I think it should. It doesn’t come from deciding my own destiny, forging my own will, or determining my own struggles.

Joy comes from accepting.

Accepting that I’m not in control. That not being in control is a good thing. That even though my current circumstances seem to plead the contrary, God only has good things planned for me. 

But I can’t accept these things if I don’t have faith. Faith is believing that God will do what He has promised. Which turns my mind to another verse:

“I call out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills His purpose for me.”

Even on these days when it feels like life sucks, and I don’t know why I’m doing what I’m doing, and I feel like I’m spinning my wheels, I cling to the truth that God is RIGHT NOW fulfilling His purpose for me. My life has meaning. I am here for a reason, even if I don’t know what it is. I only need to focus on delighting in the LORD and He will accomplish the rest.

“He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.”

Contentment in ALL circumstances

30 Sep

Sometimes it’s easy for me to read a Bible verse and think of it in only one context. For example, Paul’s famous declaration in Philippians 4 that he has learned in whatever situation he is to be content – because “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Paul is talking about financial provision and material possession here, so I usually think about it in that context. But Paul says whatever situation – all circumstances. That applies to more than financial and material wealth.

As I’ve been seeing my idols and selfishness over the past couple of weeks, I’ve realized that being content in my circumstances would really eradicate a lot of those sins. Take, for example, my sinful need to do what I want to do with my time. If I were content with whatever the Lord allowed in my day, I wouldn’t get frustrated when things didn’t go my way (like I did on Tuesday when I didn’t have access to the internet).

Or take my preoccupation with body image. If I were content with the body I have, I would be able to appreciate my unique beauty and let go of my jealousy of other women. Jealousy is just thinking that other women have something I don’t but something I want to have – in a word, discontentment. If I were content with how I look, I wouldn’t feel the need to count calories, exercise for the purpose of losing weight, constantly critique myself, or compare myself with other women.

And thinking about my life in general – in this season of life, Travis and I are one of the very few young, married couples without kids that we know – anywhere. It can be tempting to be discontent, to think that I’m missing out on experiencing motherhood with all my friends, that being a mother would be more fulfilling than my “career” (if you can call it that).

All of these struggles go back to one thing: thinking that God is holding out on me, that He isn’t giving me what I need to be happy. If I could only have some relaxation time, then I’d be happy. If I could only watch my favorite show, I’d have a good day. If I could only have a flat stomach. If I could only have cute clothes in the latest styles. If I could only feel completely fulfilled with my life. If I could only stop struggling, analyzing, and worrying and just accept things.

My thinking that God is holding out on me is a result of not understanding that these aren’t haphazard details. My life isn’t this way just because it is this way. My life is this way because God planned it this way. He has a reason for everything. He created me to look specifically the way I do. I can try to fight my biology all I want but I will never be truly happy until I accept reality.

Same for when my day doesn’t go the way I want it to. I can either accept the unplanned circumstances, or I can let them make me angry, frustrated and just downright unpleasant to be around. It’s my choice. Am I going to, by faith and the power of the Holy Spirit, choose God’s way or, by flesh and human irrationality, choose my own way? Am I going to choose to be content whatever the situation because I can do all things through Him who strengthens me? Or I am going to wear myself out trying to change the circumstances of my life, which I have no control over?

It took me a while to realize, and accept, that I don’t have control over my circumstances – it’s a very anti-American way of thinking. Manifest Destiny. The American Dream. They all come from the belief that we can do whatever we want with our lives, make ourselves who we want to be. That’s a lie. As the economic crisis is proving, we don’t have control. As the millions of people dying from cancer, disease, and starvation are proving, we don’t have control. We are at the mercy of forces outside of our control. Having control over your life is a mirage.

But we have a God who is in control. And for those who believe in Jesus Christ, we have a God who is on our side. Who fights for us. Who works all things together for our good. Who blesses us abundantly. That is why we can be content whatever our circumstance, why we can find peace in having no control, why we can stop trying to do life on our own.

I can be content in being thin or fat, in being successful or failing, in being childless or a mother, in working or resting, in contributing or withholding, in being stylish or frumpy, in struggling or understanding, in being fulfilled or disappointed. Because I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Contentment is not just a reluctant resignation to life as we know it. It’s faith in a sovereign, omniscient, loving God – that this current situation is from Him, controlled by Him, and that He’ll use it for our good. So I am praying for the grace to recognize when my unbelief in the gospel is making me discontent, to repent from it, and to turn to God, finding contentment in His love for me, His sovereign hand working for me, and His presence in my life. Truly He is the only place to be truly content.

Free to love God in all circumstances.

10 Feb

After being reminded of truth last weekend, my time at work has been much better. When tempted to get annoyed or frustrated, I remind myself of truth – that I can glorify God regardless of circumstance and that being gracious and patient is glorifying to Him.

I have been reading Waking the Dead by John Eldredge and his whole book is based around the quote by St. Iphnaeus, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” For several months, I have struggled with an Ecclesiastes perspective on life: everything is vain and a striving after the wind. Why eat? Why make the bed? Why buy clothes? Why enjoy music? Why exercise? It’s all seemed so pointless and such a waste of time.

But John Eldredge says that it is through the heart reawakened by the Spirit of Christ that we truly connect with God. Living life fully is doing what you love, seeing those things as gifts from God and revelations of Him. I have wanted to believe that for so long but it seemed to good to be true.

Tonight at care group, the worship leader, Cathy, thanked God for revealing Himself to us through sunrises, songs, and Scripture. I recalled reading in The Sacred Romance (another John Eldredge book) a long time ago about God wooing us, about Him speaking to our hearts through specific, tangible things. Again, this seems to good to be true.

But then again, it’s God. Nothing with Him is too good to be true because things more amazing than I can imagine are true with Him. He proved that with the gospel. “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” Including love notes throughout the day. Including pleasurable moments, little things that we enjoy.

John Eldredge writes in Waking the Dead, “Everything you love is what makes a life worth living… A life filled with loving is a life most like the one that God lives, which is life as it was meant to be.” This makes sense to me, because if God’s glory is shone in a man (or woman) fully alive, then their heart is engaging with the things of this world around them.

Just as Travis and I were driving home from care group tonight, I was telling him how freeing it was to know that enjoying things in this world is good because they reveal God. I am free to enjoy things because of what they represent – they are the shadow but the substance is to come.

More than that, God has created me specifically to like certain things. There is a reason why I like sunrises, spring mornings, summer nights, grapenuts with bananas, honey and yogurt. He designed me to love reading, writing, and to have deep thoughts (sometimes deeper than I’d like). He created me to be more of a one-on-one person than a crowd person. He created me to be better at thinking through writing than speaking. He decided that I would prefer individual sports like running and triathlons over team sports. He gave me my love for funny movie lines, cute animals, and my wonderful husband (who cooked soup for tonight’s care group!).

The enemy wants to keep my heart indifferent or apathetic. He wants me to drift along in this life, skirting the fringe, finding no meaning or value in anything. He doesn’t want me to engage, doesn’t want my heart to feel. I will close with these quotes from The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis:

“Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made all the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable.”

“The deepest likings and impulses of any man are the raw material, the starting-point, with which the Enemy has furnished him. To get him away from those is therefore always a point gained; even in things indifferent it is always desirable to substitute the standards of the World, or convention, or fashion, for a human’s own real likings and dislikings.”