Circumstantial evidence

Have you ever been in one of those situations where you wake up in the morning and think of the day at hand, and all you can say is, "Life sucks"?

Been there. Done that. No fun. You know you're in a tough spot when your prayer in the morning is, "God, please don't let me screw things up so badly today that you can't fix them."


One of the most difficult lessons in my life - and I seem to have to go back to school on it over and over - is that my circumstances are not necessarily an indicator of the true quality of my life. It's sort of like in the murder mysteries: "It's only circumstantial evidence. It proves nothing."

I know people who have made it their life's goal to live a "comfortable," "do it my way" life. Good circumstances. Some have done pretty well in that, and are, materially, at least, "well resourced." Their circumstances look pretty nice. But I wonder if they are overlooking something important.

I grew up not well resourced. I remember a period when our family of nine lived on an income of fifty dollars a week. In fact, when I joined the Air Force, a day out of high school, and listened in training classes to discussions about segments of our society who were "deprived," I can remember my surprise when, after some time, I realized that they were talking about me. Who knew?

I think we place too much emphasis on external circumstances. In my younger years, I knew a few folks whom I considered rich. They may or may not have been that, but they were a long ways above my level. And I both envied them and disliked them.

No more.

As I have experienced more of life and more of God, I have come to see that many with the most material "advantages" are the ones with the emptiest lives. Now, when I think of "my ideal life" and look at folks I know with an eye to proposing a trade, I come up empty. I don't know a single person with whom I would trade.

That's not to say that I am thrilled with my circumstances, or that I am living my dream life. Neither is true. Almost nothing about my life is as I would have chosen, looking ahead from earlier years. It's been, in some important ways, not very satisfying, and, in many important ways, not very enjoyable.

But I don't want to trade. Why? Because in the hard times, I have learned that the circumstances, while not irrelevant, are not the primary indicator of quality. In fact, they are a distant second at best.

In the challenges of this life, I have learned important things about both my life and my God, and how they fit together.

Let's look at some scripture that has been important to me in this. First, from Romans 14:

"7 ...For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.
9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living"
(14:7-9).

My first question, as I find myself organizing a pity party, is what is the purpose of my living: For what or whom am I here? Do I have a reason or right to wallow in pity?

If my purpose is myself, meeting my own whims and satisfying my own ego, then it's up to me to make something happen. If things are not going well, it's my own fault, since I am the "captain of my fate." Or so I might think.

But that's a fool's game. It ends in guaranteed emptiness.

I belong to God. I have committed my life to serving Jesus. He owns me. I am his servant. And my whims and desires are not a good indicator of what might satisfy me deeply. Paul said it well: If I live, I live for the Lord, and if I die, I die for the Lord. Either way, I am the Lord's. And if you follow Jesus, so are you.

Then, in another place, Paul says it again: "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).

There are so many cases in scripture that reinforce the same principle that it's impossible to list them all here. An example is Joseph, in Genesis.

Initially, Joseph, a daddy's-boy rich kid, was a spoiled young brat. But he was a brat who saw parts of his future. God showed him that at some point he would be very powerful, and even his own brothers and father would bow to him.

It seems evident, from my perspective, that Joseph's best option at that point was discretion: Keep his mouth shut. But, like many teenagers, did not keep his mouth shut, and his circumstances changed abruptly for the worse. Much worse.

He was thrown into a dry well, then wound up sold into slavery in Egypt, and then, as a slave, found himself working for a high official in the kingdom. Yet, even in slavery God blessed him and he prospered. Life was good. Until he was accused - falsely - of sexual assault.

So now, he's in prison, "doin' hard time," without hope, and forgotten for years by all but the prisoners and jailers. Makes a dry well look pretty inviting.

Eventually, he was released and restored. But in the meantime, life was not easy. For a very long time, Joseph lived with a roller coaster-like series of high "ups" and fast, deep descents.

There were times when Joseph might have felt pretty good about his circumstances. Things were going his way. But then, without warning, his world turned upside down. Bam! Thrown in a well. Bam! Sold into slavery. Bam! Thrown into prison.

Scripture doesn't say much about Joseph's state of mind in all this, but just thinking about it gives me a headache. Some assume that he was rock solid in his faith, and never had a doubt. I confess that's a hard sell for me, and I think it's romanticizing the guy, making him super human. I can't imagine anyone going through what he did without at least an occasional twinge of anguish.

So, are circumstances important? Sure. It matters some whether I'm free, living in a fine house and driving a new car, or living in solitary confinement in a scruffy prison. Or, perhaps worse, living in a huge garbage dump on the edge of some Mexican or Philippine city.

But it doesn't matter in any final estimation.

I have it pretty easy by most standards. But my ease is not an indicator of God's pleasure with me, and my hardship, equally, is unrelated to God's displeasure.

Someone once said, teaching about Job, "The fact that your life is falling apart doesn't necessarily mean you have done something wrong. If Job teaches us anything, it is that you might have done something right."

Amen.

3 Comments

I think we (or I, because I speak only for myself.) as people walk through life accumulating knowledge. God gives us that knowledge by whatever means necessary. Even if it means we have to walk through adversity every now and then. Adversity helps strenthen our character for what lies ahead. The only way life falls apart is if you see life through the eyes of society. By societies standards if we have not succeeded in creating the illusion of complete happiness then our lives have fallen apart. That's why most people think that if they haven't accumulated riches they have only succeeded in becoming failures. Happiness is not tangible. We can not buy it, sell it, or produce it for others. We have found other instantly gratifing ways to similate happiness(sex,drugs,shoppng,gambling, thrill seeking, etc...), but instant gratification is not long term and hard to maintain. We can only achieve our own happiness and contentment in order to spread hope to others that their happiness, with work, is attainable as well. Therefore, leading by example rather than dictation. We do this when we make the most out of any situation. I've met people who went to prison and took the time to go to school. School is sometimes an unatainable dream for some people. They feel the jail time gave them the time they needed to make the most out of a bad situation and help themselves in the process.

Everbody plays their roles in life because that is what they are best suited for. A butcher can not be a surgeon and a surgeons skills would be waisted if they worked as a butcher.

Sometimes we lose in relationships as well. Everything happens for a reason. A bird may love a fish, but where would they live. Life is not full of failures, but new obsticales to overcome to help us evolve into better people. It's when we decide to lay it all down and stop learning have we failed. When our lives have come to a stand still. A sort of pergatory, if you will. Those are the moments that hurt the most. We feel the strain of these moments as failures. Most of us will project these feeling in a negative or unhealthy way in our daily lives without even realizing the cause, and that's when all the trouble starts.

That's how I feel about that anyway. Thanks for your time.

Did not mankind as the Theology goes become enlightened after eating a forbidden fruit of knowledge?
Here is the world that took a poop on me. Government is run by big corporate interest. The Press have failed to even come close to reality. The Unions are under fire now twitching like a noble beast they sense their doom. The Church is next or maybe I missed it seems they always get played in the end.
I came here looking for help on religious freedom law. As I understand it any church can have its members legally use Cannibus as part of their religious doctrine?

James,

Thanks for the thoughts. Unfortunately, in Genesis there is no "forbidden fruit of knowledge." The forbidden fruit is far more specific, the "knowledge of good and evil." And since partaking, it's hard to argue that humankind has become more enlightened. More accurately, I think, we have become more depraved and vicious toward both each other and the rest of creation.

Regarding the use of drugs or anything else in a church ritual, I suggest you consult an attorney who specializes in First Amendment issues. But I doubt your statement is correct. There are limits on what can be done in the name of religion.

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  • Larry Baden said:
      James, Thanks for the thoughts. Unfortunately, in Genesis there is no...
  • James Shelburn said:
       Did not mankind as the Theology goes become enlightened after eating...
  • Rebecca said:
      I think we (or I, because I speak only for myself.) as people walk thr...

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