I remember a television program we watched years ago when we lived in the UK called “This is Your Life.” In each weekly episode the host made a surprise visit to the subject for the week’s program at work or home and presented them with a big red-covered book engraved with the title, “This is Your Life.” Then they were taken to the television studio where for the next hour friends, co-workers, and family members told of events and experiences in the subject’s life that had special meaning to them. There were always emotional moments as surprise guests were introduced and happy, memorable, and even bitter-sweet experiences were relived. It’s as if they were able to bring together friends, family, experiences, humorous occurrences, and accomplishments, and take a snapshot of it all and say, “This is Your Life.”
This Is My Life! I certainly don’t need a surprise visit from a TV Show host, but sometimes I really need to slow down, sit quietly, and take a little time to take a snapshot of myself, my relationships, my activities, my accomplishments, my failures, and my frustrations, and simply and honestly say, “This Is My Life!”
This Is My Life! (And it’s not quite what I had imagined it would be!)
When we were young we had dreams of “what I want to be when I grow up.” To a greater or lesser degree we dreamed of what we might accomplish, where we would live, what our lives would be like by now (whenever and whatever our current “now” is!) The life I now have may not be what I had imagined, but it is the real place from which I am going forward into a future that I cannot see but which I have firmly committed to God.
This Is My Life! (And it’s never going to be “just right!”)
I’ve always had a tendency to think that “things will be just as they should be someday.” Someday it will all be just right. I’ll have the perfect situation and all the problems and pressures will be gone. But I know that’s just not realistic.
From the time I was a kid in the 50’s the expectation in western society was that things would just keep getting better. There were so many improvements in technology and medicine and communications that it seemed we would eventually solve all our problems and have a near perfect life. It’s true that there have been remarkable advances in practically every area of life. The fact that I can sit here at my desk and have almost instantaneous contact with people I know all around the world is remarkable! That I carry a “phone” in my pocket that is not only a phone, but a camera, a computer, a library, an entertainment center, and much, much more is remarkable! Actually, take a minute and think of some of the other ways technology has made our lives remarkable!
There are also a lot of things remaining in our imperfect world that technology and communications and medicine haven’t been able to fix. People are still dying of cancer, being killed in road accidents, and willfully harming each other. There are wars and earthquakes and famines. It’s not a perfect world, and sometimes it seems as if it is not even a very good world, but it is our world and it is the real world. It’s what we have. It’s how things are. It’s where God put us to make a difference.
There will always be challenges and difficult things to deal with. There will be difficult people to deal with. (I wonder if sometimes I’m one of someone else’s “Difficult People!”) And even if somehow everything else were to get fixed, I will always have me to deal with. I’m not what I ought to be and not what I’m going to be, but thank God, not I’m not what I used to be!
This Is My Life! (Some of the factors that have contributed to form the present reality of my life are):
• Good things that others have done. Parents, spouse, teachers, friends, others who have helped and supported me. For these I need to thank God and appreciate and thank those people.
• Wrong things that others have done. People who have betrayed me, people who have abused me, people who have taken advantage of me and let me down. For these things I need to forgive these people and release them from blame and judgement. I need to ask for and by faith receive God’s grace to heal wounds, memories, and relationships.
• Good things that I have done. Development of good character qualities; good stewardship of talents, resources, and relationships; achievements in school, work, or ministry. For these things I need to continue to apply the same principles of wise use of opportunities, good decision making, and practical self-discipline to the life I now have.
• Wrong things that I have done. Wasted opportunities; poor stewardship of time, talents, and resources; sins against God and others by words and actions. For these things I need to acknowledge my mistakes, my poor stewardship, my willful wrongdoing, and ask for God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of those I have wronged. I need to make restitution where possible. I need to accept God’s forgiveness and cleansing and allow Him to change my heart and mind.
• Circumstances and events that seem to have no basis in fault or moral consequence. Financial reversal, sickness, disappointed expectations, unexplained tragedies. How often these things lead to depression and discouragement. You know, when good things happen to us we tend to accept them as blessings from God and we may even see them as rewards, as if we deserve them. When bad things happen we tend to think of them as totally unfair and sometimes attribute them to an attack from Satan or even blame God as if He doesn’t love us. I almost shudder as I write this because I know my own tendency in these matters only too well.
• Sometimes in these challenging and difficult things, God reveals a cause or purpose and we seek to understand. Sometimes He reveals nothing and we seek to accept the unfailing love of Father God.
This Is My Life! (And this is how it is!)
• I don’t fully understand how it got to be this way (some things I do understand – see the first four bullet points above) and I don’t know all that I will need to do in moving forward from this point. But this is where I am now, this really is my life, and God still loves me and He does have a purpose for my life.
• These are the things I have to face and deal with. If I deny it, excuse it, complain about it, blame others for it, it just stays the same or gets worse. If I accept it, take responsibility for my part in it, seek God in the reality of it, things can begin to change for the better. God’s faithfulness will see me through.
This Is My Life! (So what do I do next?)
• Living by faith means having hopes and dreams. It means seeking a desired future and praying and working towards that future. God’s power can bring it to pass.
• Living by faith also means accepting that things are as they are. I will accept that things are as they are. I will pray and exercise my faith for things to be the way I want them to be. I will trust God to bring me through.
This Is My Life!
Paul said “I have learned to be content.” Contentment is an attitude that affects everything about how we see the world around us. Contentment is learned, not born into us.
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 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. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13 NIV)
Paul also said “I press on toward the goal…” I believe that an important part of growing to maturity in faith and Christian character is learning to live a life that balances acceptance and contentment with an unwavering determination to press on in Christ.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14 NIV)
I wrote a series of blog posts in May of this year on Thankfulness and Gratitude. If you missed any of those, here’s a link to Part 1 of my Thankful Series.
This Is My Life! (Is This As Good As It Gets?)
There’s a scene from the movie “As Good As It Gets” where Jack Nicholson’s character steps into the waiting room of a psychiatrist’s office and says to the room full of neurotic and troubled people, “Have you ever thought that this might be as good as it gets?” What do you think? Is this as good as it gets? By God’s grace and power this is not as good as it gets. But this is how it is right now!
I hope these thoughts have been helpful. I hope most of all that these thoughts have stirred up your soul to think thoughts like these about your own life. At any stage of life, in any situation of life, there’s so much to be thankful for and so much we can do to move forward in Thankful, Grateful Faith!
As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.