Please underline this sentence: what you have in Christ is greater than anything you don’t have in life. You have God, who is crazy about you, and the forces of Heaven to monitor and protect you. You have the living presence of Jesus within you. In Christ you have everything. ~ Anxious for Nothing
The Good Life
The widest river in the world is not the Mississippi, Amazon, or Nile. The widest river on earth is a body of water called If Only. Throngs of people stand on its banks and cast longing eyes over the waters. They desire to cross but can’t seem to find the ferry. They are convinced the If Only river separates them from the good life.
If only I were thinner, I’d have the good life. If only I were richer, I’d have the good life. If only the kids would come. If only the kids were gone. If only I could leave home, move home, get married, get divorced. If only my skin were clear of pimples, my calendar free of people, my profession immune to layoffs, then I would have the good life. The If Only river. Are you standing on its shore? Does it seem the good life is always one if only away? One purchase away? One promotion away? One election, transition, or romance away?
If so, then we’ve traced your anxiety back to one of its sources. You’re in a hurry to cross the river and worried that you never will. Consequently, you work long hours, borrow more money, take on new projects, and pile on more responsibilities. Stress. Debt. Short nights. Long days. All part of the cost of the ticket to the land of the good life, right? Not exactly, opined the apostle Paul. The good life begins, not when circumstances change, but when our attitude toward them does. Look again at his antidote for anxiety.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. — Philippians 4:6-7
Paul embedded in the verses two essential words that deserve special attention: with thanksgiving. Sprinkled among your phrases “Help me…” “Please give me…” “If only…” should be two wonderful words: Thank you.
Pollyanna or Chicken Little?
As we navigate life, it’s easy to interpret problems and unmet desires through one of two extremes. One extreme is the Chicken Little who runs around saying, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling.” That’s called panic.
The other extreme is Pollyanna, who says, “Oh, nothing bad is happening. It’s all good.” That’s called ignorance.
The world stinks sometimes. There’s cancer and there’s death in this world. There’s sadness in this world. There are orphans in this world. There’s hunger in this world. And sometimes you’re going to pray for things, and the prayer isn’t going to be answered the way you want.
But somewhere between Chicken Little and Pollyanna are the sober, honest disciples of Christ who don’t freak out at the presence of problems. Who don’t lose faith when hard times come. Who don’t make their contentment contingent on anything other than the presence of Christ.
When you stay on that path, you’ll find the journey goes so much smoother.
If only we could order life the way we order gourmet coffee. Wouldn’t you love to mix and match the ingredients of your future? “Give me a tall, extra-hot cup of adventure, cut the dangers, with two shots of good health.”
“A decaf brew of longevity, please, with a sprinkle of fertility. Go heavy on the agility and cut the disability.”
“I’ll have the pleasure mocha with extra stirrings of indulgence. Make sure it’s consequence free.”
“I’ll go with a grande happy-latte, with a dollop of love, sprinkled with Caribbean retirement.”
Take me to that coffee shop. Too bad it doesn’t exist. Truth is, life often hands us a concoction entirely different from the one we requested. Ever feel as though the barista-from-above called your name and handed you a cup of unwanted stress?
“Joe Jones, enjoy your early retirement. Looks as if it comes with marital problems and inflation.”
“Mary Adams, you wanted four years of university education, then kids. You’ll be having kids first. Congratulations on your pregnancy.”
“A hot cup of job transfer six months before your daughter’s graduation, Susie. Would you like some patience with that?”
Life comes caffeinated with surprises. Modifications. Transitions. Alterations. You move down the ladder, out of the house, over for the new guy, up through the system. All this moving. Some changes welcome, others not. We might request a decaffeinated life, but we don’t get it. None of us pass through this life surprise free. If you don’t want change, go to a soda machine; that’s the only place you won’t find any.
So make friends with whatever’s next.
Embrace it. Accept it. Don’t resist it. Change is not only a part of life; change is a necessary part of God’s strategy. To use us to change the world, He alters our assignments. God transitioned Joseph from a baby brother to an Egyptian prince. He changed David from a shepherd to a king. Peter wanted to fish the Sea of Galilee. God called him to lead the first church.
God makes reassignments. Over time, we discover that the thing we thought we wanted is far less satisfying than what God has prepared for us.
God’s Words for If Only
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. — Philippians 4:11-13 NIV
These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing. — 2 Corinthians 4:17 CEV
Which of you by being anxious can add a cubit to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? — Luke 12:25-26 RSV
Be strong and brave, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, because the Lord God, my God, is with you. —1 Chronicles 28:20 NCV
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. — Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV
Journaling Through If Only
- In what areas of your life does If Only tend to pop up? (Kids, finances, health, job, or some other area?)
- Write five If Only statements you struggle with.
- Now, one by one, give God each of those longings or fears.
- What are some ways throughout your day you can turn from If Only to contentment in Christ?
Excerpted with permission from Trade Your Cares for Calm by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado.
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If Only happens to us all. The world stinks sometimes. Let’s remember today that Christ is with us no matter what our circumstances are! Come share some of your answers to the journaling questions above. We would love to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily
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