Once when I was in the middle of a particularly difficult period in my life, a friend asked me how I was getting along. I replied, “I’m doing well, under the circumstances.”
“Oh no, no, no, no,” she said. “Christians should never be under their circumstances. We should always be on top of our circumstances.”
I smiled, thanked her for the advice, and turned away, muttering to myself, “What a load of new-age claptrap. I wonder what other drivel she is spewing forth under the guise of insight and wise counsel.”
I still react negatively to folks who seem to believe that, no matter how complicated and depressing your circumstances, they can reach into their barrel of aphorisms and find just the right cliché or bit of doggerel that will help you “turn that frown upside down.”
Now I’m the first to admit that, in the normal course of things, my countenance and bearing are closer to that of Eeyore than Tigger (for all you a. a. milne enthusiasts out there). And I am skeptical of twenty-second solutions to twenty-year problems. But, at least in the case of the comment related to circumstances, with which I began this post, I am beginning to see some wisdom in it after all.
I had a flash of insight as I drove to church this morning. (Note: That drive is almost forty miles one way, so there is ample time for flashes of insight.) But, in the interest of total candor, I should mention that this insight is still mostly theoretical for me, although I am so convinced of its truth that I am prepared to share it with you even though I cannot offer you abundant examples of how I have proven its veracity by way of experimentation.
Here’s the insight. Wait for it….
My circumstances are altogether irrelevant and inconsequential so far as the quality of my relationship with God or the level of my joy in the Lord are concerned.
I’m sure that many of you read that statement and responded with something like, “Duuuhhhh.” I mean, that’s a pretty basic Christian truth, isn’t it? Something I should have learned in Christianity 101?
Truth is, I think I have known that for a long time, but this morning, for some reason, it hit me in the face like a blast of cold water. Well, I think I actually know the reason. I was listening to a CD called Celtic Hymns—my wife and I always listen to Christian music as we drive to church, as a way of preparing ourselves to enter into worship with the congregation. Although the music was instrumental, I was thinking about the words to the hymns as the musical chords filled the car. Two hymns, in particular, spoke to my heart as they had never done before.
Here are the words to the first.
I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come unto me and rest. Lay down, thou weary soul, lay down thy head upon my breast.” I came to Jesus as I was—weary, worn, and sad. I found in Him a resting place, and He has made me glad.
And the second.
Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart. Naught be all else to me save that Thou art. Thou my best thought, by day or by night. Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
It takes a minute to translate the poetic phrases and the “thees” and “thous” into modern, everyday prose. But none of that detracts from the powerful truth which those lyrics convey.
In short, I heard God say to me, “For too long you have linked your joy to your circumstances. I want you to rest in me, to draw strength and hope from my presence, irrespective of your circumstances. Your circumstances will change. I never will.”
It’s basic Christianity, but that’s where our adversary trips us up. And he has surely done a number on me lately. So it was necessary for me to be reminded of this elemental truth. Sometimes we just need to get back to basics.