I am very much on-board when things are going smoothly. Not so much when things get hard. When things are difficult, my default response is moaning and complaining. Usually out loud.
In Philippians 4:11-12, Paul makes a bold and provocative statement:
“…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.“
To be content with every situation is a tough sell. The way I read it, Paul isn’t describing a decision to put on a happy face or stoically persevere. He really is content: even in hunger, poverty and prison. And civil unrest.
Everyone’s life is hard at times. To be a living human means enduring disappointments and chaos and disasters. The difference between a Christ follower and a nonbeliever should be evident in how they react to the difficulties in life. I have a lot of room to grow, particularly in this area.
Today I’ve been thinking about the Exodus story; I find it so easy to judge the Israelites in the desert. All that discontentment is like a familiar song to me. They complain there’s not enough food, not enough water, the leaders don’t know what they are doing, no one seems to know where we’re going, wah wah wah.
In some respects, the recent U.S. election cycle feels eerily similar. No matter the outcome of the presidential election, roughly half the population was going to be disappointed or upset. Thanks to the media, we were divided into opposing camps and fed reasons to blame others (or the other candidate). To some degree, we were complicit in this mutiny; we bought what they were selling.
Although the current period isn’t as severe, it reminds me of another time in America’s history when half the country disagreed with the other half. It didn’t go well. I am hopeful we will remember those tragic lessons. I recall that we are one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Surely that resonates with most of us?
As our national history has repeatedly proven – when necessary – we are a resourceful and determined bunch. It is one of the pillars of our culture: when the going gets tough, the tough really do get going.
As a collective, we will get through the upcoming days and months, and we will find equilibrium again. The question is whether we’ll do it while grumbling, or while praying? After all, we who believe are called to be ministers of reconciliation, for the purpose of drawing others to the beautiful love of God that Jesus showed us.
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 ESV
God bless America.