My pyracantha sports gorgeous clumps of orange berries, but don’t even think of breaking off a branch for a bouquet. Prickly thorns make you cry “ouch.” In the same way, life can be beautiful but sometimes makes us cry “ouch.” Our hopes and dreams can be dashed in the blink of an eye.
In high school, I was tall and oh, how I wanted to play basketball. But my doctor refused permission because he detected a heart murmur. Ouch. I wanted to buy a clarinet, but we couldn’t afford the instrument. Ouch. But those were just childhood pinches.
As grownups, dashed hopes and dreams hurt a lot more. A marriage ends. A stab to the heart! We lose a loved one. A stab to the heart! We lose jobs or health or even contact with others because of COVID. More stabs!
Accept what you cannot change.
At age 16, Joni Eareckson Tada dove into the Chesapeake Bay, broke her neck and in the blink of an eye became a quadriplegic. She was a talented artist, but she spit out the paint brushes her counselor coaxed her to hold in her mouth. She would have none of it. But as she accepted her condition, she learned to paint, holding the brush between her teeth.
She not only learned to paint, but she went on to found a worldwide ministry, Joni and Friends, which ministers to handicapped and disabled people around the world.
It took a while, but Joni accepted what she could not change. In time she married, and now in her 70’s, she continues to lead a productive life. Each year at Christmas I read a book by Joni titled A Christmas Longing with paintings and beautiful thoughts about longings beyond this life. We all have them.
I haven’t faced nearly the challenges Joni does, but I’m face to face with the reality of aging. I have to accept the fact that I am no longer as young as I used to be. That’s a reality I have to accept.
Change what you can.
Don’t just mope. When Joni couldn’t paint with her hands, she learned to paint with her mouth. Most of our challenges are not nearly that daunting. If you lose a job, apply for another and wait to see how God blesses you in it. If it’s a relationship challenge, ask (or extend) forgiveness and do something nice for the other person. As Janine says in one of her talks, “Grace wins, every time.”
I accept the fact that I’m getting older, but I also pursue all the avenues I can to stay healthy—eat properly, exercise, see doctors about conditions that arise. In other words, I’m accepting my stage of life but I’m changing what I can to adapt to it.
Praise God anyway.
When Paul and Silas were in prison, they sang hymns and converted the jailor. We too can praise God in the midst of our predicaments. Not for the predicament. But for Who He is. He is on the throne. He hears our prayers. And He deserves our praise whether He answers yes, no or wait a while.
Perhaps the challenges of life on this earth are meant to get us ready for heaven. Someday we’ll have new bodies that won’t crank and creak. Someday we’ll enjoy total health. Someday we’ll be immersed in an atmosphere of total love and grace. We can only imagine!
To Wrap Up.
If only we might live by this quote from Reinhold Niebuhr: “God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
We are in the midst of a pandemic. And of political upheaval. Who knows what our Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations will look like? Will we be able to attend tree lightings? Church services? Family affairs? Will we be able to shop as usual? Well, whether we can or can’t, it’s still Christmas. We are celebrating the birth of Christ. Perhaps having the holiday stripped of some of the elaborate trappings will help us focus on that.
When I worry about my situation, whatever that may be, I read Job 38 and 39 where God reminds Job that He is Creator of the universe and all its creatures. And as the song goes “He’s got the whole world in His Hands.” That includes us and our current situation. Happy or sad. Hopeful or depressed. Smiling or crying "ouch." God is with us. He loves us. He cares about us. He’s there for us. Let’s take a deep breath and trust Him to work things out.