My first reaction is, “Of course!” After all, I have hope, and God’s given me grace. I firmly believe and live in and because of both. But that doesn’t really make me a person of either.
The way I live does. What I think. My attitudes about and interactions with others. My humility to let God define what grace and hope in my life is and looks like. My willingness to live with grace and hope with others.
So, am I a person of hope and grace?
I’m a work in process. I don’t always get it right, either in what I do or what I think I should do. My motives aren’t always based on His way of doing things. I don’t always let Him define what grace and hope is. Sometimes I try to take the reins myself. And as soon as I do, I’m no longer living with His grace and hope.
But I will keep yielding and keep trying and keep growing.
It’s better to build something up from the inside than tear it down from the outside.
But that doesn’t stop us. We’re filled with criticism even if we primarily focus it on one person, situation, ideology, program, institution, position, etc. Discerning is essential, but discerning isn’t letting a judgment rationalize complaints. Discerning is the process of determining what is good, bad, and best, and that includes the way we respond. Complaining gets us nowhere. It might feel good temporarily, but it’s not constructive. It rarely helps the situation. We may find people who agree with us, so we cheer each other, affirm each other, and might even try to come up with some ideas of how we would fix something…if we were able. If we were in a different position. If we could take control.
But we don’t have control. God does. That’s confusing when things aren’t going the way we want them to go or believe God would want them to go, but we must remember we live in a messy world. That doesn’t mean God is any less powerful. He is always working out His eternal plan, but He doesn’t micromanage. He lets us choose, and those choices have consequences that ripple through relationships, cultures, and generations. We try to make all the connections so that we can explain those ripple effects with simplicity, but we can’t see all the details, so we can’t possibly explain it all.
But we can be responsible for what’s in front of us. We can refuse to take control, trusting God instead, and also refuse to complain without a commitment to God and solutions consistent with His ways and will.
You probably don’t like to hear others complain (unless they agree with you). People aren’t excited about your complaints either.
The only thing you can truly control is your attitude.
We like to think we’re in control in some ways. We like results. We like influence. We want to be able to manage well. We want to stick with a schedule or routine…or not. We want a certain standard…or not. We want someone to respond to us in a certain way. We think we know the best way to comfort or motivate someone. We just want to fix something in order to help someone we love.
It’s good to be responsible. But we can’t do so with the illusion that we are in control. Our responsibility comes out of obedience, not out of authority.
But you can control your attitude and your perspective. You can think you’re bigger, wiser, and more powerful than you are and, even though you might feel and appear to have control at times, it’s a mirage of pride. (We mask pride as responsibility, but when we’re not open to look at the world and ourselves through the lens of truth, it is still selfishness not matter how we disguise or rationalize it.) Or you can humbly seek truth, direction, provision, wisdom, and power from a source that actually has authority.
I often chuckle as I claim to be a recovering control freak, but in reality, it’s not all that funny. I want to believe and trust that my perspective is right (and trustworthy) but the only perspective I can truly trust happens when I set all my preferences aside–whether they seem good or bad to me–and ask God what His perspective is. Then, I follow…as best as I can, even when I don’t understand, even when I don’t see all the pieces, even when something seems counter-intuitive to me. And as I’ve followed Him, I’ve come to realize that He guides out of wisdom and power with authority and perspective that is unparalleled. Yet He is willing to share. He won’t let you down. Ever. Even when things don’t turn out the way you expect or want them to…if you were in control.
Take control by giving it up. After all, it’s really not yours to begin with.
It was a rare beautiful day for the time of year, so my husband and I spent as much time as possible outside. We were just about to go inside when I opened the back gate, and the entire vertical board attached to the handle came off the gate. I had to call my husband back out to fix it.
Really? Just about the time we were wrapping up our outside stuff to go inside?
But it could have been worse. After all, it was a nice day, so fixing something without pouring rain, scorching heat, or frigid cold wasn’t so bad.
We often get irritated with interruptions and problems, but we can also find a blessing in the timing and provision of it all. We can choose an attitude of praise or irritation. It’s up to us. We can focus on the inconveniences of life and blame God when things don’t go the way we want, or we can focus on what and how He provides even when we don’t understand it all.
The back gate wasn’t a big deal, but it was a reminder not to make a big deal out of the things that aren’t. And even when there is a big deal, I can choose to lean into God and be thankful for Him.
“I wish all this stuff would just happen on its own!”
How many times do you say or hear others say they “have to” do something…with a hint of whine, reluctance, or disdain? Perhaps we don’t want to work our way across that super store, finding the few items we want among the rows and rows of options, people who are grumpy like us, and cashiers who seem to want to be anywhere but there.
Not everyone has the options we have to shop where we shop and to be able to afford it. Not everyone has the opportunity and ability to work. We often take our blessings for granted, and whine and complain about them. We get bored.
We need a fresh perspective.
It’s not that we need to be overly excited about everything going on in our lives. We just don’t have to see our routines as drudgery. We don’t have to see the limitations of our lives without realizing we made many of the choices that got us where we are (and were often excited about those choices at the time)…and that we have the opportunity to make many choices today that impact tomorrow.
And we choose our attitudes.
Perhaps you’re dealing with some difficult stuff today, and it seems out of your control. Yet, you can control how you respond. Like the saying goes, “You might be given a cactus, but you don’t have to sit on it.”
Filter every detail of your life today through God’s perspective. See the blessings in the routine and in the turmoil. Notice the opportunities you have and choices you make. Pay attention to your attitudes.
Trim the whining, whether it comes out of your mouth or stays in your head. It’s tainting your joy…and those around you.
I sat on the beach the first full morning of vacation. It wasn’t as warm as I expected. In fact, it was cloudy, windy, borderline chilly (although it would have seemed balmy, even steamy, if I had been home in central Illinois). Despite the feel, it was beautiful. I was able to sit outside, bare feet in the sand, no coat. The waves lapped the shoreline. The trees gently rustled. The birds chirped. The sun intermittently shined despite the looming cloud.
I had a choice. I could focus on the dark cloud and chilly breeze or the sunshine and warmth. It’s a choice I have to make every day…multiple times every day. I can focus on the inconveniences or blessings. My choice doesn’t mean I ignore reality. A cloud can hang, but it’s not the only thing in the sky.
I looked at the cloud and felt the chill, then I changed my focus. I felt warmth. I saw a peek of sun. I thought of someone close to me who chooses to look at the sun every day despite the looming cloud. It’s a dark, depressing cloud, but the sun peeks through. Even when it doesn’t, the sun is still there. It doesn’t go away.
What dark cloud is looming over you? Keep it in the context of the entire sky. Do you know someone with a dark cloud in his or her life? Acknowledge it but don’t focus on it. Talk about other things, too. A dark cloud doesn’t define his or her life…or yours.
Soak up the peeks of sun, listen to the waves, see the big picture. The sky is vast. So are the possibilities, not just for tomorrow but for right now.