Facing Uncertainty

9 01 2015

The past few days have brought tension and fear to many people as we followed the news reports about the Charlie Hebdo shootings in France and today’s hostage situations as well. While we are safe here in the United States, we know only too well what can happen as we remember the events of 9-11. Even discounting terrorism, we hear daily of shootings and attacks, many by family members, and we wonder, God, how can we live with these possibilities?

The situations today, with the possibility of harm, either by terror groups or by gang members or random individuals, is not that much different from the early days of the church. Only then the terror that was being inflicted was often from the state—whether the Romans or the Jews’ own leaders. There were no assurances of safety in the days of Jesus and the apostles. Each day could bring danger or death.

So how do we face the news reports each day? Do we just ignore them and pretend there are no dangers in our world today? Do we hide in our homes to be safe? How can we live with the possibilities that face us?

The Apostle Paul knew about danger. He had been beaten, stoned, and imprisoned. His own people sought to kill him, so that he had to be let down outside the walls of the city so he could escape. He knew that wherever he went there was the possibility of success in spreading the gospel of Jesus, alongside the specter of persecution, injury, or death.

Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth:

“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-26).

So why did he continue on? How did he have the courage and the strength to persevere in the task given to him?

First of all, Paul viewed this life, his earthly existence, as only a portion of his life overall. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

No matter how much we love our earthly existence, the truth is that, outside of new discoveries in science, each of us will die one day. We will leave our family members and our friends, our possessions and our problems, to join Him. Therefore, Paul held loosely to the things of this world. Corrie ten Boom once said to Charles Swindoll, “I’ve learned that we must hold everything loosely, because when I grip it tightly, it hurts when the Father pries my fingers loose and takes it from me!” (Charles Swindoll, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity, p.114).

Second, Paul lived each day fully, serving His Lord with anticipation, commitment, and contentment. “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13).

Paul learned the secret of facing challenges and dangers, of celebrating successes and achievements: Whatever the situation, God was with him and would carry him through.

Finally, Paul had the assurance that God’s love would always be with him:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-29).

Paul knew that the main thing in his life was his relationship with Christ. Whatever happened to his body was only a passing thing. Did he suffer? Of course. Was he at times frustrated? Most definitely! But he had faith, faith that this situation would pass and that, one day, he would be found whole and complete in His Savior’s presence. Until that time Paul dedicated himself to living for Christ and preaching the Word of God, fulfilling the Great Commission to preach, teach, and disciple.

What about you today? Are you suffering? Are you living in fear of what might happen—whether danger, illness, or some other catastrophe? Take some time today to consider your life, its meaning and its purpose. To what are you holding on tightly? Do you know the love of God as shown in the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus? Have you found meaning in the gift of grace given by God? A song I learned many years ago says:

Give them all, give them all, give them all to Jesus:
Shattered dreams, wounded hearts, and broken toys.
Give them all, give them all, give them all to Jesus,
and He will turn your sorrow into joy! (© 1975 Justin Time Music)

The night of His last meal with His disciples, knowing he was going to be crucified soon, Jesus told them, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). The peace that the world gives is transient and based on this life, but the peace that comes from God supersedes this existence, as it is based in our relationship with a God who is above all things and more powerful than anything this world can present.

We don’t know what the future holds, or even what the next minute will hold, but we do know this, that if our lives belong to God, God will hold on to us and will deliver us from fear, carrying us through every situation. We need only to trust Him to bring us through this life to the one where we will live with Him forever. Be ready each day for whatever comes by being strong in the Lord. This is where we find victory in the midst of stress, joy in the midst of challenge—our faith!


Moving Forward to a New Year

31 12 2014

Sitting in my office today, New Year’s Eve, I started to think about the year that is now passing on. It has been a full year, with my son graduating from high school and now having both of my kids in college. I have walked with friends and family through joys and sorrows and have myself made multiple changes in my life. I suppose the biggest change was moving from Ebenezer Presbyterian Church in Greenfield, where I commuted several times a week, to Woodland Heights Presbyterian Church in Springfield, where I live.

Because of all of the changes that were occurring in our lives these past few months I have found myself unable to keep up with this blog. Even when I did write articles for the local paper in Greenfield, I didn’t get them all posted here. I’ll be catching up soon by posting those articles.

Back to New Year’s Eve. The year 2014 will be ending in a matter of hours, and what have I done with what God has provided? While this day is known for its celebrations, parties, and fireworks, I believe a major emphasis should be retrospection, thinking back to what has been and looking forward to what will be. Looking back, there are many things I would like to have done better, and some things that I wish I would not have done! There are words I have spoken and words I wish I would have spoken.

Thinking about the past can be of great benefit. We can learn from the past, from our successes and mistakes, and move forward stronger and more hopeful. However, the danger of retrospection is that we often forget that we are not to live in the past—whether good or bad. How many times have you met someone who refuses to move beyond a past event, who lives in the memory of that event, which stunts their present and future?

Whether good or bad, dwelling on the past separates us from those around us, building walls that enclose us and imprison us. There is a place for the past in our memories; the Scriptures teach us to remember the past, to learn from it. But the Bible also teaches us that the past is just that, something that is to be left behind. We are not to be controlled by our past.

One of my favorite Bible passages, Lamentations 3:19-24, says,

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

Whether the past was good or bad, whether we have succeeded or failed, whether we knew joy or sorrow, we are to learn from the past, but we are also to move forward, knowing that God is with us and will bring new hope each day. But how do we find that hope?

Lamentations continues in verse 25-26: “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

We are to hope in the Lord, but what does that mean? It means that we not place our value, our worth, in our accomplishments or detriments, in the value that society places on us. Rather, finding our hope in the Lord occurs when we come to know the kind of God we serve, a God who is compassionate and forgiving, one who loves unconditionally. The cost for receiving that grace was a great one, one which we could never have paid on our own. Only one who was sinless could have paid that price, Jesus Christ, and He did so on the cross of Calvary. By that sacrifice He opened the way for us to be reunited with our Creator, to be adopted in to the family of God as God’s His beloved children.

In Christ, each day is a new day. This isn’t meant to minimize your joy or sorrow over the past, but to enable you to step forward in spite of what has been. Just as the Apostle Paul said, “16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:16-17).

This evening, as you celebrate the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015, I invite you to spend some time in prayer, turning over to our Lord all that has passed before and seeking God’s grace to take you into this new year knowing that you are not alone and that you are loved and valued.

Blessings, and Happy New Year!

Finding God’s Perspective

7 10 2014

We’ve all heard the story of the blind men who encountered an elephant. They had never seen an elephant and wondered what it might be like. Each of the men “explored” a different part of the creature to determine what this animal was. The first blind man touched the leg and proclaimed, “It is like a pillar!” The second man located the tail and determined, “It is like a rope!” The third touched the side of the elephant and was sure it was like a wall. Likewise, the fourth felt the trunk and stated, “No, it is like the heavy branch of a tree.” The fifth touched the ear and decided it was like a large hand fan, and the sixth felt the tusk and asserted, “It is like a solid pipe.” The men argued for some time as to which was right, until another, a sighted man, came along. He listened to their wrangling for a while until he finally spoke up. “You are all right, you see. You each touched a different part of the same animal.”
Perspective, or the lack of it, has been the cause of many broken relationships and broken lives. Without a proper perspective we cannot see the proverbial forest for the trees. The blind men’s perspective was limited to what they first experienced with their hands when approaching the elephant. They were each so sure they had found the truth that they stopped looking and argued with one another. We, on the other hand, each have our own perspective of life and truth, often based on our experiences, and that perspective limits our growth and constrains our ability to find peace with others.
One of the most important perspectives we need to consider is God’s perspective. God states through Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NIV). Most of the trouble Jesus had with the religious leaders came back to this idea, that they had a different perspective and didn’t understand Jesus’ thoughts. They had flat thinking: this is the rule and so that is what we will do. However, Jesus was thinking with an eternal, heavenly perspective, seeing what good he could do when he healed the lame man on the Sabbath, etc.
Where in your life are you being held back by a narrow perspective? The point is not to ignore what you know to be true, or to turn away from Scripture because you want a broader perspective. That is not my suggestion in any way! However, there are times when we must examine our lives, our ideas, our perspectives, to see if we are truly looking at the individual trees instead of stepping back to see the forest.
Paul and Barnabas had such a situation. Mark had accompanied them on a previous journey but had left them when the going got too rough. Now, preparing to embark on a second missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to take Mark once again, but Paul refused. This disagreement was so profound that the pair split up, with Paul and another partner going one way, and Barnabas and Mark going another. Mark was older and able to continue on the journey this time. However, Paul’s limited perspective concerning Mark split up the missionary team.
Paul may have learned his lesson before writing the letter to the Romans, as he states, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited (Romans 12:16). He goes on to state, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (verse 18).
I’m sure if Paul looked at the church today, with all of our arguments, posturing, and theological differences, he would have something strong to say. But instead, each of us has felt a different part of the elephant and, therefore, is determined that our approach to faith is the only perspective that exists. It is time for the church universal to be so, and for the people inside each of its partitions to learn to love one another and to learn from one another.
I’m not asking you to forego your theological distinctives but, rather, to find a place of peace with your brothers and sisters in faith, with your family members, with your neighbors, where God can bring you together. Step back from that tree that you have been examining to catch the wonder of the forest. Step back from your plans and ideas to be able to see God’s plans and ideas and the wonder of His creation and inspiration in those who call on His name.

A Good Day to Die

30 09 2014

Several days ago, I was watching an old episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine with my husband. The characters were preparing to go into battle, when one Klingon warrior, as was their custom, exclaimed, “It is a good day to die!” No, he wasn’t planning to die, but as a warrior, coming from a warrior race, he believed that to die in battle was an honorable death.
And so the theme for this article: dying in battle. The article isn’t about being martyred for one’s faith, even though hundreds of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being tortured and martyred because of their beliefs every day in the Middle East and Africa. And even more are dying in West Africa because they are volunteering to care for those who are infected with the Ebola virus. Although we need to pray for them, the article isn’t really about dying. Well, maybe it kind of is about dying, in a way. You see, living the Christian life is about dying—to our selves, to our desires, to our wants—so we can live for Christ.
In Acts, chapter 20, we read a speech of Paul to the believers from Ephesus. Paul was on his way to Jerusalem. He knew that by going to Jerusalem he could be captured, arrested, perhaps even killed, but he also knew it was God’s will that he go there. He sent for the believers so he could speak to them one more time. He said to them,
And now, as a captive to the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me. But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace (Philippians 1:22-24).
Did Paul want to die? I don’t believe so. In other passages he expresses his problem. While he is longing to get to heaven and be with the Lord, he also feels the need and desire to be with his “children” in the faith, to help them find their way in the Christian life (Philippians 1). But yet, he treks toward Jerusalem anyway.
How does this relate to us today? I don’t think many of us are planning to go to West Africa as medical missionaries to treat Ebola patients. And I don’t think any of us is boarding a plane to the Middle East to be in the path of ISIS extremists. What does dying mean to us?
Paul uses the term “dying” figuratively and literally. While he knew that he might physically die, he also referred to dying as putting aside his own wants and desires to serve the Lord (Romans 8:13). He had found the place in faith where he could place God’s will first, and “die” to his own flesh. Paul decided that each day he would walk the path set before him by God, whatever the result.
What in your life have you not “died” to? Is it a person, a possession, a dream? What is the one thing (or maybe more) that is keeping you from living the Christian life as Paul did, being ready each day to put aside those things that keep you from hearing God’s call and serving Him wholeheartedly? We have so much more than Paul or any of the early believers had. Our brothers in the Middle East today have only their faith. Everything else has been taken away, and yet they still stand and profess Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives.
Are you ready to die, perhaps not literally but spiritually, to set aside all the things that keep you from doing God’s will in your life? Have you taken inventory of your life and found that the priorities you cherish are not those that God would have for you, but rather are holding you back from God’s will, from serving Christ effectively? Take some time this week to do a self-evaluation. Pray and ask the Lord to look through your heart and show you what can be left behind, if necessary, so that you can be fully committed to serving God.
My prayer this week is that, like the Klingon warriors, you will come to the place where you can proclaim, “Today is a good day to die, and a very good day to live for Christ!”

More than Conquerors (originally published 8/7/14)

18 09 2014

With all the changes in the world today, it seems that on every hand we are confronted with another challenge. Whether in the area of finances, culture, politics, or another area, we are continually faced with encounters that test our values and commitment to God and to one another. With each new day, each news report, or each edition of the newspaper, we find new situations that require us to go back and revisit our principles of life.
With each of these challenges our faith is also tested. How far will we bend before we push back or break? I’m sure the believers in Rome felt this same way. The degradation of society in first-century Rome was rampant. I’ll not detail many of the practices that were found in upper society in those days except to say that today’s culture is not any lower than Rome. Believers who did not worship at the altars of the Roman gods were discriminated against, and it was not unusual for a believer to be forced into the coliseum for the amusement of the crowds.
With that being the case, why did Paul tell the believers that they were more than conquerors? They weren’t overcoming their circumstances physically or even politically. Yet, in Romans 8 Paul tells them:
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul himself experienced the tragedies and struggles of life. He was persecuted, arrested, beaten, stoned and left for dead. And yet he considered himself more than a conqueror. What did he conquer? What do we conquer when we are faced with all these challenges in our lives?
The truth is that the victories Paul referred to were much deeper than those that trouble us on a day-to-day basis. While we are frustrated daily with the experiences around us, there is a foundational level where our focus needs to be if we are to find fulfillment and comfort in our lives. Paul is referring to a level of life that we rarely consider, the spiritual realm. Unfortunately, in our lives we often live out the conflicts and personal struggles, the shortages and interpersonal arguments, never taking the time to step back and reflect on what is behind all of those things.
Those who are called “Christian,” who are followers of Jesus Christ, who have had their sins forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ, have come to know a deeper part of life. God has shown us that there is more to life than what we see or hear or experience physically. In fact, all of these things are surface items that depend on what is below, what is our foundation. In the spiritual realm, we can be overcomers in spite of what is happening in the physical realm.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that we are to just be “spiritual” about everything and not participate in government or social change. I am definitely not suggesting that we totally separate ourselves from those with whom we disagree, living in a detached, unconcerned manner. I am also not suggesting that we withdraw from the political arena, allowing our culture and society to further degrade with no alternative provided.
When you look again at Paul’s words, you find that he is basing our victory on one thing: the love of Christ. He is admitting that trials will come, that we will find ourselves without, that we may even be persecuted, but even when they do, the ONE thing that matters, a relationship with Jesus Christ, will carry us through even when we cannot see victory anywhere around us.
Nothing, my friends, can separate you from the love of Christ. It is in that love, that relationship, that we overcome because we know that, as Paul stated in v. 28, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” In ALL things, not just the good things, not just the seeming victories, but ALL things are worked for our good by our gracious and powerful Lord. That is where the victory lies. Even when we cannot see the resolution, we know that God is taking that situation and will use it to bless us as we follow him.
Take heart today because, if you are in Christ, you are more than a conqueror, and nothing can separate you from the God who loves you.

Living in the Past (originally published 08/07/2014)

18 09 2014

When I talk with people, one of the most commonly expressed emotions is regret. Whether because of something they did as a child, a teen, or a young adult, or maybe even something recent, people have regrets. In fact, if you have no regrets, you are extremely blessed or just disconnected with reality.

Regret can be a positive emotion. We all look back and wonder how things might have been different if we had made a different choice at one time or another. That is normal. Regret can cause us to change our direction in life, making better choices and choosing new directions.

What isn’t normal, or healthy, however, is letting those wonderings, or regrets, dog our current lives, causing depression and anxiety, and even chronic health problems. We find ourselves living in the past, trying to somehow make up for something we did, real or imagined, so that we can bring some sort of resolution to the situation. Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, we find ourselves continually living in regret, unable to change the past.

Research has shown that continually living in regret, repetitive negative rumination and self-blame, can negatively affect not only mental health, but also hormonal and immune system functioning (“The Psychology of Regret” Psychology Today). Continual regret also causes the individual to withdraw from current situations, as they are so wrapped up in the past.
How do we deal with regret in a healthy manner? While some thoughts of the past can be good in order to help us change and grow, we must move past regret in order to live a healthy, fulfilled life. So how do we manage regret and use it for our personal growth and health?

1. Use the emotion to help you make the changes that are necessary in your life. Consider if the situation can be changed, for example, ongoing behaviors that are hurting yourself or others. Recognize what you have done and resolve it, changing your behaviors and moving on with the help of God. Many people stall at this point because they feel they cannot change on their own. This is where faith comes in.
Paul knew this confrontation with himself. “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).
Recognize that you cannot change the past but must instead accept it, make peace with it, and move on, making changes for a healthier life.

2. Realize that if there is nothing you can do, you need to just let it go. This reminds me of David’s grieving for his son in 2 Samuel 12. David had slept with Uriah’s wife and got her pregnant. He then arranged Uriah’s death on the battlefield and took the widow as his own wife. The child born from their illicit relationship became ill, and David laid of his face before God, interceding for the child, taking nothing to eat. The child eventually died, causing those around David to fear for him. However, David got up, washed himself, and got something to eat. When asked why the change, “He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” David returned to his life and rebuilt it with his new wife Bathsheba, eventually fathering his son, Solomon, who would reign after him as king in Israel.

3. Look at the situation clearly. Seek out forgiveness and move on, whether it comes or not. In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus tells us that we are to go to those who have something against us and to attempt reconciliation. It is important that we do everything we can to resolve the situation, but this will not always work. The other person may be unwilling or unable to offer forgiveness; however, at this point we are to move on and to find healing in Christ. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Pray for those who don’t forgive you, but don’t let their lack of forgiveness drag you down into the depths of despair and loss. Find forgiveness in God’s grace and mercy and move forward with your life.

Regret can be helpful, but it can also be unhealthy and damaging to the individual. It is important to use the emotion of regret to make changes in our lives, but it is also necessary to move past the emotion, resolving it by confession and receiving forgiveness, not only from others, but from God. Only then can we live healthy, fulfilled lives.


The Secret of Contentment (originally published 9/11/2014)

18 09 2014

As I was in the checkout line the other day, a few magazines caught my attention. They touted successes and accomplishments in the lives of various stars, which got me to thinking about my own life. I began to think about Paul’s words about contentment and wondered, If I were talking to my grandchildren today, how would I demonstrate contentment to them? Am I really content?

In my day-to-day life, I have the opportunity to talk with many employees, and they often let down their guard. I find myself struggling with the conversation as they express their dissatisfaction with their work arrangements, supervisors, etc., and I hurry to excuse myself, lest I be tagged as a malcontent, as well. While some are merely venting, some are chronically discontented, not only with their employment, but their lives, as well, so much so that not one positive thought is expressed. Again, I ask myself, Am I contented?
There are many areas where we can find contentment, or a lack of it—work, home, relationships, church. Some might say that being content is having no ambition, no desire for improvement or advancement. One dictionary definition of being contented is being “satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else.” Are we called to be without ambition, or is there more to being contented in the Christian life?

In the book of Philippians, Paul writes to the believers there to thank them for their support of his ministry. He is grateful for their concern for him, but he is quick to express that he isn’t in need:
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13).

Paul’s words give us the answer to the contentment issue. It isn’t a matter of not having goals or aspirations, but rather a sense of inner peace that carries us through every situation in which we find ourselves. Contentment is the acceptance of this day, this time in our lives where God has placed us, accepting that for this moment we are in God’s hands and will and can serve Him, whatever the situation.
I am not always satisfied with where I am. I want to grow and change, to be more than I am, and that is a commendable goal. So how can I be contented while having aspirations beyond where I currently stand? Am I being unfaithful to God if I want something more?

The key is in Paul’s words: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Wherever he found himself, Paul was reminded that nothing could overcome him if he was relying and leaning on God’s strength to withstand it. Whether in lack or in much, Paul learned to be satisfied with the moment, to accept that God was working in his life and would carry him through. Contentment, biblically, “arises from the inward disposition, and is the offspring of humility” (dictionary.com)

God instructs us to pray for provision and for God’s movement in our lives. Solomon prayed for wisdom. Paul prayed for God to direct him as to where he should travel and preach. Finding satisfaction or contentment requires submitting ourselves to God and to God’s working in our lives each new day, asking him for grace to grow, but finding joy and fulfillment in the times where we find ourselves.

Being content requires God’s grace. Paul prayed for God to remove a “thorn in the flesh.” He wanted relief. However, God answered: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). It is in the down times, the times of loss or need, the times when we are not where we want to be, that we can find God’s grace and power in our lives, and thereby find contentment.
Some years ago now my husband bought me a CD with a song about a couple who never found the dreams of their youth. They sing in the chorus, “This cup filled up so quickly / There’s too much on our plate /Between the living and the dying / Some things must wait / So we never got to Paris and found the cafe of our dreams / But our table holds a whole wide world of memories No, we never went to Venice / And strolled the streets alone / But we built our worlds together and we got the best of both” (Out of the Grey, So We Never Got to Paris).

The secret of contentment is not that we eliminate dreams or goals, but that we make peace with the days in which we live, find happiness in the now, knowing that God is working in our lives and will bring us joy wherever we find ourselves. The secret is submitting our dreams to God and allowing Him to bring them to pass in His way and will. May God give you joy and contentment today.



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