One day a TV reporter asked a stonemason, How do you like your job? He said, I hate it; it’s the most boring job in the world. That same reporter asked another mason on the other side of the building the same question. Oh, it’s great because I see myself building an architectural masterpiece.
Same situation, two different perspectives. It all depends, doesn’t it? And today I want to talk on this topic with one word: circumstances. Two of the great laws of life we must eventually learn are:
- Many circumstances we have in life are uncontrollable.
- Things don’t always go as planned.
Life just doesn’t always go the way we want it to go. Many things in life are beyond our control, and maybe you’re right in the middle of one such experience this morning. It can be very difficult, frustrating and hurtful. But what can you do?
Look for the Circumstances You Want
Someone has wisely said that these are the cards you are dealt in life—how you plan them is your choice. George Bernard Shaw once said: “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”
There is an old musical called Oklahoma. In it Gordon MacRae sings:
Oh, what a beautiful mornin’
Oh, what a beautiful day
I’ve got a wonderful feelin’
everything’s going my way.
That sounds so cheerful and bright, and it’s not difficult to be happy under these circumstances. But when the clouds roll in, things go from bad to worse and circumstances change, difficulties come and everything does not go my way. We hear friends say, “If my circumstances were different, I would be different”. We feel that if our circumstances were different—our upbringing, our environment, the people around us—we would be different. We would be more patient, more loving, more content, easier to live with.
If our circumstances make us what we are, then we are all victims. And that’s just what Satan wants us to believe. Because we are victims, then we aren’t responsible—we can’t help the way we are. But God says we are responsible—not for the failures of others, but for our own responses and lives. “The truth is, our circumstances do not make us what we are. They merely reveal what we are”, says author Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Some people feel they are victims—”everything bad happens to me”—but that’s not helpful. Our lives are often based on habits, says Stephen Covey. We need to change the way we think and not allow changing circumstances to dictate the way we respond in life. We are not at the mercy of circumstances.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11-12:
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 want.
How could someone actually believe that? By real experience, Paul had discovered he could live above the awful circumstances he often found himself in. He had Jesus Christ as his Saviour, and would not let adverse circumstances deter his path in life. That’s why he wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
This doesn’t mean we understand what’s going on, or that we even like it—but we are encouraged to be thankful always, because the Bible says in Psalm 100:3, “You know the Lord is God. He created us and we belong to Him. We are His people, the sheep in His pasture.” This means that God values us and takes care of us. We are not trapped in this life, or victims of circumstances. He is with us each moment.
You Can Have More Happiness
Ephesians 5:20 says, “Always use the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to thank God the Father for everything.” So, this tells me that despite the circumstances, God can work good always, even though the actual circumstances are not good in themselves. Why put the key to your happiness in other people’s hands, or at the mercy of external circumstances or events?
Do you want more happiness in your life? Don’t let yourself be too affected by what happens to you and around you. This might not be easy, but it is possible, and is highly rewarding. Just think how much time and energy you save by not dwelling on hurts, negatives and useless matters, worrying and suffering over everything that happens to you and around you. It might seem strange to you, but true happiness is not dependent on external events. If you think it does, you might be confused between pleasure and happiness. These are two different things.
Happiness comes from within you, when your mind is free from worrying and thinking. This is why happiness is associated with inner peace. When the mind is calm, peace arises. This is why meditation and silencing the chatter of the mind, bring inner peace and happiness:
Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him.” (Lamentations 3:22-25 – NIV)
Think of what Mother Teresa was able to accomplish. Her circumstances were not ideal, but today she is one of the most admired women in the world.
Let’s try and respond rather than react to life’s challenges. It is our responsibility to develop compassion, patience, forgiveness, and acceptance to live a more meaningful life. Focus on what’s working in your life rather than what is not, empowered by knowing you have a choice.
What circumstances seem overwhelming in your life? When Jeremiah was distressed, he reflected on previous mercies. Remember and record the mercies of God in prior situations. They are your well of faith. Draw from this well and be encouraged. Confess any doubt and unbelief. Now that you have confessed, take burdens you have been bearing and exchange them for his rest.
Trust God because he is faithful.