Without taking the time to re-establish the basis of series here (please go back to #1 if you need a full explanation) let me move on to the 5th Principle I have found it necessary to load into my own mental RAM as a means of thinking Biblically about life.
Principle #5 – Providence limits our options.
Have you ever spent much time fretting over things you wish were different, but you have no power to actually change? I have. And I am here to tell you it is an exercise in futility. More, it is a waste of time, energy and emotion. IT is a trap which is horribly hard to extricate ourselves from. And it is a place which drives me back to reconsider this principle every time. In truth, no matter how we wish some things were different, the providential arrangement of much of our lives leaves us to cope only with what is, and does not give us all of the options we wish we had at our disposal.
No doubt, we rage against this reality at times. True, we CAN change some things. Others, we can plead with the Heavenly Father for, and He has power to change what we cannot. And then, there are those things which barring miraculous intervention cannot be changed at all. And we are forced to live within those boundaries. (See: Acts 17:26-28)
Birth defects may be tempered with science to some degree, but the victim of cerebral palsy will have limitations to his or her physical exploits. One with Down Syndrome will have different options in life than one without. One born blind may never see, and dreams of certain careers or other choices will simply be unavailable. How some wish we could reclaim that parent who was distant, or absent, or even abusive, and recreate the relationship we legitimately long for. But no amount of longing, pining, sighing, grieving or manipulating can change any of these.
In these few examples and countless more, we are forced to live within the boundaries of the providential circumstances of our lives. And the question is, will we submit to them, or will we try to move Heaven and earth in ways that are unhealthy and even dangerous? Will we dwell there? Or will we take the options we truly have?
Now let me be clear – I am not speaking of a failing resignation here. I am not advocating just giving up and languishing in our limitations. What I am advocating rather, is a faithful looking to the God and Father who loves us, and who in His infinite love and wisdom directs us for our eternal good, by closing off certain avenues. And while the concept is simple, it is seldom easy to walk this way. This requires an unusual trust in the loving hand of our unseen Father.
Trust in God this way does not negate the reality either of evil done to us, nor of legitimate disappointment. But it is a call to refuse to frame our lives by these things – and rather to frame them in the hope of our Heavenly Father’s sovereign hand. Even when we cannot understand it.
Especially when we cannot understand it.
Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr summarized his thoughts in understanding these issues in a prayer he wrote in 1943. No, it was not invented by Alcoholics Anonymous. Niebuhr wasn’t my kind of theologian. But he got this right. He closed a sermon of his with these words:
God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
What options HAS God placed before you? Seek those in His grace. And do not waste a second more on what He hasn’t . The day will come – when in His presence, you will see His wisdom in it. And you will worship.