In my multiple decades of life, I've had stunning successes and equally stunning failures. I've experienced both great joy and tremendous sorrow. On the whole, though, it's been a wonderful life. The good has far outweighed the hard times. The joy has far outweighed my sorrow.
It's a matter of perspective. Even in the difficult times, I've learned to find cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving.
Sometimes I forget that not everyone sees life this way. Today, I read the story of Jacob/Israel's arrival in Egypt and was once again surprised by how he viewed his past.
You probably remember Jacob's story. Jacob/Israel was his mother's favorite child. He successfully stole both the birthright and the blessing of his brother, Esau. When conflict came, he was sent to live with his uncle, Laban. While there, he met and married his beloved Rachel and became a wealthy man. He also married Leah (although this was the result of a trick by Laban). His two wives and their maids bore him twelve children.
Eventually, he made peace with Esau and the rift was healed. His favorite son, Joseph, long believed to be dead, was restored to him. Joseph, and his boss, Pharaoh of Egypt, provided generously for Israel and his family of seventy persons, plus servants.
On the whole, Israel had a good life. He was loved and he loved. He was blessed by God, protected from those who would cheat and kill him, and even his greatest loss was restored.
When Jacob met Pharaoh, however, he described his life in less than glowing terms.
"Few and unpleasant have been the years of my life..." Genesis 47:9 nasb
There's no doubt that he, like most of us, made bad choices and encountered difficult consequences. Life wasn't always easy, but, on the whole, his life was good. He left a lasting heritage and he is still remembered and loved today.
How would you describe your life? Would your focus be on the good times or the bad, on the joy or the sorrow?
The Apostle Paul looked back on his life and rejoiced in the difficulties. He rejoiced that his circumstances of imprisonment, beatings, loss, and trials had turned out for the greater progress of the gospel and had given the brethren greater courage. (Philippians 1)
Paul looked back with thanksgiving and it filled his days with peace and contentment.
"Give thanks in all circumstances," he wrote. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Giving thanks helps us see our circumstances with a different perspective. It allows us to be joyful, no matter what we face. Joy, regardless of circumstances, softens the rough edges and smooths the difficult paths.
If your life looks like a symphony of sorrow and failure, try a change in perspective. Give thanks for what you learned in the failure. Give thanks for the comfort you found in your sorrow. Give thanks to God for bringing you through.
In every circumstance, give thanks, and the peace of God will be your guard.
"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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:6-7 nasb
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In case you missed one of this week's posts, here are the links: Does God Know When I Will Die? Part 2, How to Live Longer, Is Longer Life Worth the Cost of Obedience?, The Changing of Our Culture: Physician Assisted Suicide, The Opportunity in Trials, The Monarch Migration Badge, and The Sermon Without Words.
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