The Secret of Life
“But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!’” –Numbers 21: 4b-5, NIV
I know the secret of life. (Shhhh…don’t tell anyone.)
Now, I don’t practice this secret on a daily basis. If I did, if I could, I would never grow impatient and I would never complain.
The Israelites, who had witnessed God’s miracles daily, certainly didn’t know the secret. This was the second generation (in the passage above) of people that God had protected and cared for and provided for. Many of them were immediately sentenced to death by snake bite. Others were given a second chance only to die later. These unfaithful, complainers never made it into the Promised Land. They weren’t bad people necessarily, they just couldn’t see past their desire for something better, something else, something that they thought (in their messed-up way of looking at it) that God wouldn’t give them.
I can relate.
After I miscarried the first time, I prayed for another baby, a healthy baby. The desire for another baby consumed me. I couldn’t see past it. I couldn’t be thankful for the three amazing, healthy children that I already had. When I got pregnant again, I was so happy. But when I was told that it wasn’t a viable pregnancy six weeks in, I spiraled into the pit of despair. This was the beginning of the end of my prayer life. This was the beginning of the season I spent in the desert.
I learned the secret of life in the desert. That’s what brought me back to relationship with God.
You know I love movies. Two of my favorites have a theme that the secret of life is enjoying the moment. But that’s not it. Not really. The true secret of life is being content in all circumstances.God tells us to rejoice in all circumstances because everything that happens to us is making us more Christ-like but, come on, we’re only human. I do want to be more Christ-like, but I’m just not capable of rejoicing in grief.
But contentment is a learned behavior. It’s not an emotion.
We read about the Israelites whining and we roll our eyes. “Seriously? Again?” we say. “Didn’t God just give you water out of a rock for, like, the third time? What is wrong with you?”
Emotion. That’s the problem. It’s the problem with them and the problem with the world today. We can’t separate what’s happening from the way it makes us feel. And when we look at something through the spectrum of emotion, we will always find our perspective is skewed. Then in our minds, we blow it up out of proportion and presto: discontent.
I’m not saying we should withdraw emotionally. I’m saying that we’re looking at most situations through a human/worldly perspective. As children of God, we need to look at things through a Godly perspective. We need to see Jesus in it.
The Israelites forgot to look to God’s promises.
We forget to see where Jesus fits into the picture.
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for 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 everything through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4: 11-13, NIV emphasis mine).
I used to think the last part of that verse meant that I could do anything I wanted because Jesus would help me. But that’s taken out of context. When I read it all together, I see that it means that Jesus is going to help me get through anything and everything that happens. And with His strength, His promise, I can be at peace--even when my heart is broken.
We may think it was cruel of God to not let those whiny Israelites into the Promised Land. I mean, who wouldn’t be whiny after forty years? But God knew their hearts. And he knew their future hearts. They had no plans to seek or serve him—ever.
He knows our hearts too. So, while we may find it impossible to rejoice in all circumstances, if we seek him first, our Comforter, our Helper, our Rock, our Peace—we can at least find contentment in all circumstances.
Well, we can try. And this is one of those times where our good intentions count.
With Love In Christ,
My Jesus, my Helper, Lord there is none like you. Nothing in this world will ever compare to you. Help me remember that when I am disappointed or hurt or worried. Please give me your peace so that I might find contentment in all circumstances. Amen.