In our suburb we complain about the constant power outages. They can hit three times in a week and last up to twenty-four hours, plunging the neighborhood into darkness. The inconvenience is hard to bear when we cannot use basic household appliances.
Our Christian neighbor often asks, “Is this also something to thank God for?” She is referring to 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for that is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” We always say, “Yes, of course, we thank God in all things.” But the half-hearted manner in which we say it is contradicted by our grumbling every time the power goes off.
One day, however, our belief in thanking God in all circumstances took on new meaning. I returned from work to find our neighbor visibly shaken as she cried, “Thank Jesus the power was off. My house would have burned down, and my family and I would have perished!”
A refuse-collection truck had hit the electricity pole in front of her house and brought down the high-tension cables right over several houses. Had there been power in the cables, fatalities would have been likely.
The difficult circumstances we face can make it hard to say, “Thanks, Lord.” We can be thankful to our God who sees in every situation an opportunity for us to trust Him—whether or not we see His purpose.
In Istanbul, Turkey, in 2005, one sheep jumped off a cliff and then nearly 1,500 others followed! In the end, about one-third of them died. Not knowing which way to go, sheep mindlessly follow other members of the flock.
When our family lived in Chicago several years ago, we enjoyed many benefits. Near the top of my list were the amazing restaurants that seemed to try to outdo each other, not only in great cuisine but also in portion sizes. At one Italian eatery, my wife and I would order a half portion of our favorite pasta dish and still have enough to bring home for dinner the next night! The generous portions made us feel like we were at Grandma’s house when she poured on the love through her cooking.
After reading several children’s books with my daughter, I told her that I was going to read a grown-up book for a while and then we would look at books together again. I opened the cover and began to read in silence. A few minutes later, she looked at me doubtfully and said, “Mommy, you aren’t really reading.” She assumed that since I wasn’t speaking, I wasn’t processing the words.
In his book A Sweet and Bitter Providence, John Piper offers these thoughts about God’s providence and guidance: “Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. . . . God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.”
In all the years I’ve worked with people, I’ve yet to meet someone whose life was all messed up because he or she kept God’s commands. Yet, in a day when personal freedom is celebrated as an inalienable right, talk of conforming our lifestyle to God’s ways is often viewed as an infringement. And anyone who speaks out in favor of God’s boundaries is ruled out of bounds. But in this frenzy to be free, it should not go unnoticed that our society is increasingly marked with a haunting sense of meaninglessness and despair.
George Washington Carver (1864–1943) overcame terrible racial prejudice to establish himself as a renowned American educator. Spurning the temptation to give in to bitterness for the way he was treated, Carver wisely wrote, “Hate within will eventually destroy the hater.”
Did you hear about the church that didn’t have enough room for parking? Fortunately, it was located right next to a store that was closed on Sundays, so a church member asked the store owner if they could overflow into his parking lot. “No problem,” he said. “You can use it 51 weeks out of the year. On the 52nd week, though, it will be chained off.” The man was grateful, but asked curiously, “What happens that week?” The store owner smiled, “Nothing. I just want you to remember that it’s not your parking lot.”
The other day I ran across a troubling report about people who think it is acceptable to use the ocean as a giant garbage dump. Here is an excerpt: “If you should see this amazing floating pile of plastic in the Pacific Ocean, it’s called ‘The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.’ It features three million tons of plastic debris floating in an area larger than Texas. An eye-popping 46,000 pieces of plastic float on every square mile of ocean!” Other sources estimate the amount of garbage is even bigger. Plastic is especially bad because it does not dissolve.