Watching the Olympics, it’s easy to be captivated by the precision of the performances. Gymnasts bound through the air barely catching their breath before the take another tumble down the mat. Swimmers glide through the waters with a graceful fury, timing each stroke to touch the wall first. Divers plot every move to minimize the amount of splash that will be seen by the watching audience. They are there to maximize their efforts, for the fruition of the years of hard training and labor, knowing that even a slight variation from the plan could cost them their time on the podium.
Sometimes, we approach life with a similar mindset. We have worked hard towards a certain goal, and we have plotted and planned how are to obtain it. With the laser-like focus of an athlete, we see the prize in sight, if only things go exactly according to our designs. We have set our course thinking it is unassailable, only to find, as many Olympians do too, that circumstances are not as we had anticipated. Something happens that we did not foreseen, someone else captures the medal that was supposed to be ours, and we are left wondering what has just occurred.
i was reminded of this recently when, as I was praying, I found myself expressing gratefulness for God for circumstances that “were not ideal” but that He had continued to demonstrate His faithfulness. As I did so though, I stopped short at my words. I realized that my definition of ideal was based on how I perceived my life should be. I had a plan for what was going to happen, and things were different from that preconceived notion of goodness. While it was true that God had been faithful through the circumstances, it was also true that God was sovereign over them (Prov. 19:21; Ps. 33:10-11) . He did not see them as some deviation from His plan; He was working through them to bring about the desires of His will (Rom. 8:28). Viewing them as “less than ideal” was hindering my ability to find joy in them (See I Thess. 5:16-18). Instead of trusting in the work that He was doing, I was “settling” for the fact that things weren’t as bad as they could be. It is one thing to be grateful for His faithfulness, but I also needed to celebrate His provision. I needed to not only trust in HIs love, but to rest in His goodness as well.
Of course, the more difficult the circumstances, the more difficult this can be to do. Sometimes we must acknowledge that we find ourselves in painful circumstances as the result of our own sin and that the goodness of God is seen in Him using those consequences to bring us back into relationship with Him (Heb. 12:6). Sometimes, we experience trials that are caused by the sins of others or the fact that we live in a sinful world, and we must acknowledge that even in the midst of them, God is working to bring about His plans for those that love Him (Rom. 8:28). Other times, our struggle for joy is rooted in the fact the fact that our lives are not aligning with our expectations for them. In these instances too, we must trust in both God’s faithfulness and His sovereignty, knowing that whatever plan He has is far better than the “ideal” that we’ve imagined.