Monday, September 24, 2012

Dealing with the painful circumstances of life (Philippians 4:11) with a story from Carl Sagan.

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 4:11 (NIV)
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

STORY: as told by Carl Sagan:
A story making the rounds concerns a Biology I examination in which the students were asked: "Suppose you could take to Mars any of the laboratory equipment used in this course. How would you determine if there was life on Mars?" One student responded: "Ask the inhabitants. Even a negative answer would be significant." The student got an A. 
Is there life in our living? Do we embrace the reality of the day … or do we find something to complain about? We have all met the individuals who dwell on what is wrong in life. They zero in on their pains and aliments. They see life as half-empty. Missed opportunities. The pain of daily living. If the sun is shining they ask for rain. If it rains they wonder why the sun isn’t shining. Nothing is ever right.

There are two individuals who come to mind. Granted, both have more than their fair share of physical problems and challenges, but it has been mentioned more than once how negative they both are. As one loved one recently shared, “I’m not sure if (his/her) physical pain is negatively affecting (his/her) mental state or (his/her) mental state is negatively affecting (his/her) physical state.” Could this be the “chicken-or-egg” question of human existence?

Circumstances can control our human existence … if we allow them to. Physical, emotional, and relational circumstances are very real. But the observation of my family physician, as we discussed my career path, went something like this: “How many people were sitting in the waiting room when you were called back? 20? 30? 40? This one thing I know for sure better than 75 to 90 percent of them wouldn’t be here if they would simply get their relationship with Jesus correct and allow faith to take control.” He went on to observe that they are allowing life’s circumstances to negatively affect their physical and emotional state.

Dr. Bernie Segal in, “Love, Medicine and Miracles,” spoke of the power that the mind has over our physical bodies. Paul made that spiritual connection as he wrote to one of the churches. To be content, at peace, accepting of one’s circumstances is key to our relationship with God through Jesus Christ ... regardless of the circumstances.

Conclusion is this: We can either allow our circumstances to control us or we can control our attitude about our circumstances based on faith. If the circumstances are in control then we loose. If we control our attitude about our circumstances then we are the victor. It is all up to us!

Both of the individuals mentioned earlier speak a great faith game. One speaks about faith, a prayer life and can quote scripture with much authority. The other has spent the last number of years preaching, teaching and witnessing to a deep faith. But when confronted with difficult life circumstances their faith has been found to be weak or non-existing. Their negativity has compromised their witness.

I don’t know about you, but I have to fight the temptation to pay homage to my physical and mental realities, giving in, being dragged down, start to think negative about myself. Are you in the same boat? When I find myself in this state of mind I take great comfort in the words of Paul knowing full well that he had his “thorn” that he prayed long and hard to be rid of, but finally came to the reality that he needed to come to peace with its ongoing presence in his life … “content whatever the circumstances.”

Lord, if our circumstances will not change then give us contentment to live a life of victory in the middle of those circumstances.  

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