Choosing to Thrive in My Circumstances
Choose Joy — Seeing God in All Things
In Biblical times, when something bad happened to someone, people immediately made a correlation to a person being the cause of a misfortune. So, when a man was born blind, it was blamed on the sin of his or her parents. In modern society, this question could still be asked related to any bad circumstance: Who sinned, that this person has a disability, or lives in poverty, or has cancer, or just lost a job, or went bald, or had their company bought out? We look to place blame on every circumstance, even on circumstances where no blame can be directly placed. I mean, why does someone win the lottery, and the rest of the millions who play do not? Why does one person on a beach get struck by lightning, and thousands of others do not? Why does one person get in a car wreck, and the other avoids a wreck by mere feet or a mere second?
I do not, for a second, think that God sits on His throne and decides that certain people are going to get cancer or that others will get in car accidents. And because I think that God is not the cause, then I cannot give Him the blame. When a person is faced with a problem, he has to identify the cause(s) of the problem and then find solutions. The cause of the problem is never the solution. If a person is smoking and wants to quit, the solution is not to keep smoking. It is to identify and do the opposite: to stop smoking. So, if God is not the cause of our problems, we can feel comfortable that He is part of the solution to them.
So, when problems strike, one of the first thoughts we should have as Christians is not, “Why does God seem absent?” but, “How is God present in this circumstance in which I find myself?” And, “How can I make Him more present and more part of the solution?” Again, easier said than done.
It takes discipline, patience, and mature faith to bring God into the very difficult life circumstances we face. I remember a parishioner who was faced with a pretty grave diagnosis of stage-four cancer. She immediately brought God into her fight through prayer, faith and patience. Throughout her trials, which eventually resulted in her death, she was always quick to glorify God. And I believe that in her death, God glorified her, even though her death was and still is difficult for her family. God did not cause her death or her illness, but God could be found in so many ways throughout her illness and even since her death, in the untold number of people who have grown in their faith because of her witness.
Why bad things happen to people is sometimes easy to identify—a person eats too much, has high cholesterol, and has a heart attack. There is an easily identifiable cause. Same thing with the driver who goes too fast and crashes the car. But many of life’s struggles are circumstantial—they cannot be blamed on anything. Often we cannot change our circumstances—but God can change us through our circumstances. The works of God were manifest through a man’s blindness. They can work through our hardships as well.
Let me leave you with one last thought—a baseball season in professional baseball is 162 games long. Virtually every team wins at least 54 games (one third of them), and virtually every team loses at least 54 games (one third of them). It’s how a team plays in the other 54 games that determines if they are the champions or in last place. In life, some of our mistakes are caused by ourselves. And some of our misfortunes are caused by others. But a good amount of our misfortune is circumstantial, and it’s how we glorify God in these circumstances that will win us the Kingdom of Heaven.
A Prayer for Optimism