DECEMBER 22: Don't be so sure
If we want to open our lives more and more to joy, we have to be less and less ruled by circumstances. This can only happen if we place circumstances where they belong—not as the entire story, but a mysterious piece of a larger story.
There is an old Chinese fable that goes like this (by some accounts): One day, a young man’s horse ran away. Everyone tried to offer consolation for the man’s bad fortune, but his old, wise father said, “What makes you so sure this is not a blessing?”
Months later, his horse returned, bringing with her a magnificent stallion. Everyone congratulated him! But his father said, “What makes you so sure this isn’t a disaster?”
Their household was made richer by the horse. But one day the son fell off his horse and broke his hip. Everyone offered consolation for his bad luck, but his father said, “What makes you so sure this is not a blessing?”
A year later, they were invaded and every able-bodied man was required to go into battle. They lost nine of every ten. Only because the son was lame did father and son survive to take care of each other.
Though fable, there’s a truth revolving through this story. The pages of Jewish Scriptures, Jesus’ biographies and the correspondence of the first Jesus followers echo this truth as well.
...we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.*
It’s possible that bad things and good things are just steps to best things.
The arrival of Jesus as a baby (the “good thing” we’re caught up in every holiday season), is the first notes of God’s song of joy—that He wants to be with you forever.
Yet even this miracle only came through suffering. Initially, the pangs of child birth, the challenges of a family in poverty. Was this pain evidence that it wasn’t going well? Don’t be so sure.
Though it’s likely Jesus experienced leisure, fun and a full belly from time to time, his life went on to greater suffering than his birth. Did Jesus suffer because he wasn’t on the right track? Don’t be so sure.
God’s plan is so much bigger than one person or one lifetime or one circumstance. And even though the plan unfolds through to eternity, God’s plan won’t fail. The moments of torment, pain and discouragement, the moments of ecstasy, fun and surprise are all key ingredients to massive epic God is writing through all of history.
When Jesus put all of our circumstances in light of an eternity, he wasn’t trivializing them. Quite the opposite. His is the only worldview that allows us to celebrate while we can and suffer seriously. We don’t depend on either to guide us.
Neither pain nor bliss are the whole story. They are the supply chain of every miracle.
PRAYER FOR TODAY
“JoyGiver, there is much to celebrate right now. Help me celebrate with abandon, for it will soon pass. There is also much to grieve right now. Help me grieve with resilience, for it will soon pass.”
*Paul's letter to Jesus followers suffering persecution in Rome, chapter 8, verse 28.