As we talk about discontent and acceptance, and the faith that enables us to handle both well, I keep thinking about the circumstances in life that are outside our control. The things that refuse to bend to your influence, no matter how hard you try. Those unyielding parameters of life are hard to accept when they make life difficult or just plain miserable. And they tend to shape you. It can be anything from the color of your hair, to the strength of your body, to the family you were born into, or the consequences of choices made a long time ago….at some point you have to just say “it is what it is” (if only for the sake of your mental health) and figure out how to live in that place, no matter how it chafes. Paradoxically, in the very act of surrendering your will and accepting things you can not control, you often find the power to change yourself and your surroundings in unexpected ways.
It takes a special kind of courage to live one day after another in a place you’d rather not be. To persevere in countless small acts of service. To take up the cross that will put Self to death, and follow Jesus day in and day out for the span of your life. If we are honest, many of us would rather make a grand noble gesture and be done (and of course it takes courage to declare your faith in the face of an angry gun, or give your body in defense of a child). But there is a bravery that runs deeper, that is in for the long haul– the kind of unwavering faith that hangs in there, and doesn’t give up, in spite of the pain. Courage that can count the good gifts of the Creator, even through the tears of this world’s wounds, and can keep on believing that God “exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) And all the Spirit-breathed promises become very real and precious to the heart: “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3)…“do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ” (Isaiah 41:10)…”Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet My unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor My covenant of peace be removed” (Isaiah 54:10)….Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)
Like Leah, who was overlooked for her beautiful lively younger sister and then married off to the eager suitor anyway, in an elaborate plot that involved swapping out brides and keeping the lights turned low. No one was happy about the outcome of that night, except for her father, who took care of both daughters at once and gained a hard-working son-in-law who also happened to be blessed by the Lord– handy fellow to have in the family. And although Leah may have rejoiced for the moment at the prospect of home and husband and position, still there remained the small fact that her husband was in love with her very own sister, who was everything Leah was not. Hard place for a young woman to live, day after day, but what else could she do? And in bending herself to those hard things, a beauty that is all her own begins to emerge.
I see unwanted Leah naming her sons as constant reminders of God’s presence in the midst of her unhappy marriage. I can imagine her finding joy in their baby smiles and warm sturdy bodies held close, taking comfort in the fact that God in heaven sees her and stoops to her need. It takes courage to stare down the circumstances you’ve been given and give thanks when your heart is broken; it takes both humility and strength to accept what is out of your control and focus on God’s provision for you in the wilderness. She may have been as delicate and weak as the gazelle for which she was named, but in longing for the love of a husband, Leah found the Love that never fails and became a mother of the tribes of Israel.
And when you’ve accepted where you are, and begin to see God’s provision for you there, gratitude bubbles up naturally from the person you are becoming. Giving thanks is one more act of bravery, a chin-lifting resolution that refuses to give in to either self-pity or despair, regardless of the way things look. Not because you are so tough or so capable, but because you know Who really moves the universe. I may feel helpless in the face of circumstances, but I can count on the God who says He is working all things together for good in my story. “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning…” (Psalm 130:5-6)
Gratitude is like a badge of courage to wear in the visible Everyday, proclaiming our hope and steadfast faith in the unseen Eternal. I don’t know what color gratitude is, but I see how it reflects the light of heaven’s glory.
“When trouble, restless fears, anxious fretfulness, strive to overpower the soul, our safety is in saying, ‘My God, I believe in Thy perfect goodness and wisdom and mercy. What Thou doest I cannot now understand; but I shall one day see it all plainly. Meanwhile I accept Thy will, whatever it may be, unquestioning, without reserve.’
There would be no restless disturbance, no sense of utter discomfort and discomposure in our souls, if we were quite free from any…opposition to God’s will. But we do struggle against it, we do resist; and so long as that resistance endures we cannot be at peace.” (H.L. Sidney Lear)
“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”