Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Life is Hard; Then You Die

How often have you heard someone with a ‘less-than-sunny’ disposition proclaim their philosophy of life with words like, “life is tough, then you die?” I don’t normally have a lot of patience with such pessimism and cynicism, but I recently heard another version of that mantra that I actually believe could be the type of advice we could even be teaching to our children. The life philosophy which I believe could be a guidepost for us and for our children is:
1. Life is difficult.
2. You are not ultimately in control.
3. It is not about you.
4. You will die.
Although this may sound similar to the “life is tough, then you die” philosophy, it is actually diametrically opposed to it. Let me explain.
It cannot be disputed that for every single one of us, life is often difficult and hard. Maybe you face financial problems - just as you think you’re getting caught up, another round of bills or expenses pops up and more money doesn’t. Maybe it’s a child who has made poor decisions that are coming home to roost. Maybe health issues make life particularly difficult for you.
Life is a blessing and a gift from God. Yet, it can be very hard. Very difficult. Relationships, pain, money, broken dreams – a multitude of obstacles keep life from being ‘easy street’ day in and day out.
But life’s difficulties don’t make life ‘bad.’ They don’t make life unpleasant. They just add to the experience. They are just part of what life is. And we should be able to find joy in all that life throws our way. We should be able to echo Paul and say, “I have learned to content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11)
I believe the primary reason many people turn bitter and unhappy with their lives is because they don’t get or accept the second part of this philosophy – ‘you are not ultimately in control.’ We often think we are in control; we almost always want to be in control. Yet, we’re not.
Sure, we may be able to control many aspects of our lives and certain things that happen around us. But when it comes to waiting for those test results on your newborn baby, whether the radiation is going to work, if your job will be outsourced, if your wife will come back – it’s in those moments that we realize that we really are not in control at all.
Then we have the choice to either turn to the One who is in control, or believe that everything is out of control. Worship our Maker, or despair.
It should be an easy choice, but it requires giving up the idea of control.
That should also lead us to the epiphany that ‘it is not about you.’ When we think life is about us, we see life’s difficulties as ‘bad things’ because they negatively impact our enjoyment of life. Or maybe we believe in a ‘God,’ but think He must not care much about us because some ‘bad things’ keep happening to us.
But that is so myopic; so self-centered.
Instead, when we see that what happens is really about God, and then we realize that what we may be going through is in some way, in some fashion, in some [perhaps] never-to-be-known manner part of His divine plan, we can not only accept it, but we can embrace it. We can actually face those difficulties with joy because we realize that we have been chosen to be part of His plan. Whether we understand it or not.
And that leads to the final aspect – you will die. When, how, where – we don’t often know about those. But, each of us will die.
However, that is when life truly begins. Assuming you have put your faith in the One who really is in control; assuming you have placed your faith in the One it really is all about – whatever hardships or difficulties you may have experienced will be so forgotten and irrelevant as to have never happened.
Are you ready for that? Does the thought of death scare the bejeebers out of you or does what lies beyond keep you up at night in anticipatory excitement?
It is not pessimistic or ‘gloom and doom’ to say “you are going to die.” It’s a warning of a fact. What are going to do about that?

So, do you agree with me that this is a four-step life philosophy worthy of adopting and teaching to our children? Let me amplify it a bit to drive it home a little more:
1. Life is difficult. But God loves you more than you can know.
2. You are not ultimately in control. The God who eternally loves you is.
3. It is not about you. It’s all about the God who loves you beyond understanding.
4. You will die. Then you’ll finally understand how much God really loves you.

You don’t have to wait until ‘then’ to experience the joy of the life He gives. When life turns difficult, acknowledge you’re not in control, look for Him in it, and die to self.
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 100

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