If Only

Posted on: November 17, 2008 Written by
If Only
Photography by: Choreograph from iStock          

I love parties. In fact, I regularly throw parties for myself. Pity parties, that is.

As everyone knows, you do not necessarily need to have a reason to have a party. Sometimes I have reasons. Sometimes not. Sometimes they are good reasons. Sometimes not.

Sometimes my reason has to do with where I live. If I only lived in America, I would be more fulfilled. If I only lived near family, I wouldn’t feel like I’m missing out. If I only lived in a sunnier place, I wouldn’t struggle so with depression. If only…

Sometimes my reason has to do with my season of life. If only I had more time to myself. If only I didn’t have so many demands on me. If only I had more opportunity to study/work/travel. If only…

Other times my reason has to do with my spiritual walk. If only I lived near nature. If only I was involved in a worship team. If only I had hours of contemplative time. If only…

How often do I wish for something else? How often am I dissatisfied with the way things are? How often do I daydream of a time/place/situation where things will be just right for me to be perfect…a-wise-and-godly-Proverbs 31-spirit-filled-woman?

So much time has been wasted. I am waiting, wishing for a time when things come naturally, easily, where they slide into perfect order and peace. I am assuming that something else needs to happen/change before I can act, before I can start becoming who I should be. My ‘if onlys’, true as they might be, have a stranglehold on my development, and have wrapped me so tightly that they are choking me and making me trip.

We do live with boundaries, with things that we don’t like, with things that don’t suit us. How do we work within these confines and cope with a situation where we might not necessarily be working within our giftings? What do I do with the fact that I best worship God at the beach, yet my apartment overlooks a Burger King and carwash? Do I wait until the 6 days every 2 years that I am at the beach to praise my Maker? One of my gifts is communication – yet my level of German is probably not music to a native speaker’s ears. Do I keep longing for a day when I can once again function in English?

What if you worship God best in a beautiful setting (think cathedral, stained glass, awesome music), but your church meets in a school building overlooking a large parking lot? How do you, as a contemplative, spend time with God with 3 children under the age of 5 demanding every second? What do you do with the fact that you crave the intellectual stimulation of the mystics and mighty Christians gone by, but your time is eaten up by the hard realities of surviving in a third-world country? What if you are an extrovert, with many talents and gifts, yet you live in a society where women are expected to be quiet?

No easy answers here. But one thing is certain: The ‘if onlys’ have to go. The Christian walk is a discipline – a discipline that corrects, molds, and perfects – and often comes with sweat, with effort, and often with pain. Our walk with Christ is a harder path, and it takes some work, which always seems to come as a surprise. If I love God, shouldn’t my love for Him be a natural outpouring, an overflow? Shouldn’t it just happen, and doesn’t He put me where that takes place by itself?

Many people in the Bible certainly could have had a monopoly on the ‘if onlys’. You can just hear them. If only I hadn’t been thrown in this pit. If only I had more people in my army. If only my brother didn’t hate me. If only I was more eloquent. If only they hadn’t cut my hair. If only I hadn’t gotten pregnant so young. If only I didn’t have this thorn in my side. If only I wasn’t in prison.

But God used these men and women of (often little) faith, with certain confines, in their unique circumstances to make them into who they should be. To conform them to His image, and to bring about His purpose and often, through them, to change the course of history.

With all of our ‘if onlys’, we are in essence saying that God was wrong in putting us where we are, that He obviously didn’t think through all of the implications of our life situation. Yet we often feel that there are too many imperfect conditions for us really to be who we could be, to really work on becoming more like Jesus. Not exactly fully trusting God, is it?

God often puts us in situations where He can teach us something that would be difficult for us to accept or hear elsewhere. And if God is just and holy and all-knowing, wishing for something else, somewhere else, somehow else is questioning His sovereignty, refusing His goodness. It is questioning that what He has is best.

Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us that “God has plans for us, and that they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give us a future and a hope.” He has our best in mind, even when we cannot see or refuse to see the entire picture. Where He has brought me and where I am is exactly where I should be, right in His hands and under His control. And where I can best be molded to be like Jesus.

If only I could stop questioning Him.

©2014 Thrive



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