Recently, I have faced circumstances that have revealed my heart. I’ve been sick for a week and a half, Ash is teething and so I’ve felt like a bit of a hermit. I get cabin fever after being in the house for more than 12 hours, so it’s gotten a little crazy around here.
Maybe you’ve experienced the same thing, times when life coils up in a python grip and squeezes out what is really at the core of your soul. Of course teething and sickness are really not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but throughout my life larger struggles have revealed the real desires of my heart.
The tempting thing when life closes in on you is to blame the circumstances. It’s easier to say things like “If only this hadn’t happened, then I wouldn’t have reacted that way.” Or “Perhaps if I felt better I wouldn’t have snapped at you like that.” or “I never was an angry person, until this happened.”
Another tempting thing to do is to compare our circumstances to others’ and in doing so minimize everyone else’s struggles. Maybe you’ve thought this too “Any sane person would have reacted as I did.” Or “She doesn’t understand because she hasn’t had as hard a week as I have.”
The beauty of living in community and sharing your burdens with others is that it provides proper perspective. Someone has had a worse day than you. Someone is sicker than you are. Someone has received worse news, and perhaps that someone didn’t react as you did. Perhaps they made the right choice instead of the wrong one based on the circumstances. That really nips the self-righteous “no one can really understand my difficulty” in the bud.
I’m not saying that circumstances don’t influence us, but they never cause us to be sin or act in a negative way.
When life tightens it’s grip on me, the thing that is revealed about me most often is that I’m a complainer. Sometimes it is really easy to feel sorry for myself. In fact, many times I create moments and spaces to whine and complain about my circumstances. Sometimes a call to a friend turns into a rant about the difficulty of my day instead of asking for encouragement and prayer.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about my social media activity. Subconsciously, my semi-obscure posts on social media that reveal how hard my week has been might be posted in the hopes that someone might feel bad for me. Of course, I normally don’t think that when I post it, but it’s important to think about why I feel the need to narrate difficulty.
I’m not talking about being vulnerable with friends and sharing real struggles—that’s simply a part of sharing your life with people. I’m talking about sharing struggles publicly with the hope of getting praise or sympathy instead of real gospel encouragement.
The complaining that is squeezed out of me by life circumstances points to one truth: I don’t regularly cultivate contentment. In fact, my chronic complaining proves that I don’t think that I should have to deal with a lot of inconveniences or struggle. I idolize comfort, and in truth, don’t want to have to work hard at anything.
We are not promised a life without struggle. In fact, that life would not forge real character.
Romans says this: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faithinto this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-4)
Often I expect my character to be forged with large decisions, where I work, live, who I marry etc. And those things certainly shape it. However, how I react to day-to-day circumstances molds my character just as much. I have been given these circumstances and I can trust God (not blame Him) for the strength to work hard and be obedient in light of them. The choice to ask for help and pray for grace as I take care of a needy baby, while I am sick myself, increases my endurance. The choice to be kind not short with a friend shapes my character. Rejoicing in the work that God has given me cultivates contentment and joy rather than discontent and discouragement.
What helps give you perspective on your circumstances?