March 06, 2019 | Articles by Rev. David Bodanza
This week, two friends meet up over a cup of hot java and fresh-baked oatmeal raisin scones. Both of them were just ordinary young women having a heart to heart conversation about life when Brittany learns that Alicia has a heart murmur. The names have been changed to protect the not so innocent. It went somewhere something like this:
ALICIA: Let me tell you something, I am sick of snow!
BRITTANY: I know how you feel.
ALICIA: If I could get my hands on that groundhog, I would like to ...
BRITTANY: Come on, that little creature isn't responsible for the weather!
ALICIA: I know. I know. But I really need it to be spring. I can't wait any longer.
BRITTANY: Look on the bright side, the days are getting longer. The first day of spring is March 20. It's right around the corner.
ALICIA: Yeah, and it will probably snow that day.
BRITTANY: Alicia, you seem pretty pessimistic today.
ALICIA: I don't like the weather, I don't like the way I look, my mother may have cancer and the world is so messed up. What is there to be happy about? Everything is against me!
BRITTANY: Honey, I think you have a heart murmur.
ALICIA: What are you a cardiologist now, too?
BRITTANY: No, what I mean is that you are murmuring. You are complaining.
ALICIA: Are you complaining about my complaining?
BRITTANY: No, I am trying to help you. Complaining can become a bad habit. You can go through life miserable or serene. The choice is really yours.
ALICIA: You don't know what I'm going through!
BRITTANY: Each one of us will go through difficult circumstances that we cannot change. We should do our best to change the circumstances that we can change, and accept those circumstances that we cannot.
ALICIA: Hey, I saw something like that in a prayer on somebody's wall.
BRITTANY: You are thinking about the famous Serenity Prayer by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, written in about 1937. The short version goes like this, "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference."
ALICIA: Yeah, that's the one.
BRITTANY: Do you know what the providence of God is?
ALICIA: Never heard of it.
BRITTANY: God is all powerful and all good. He is supreme in all things. God rules the world with wisdom and power, and, as it has been said by theologian R.C. Sproul, God guides "all events without initiating human wickedness or destroying human freedom." We are not to grumble against God's providence, nor are we to grumble against each other. (James 5:9) The Scriptures tell us, "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:18) You must look at life with a new perspective.
ALICIA: A new perspective?
BRITTANY: Count your blessings! Be grateful to God and others. The ancient Israelites were miraculously rescued by God through Moses after 400 years of slavery and oppression in Egypt. God blessed them with many miracles yet they soon forgot them and were quick to complain. "They murmured in their tents, and did not obey the voice of the LORD. Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them that he would make them fall in the wilderness, and would make their offspring fall among the nations, scattering them among the lands." (Psalms 106:25-27)
ALICIA: Complaining is serious business.
BRITTANY: That is because complaining about providence is complaining against God. We think we know better than God. We think we are entitled to a problem-free existence.
ALICIA: But God the Father knows best. I feel bad. I've been behaving like a spoiled child.
BRITTANY: The Apostle Paul instructs us, "Do all things without grumbling or complaining" (Philippians 2:14). It's easy for us to complain if we don't watch ourselves. Yet, our complaining is totally unacceptable to God.
ALICIA: I know nobody likes a whiner. But there are times I question whether God loves me.
BRITTANY: God loves you beyond any doubt. God loves you so much that He gave His one and only son, Jesus, to die for your sins. No one can measure the height and width and depth of
this love. "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. " (Romans 8:38-39)
ALICIA: Britt, I am so not worth it.
BRITTANY: No one is worthy of God's love. You cannot earn it. It is a gift. A true Christian is saved by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. (Ephesians 2:8-9) It's not about our goodness, it's about His greatness. He is merciful beyond measure.
ALICIA: What do you mean?
BRITTANY: If God loves you enough to give you His only Son, He loves you enough to care for you in your problems. "The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust." (Psalm 103:8-14)
ALICIA: So, complaining about what God has ordained to come my way is way out of place.
BRITTANY: That's right.
ALICIA: I think the one who grumbles against God's providence will end up walking around in circles in the desert of their own misery, like the ancient Israelites.
BRITTANY: Yes. Always count your blessings. God loves us so much as to sacrifice his one and only Son so that we may live forever. "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32)
ALICIA: We have no right nursing self-pity. Like the old saying, "I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes -- until I met a man who had no feet."
BRITTANY: "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31) Put your trust in Christ. We must learn to "live by faith and not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7) God is concerned with our eternal good and so it is difficult for us to understand the reason for our adversities. "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)