At the end of July there is a deadline for trading players between major league teams. Every year in the middle of the season teams like the Padres that have no hope of competing for the championship end up trading away the few valuable players they have in July to contending teams. They usually get “prospects” in return. Prospects are inexpensive minor league players who show some promise. Teams trade for them in hopes that several years from now they might fulfill that promise and become bona fide major league players that the team can then trade away in July when it is once again mired in last place.
Life can be so unpredictable. Or perhaps that’s not true. It is predictable in a way. I can predict that it will be constantly changing and uncertain. I recall a time several years ago when we were in a calm stretch of water between the rapids on our trip down the stream of life. Laurie and I were both healthy, our circumstances were placid and joyful, our finances weren’t a disaster, our kids were both in a really good place in their lives. They were loving where they were at the time. I recall thinking how happy I was. Out of nowhere I was hit with an unwelcome thought. “It won’t last.” That thought popped into my head completely unbidden. I tried to chalk it up to pessimism and told it to go away. I was able to suppress it to an extent, but it continued to nibble at the recesses of my consciousness. It wasn’t pessimism. Within weeks we hit the rapids again. Turmoil showed up in Laurie’s and my life and in the lives of both of our grown children. That pleasant respite we had experienced began to seem like a dream that never really happened.
Amy Scott, an insightful blogger, recently wrote, “This morning, I had someone tell me that my life was perfect. I appreciated her letting me know… I’ve got six kids, a farm, and I make my own butter. So obviously.” I chuckled when I read that. From the outside the lives of others can often look enviable. Inside they likely are not nearly so pleasant as they might appear outwardly.
The comment Amy received caused me to think about how we all look wistfully for the perfect situation. We usually think someone else has more of it than we do. What we don’t realize is that there is no perfect situation. No question some are better than others, but every circumstance has down sides. Those drawbacks may seem preferable to whatever down sides we happen to be dealing with, but if we had them we would likely wish we could trade them for something else. Even more to the point, whatever that “preferable” situation is, it isn’t permanent. It can change in the blink of an eye, as Mike Adams found out.
Amy Scott went on, “We’re all reaching, trying to tweak that thing that if we could ‘just get right’ will magically make our lives perfect, or at least….happy…I think about the perfect formula for happiness all the time, though I’m too theologically snooty to call it that. If I could just lose weight, if I could just control my temper, if I could just remember what I wore yesterday but forget about that thing someone said last month, if I could just be open and vulnerable to the people I love — then everything would be okay. Wouldn’t it?”
She’s right. We’re all reaching. We’re constantly trying, hoping, fretting, wishing we could get it “just right” so that we could be happy and at peace. In those brief lulls when things seem to be lining up right we fear that it won’t last, basically because we know it won’t. So we go through life striving, frustrated, fearful. Oh, that doesn’t mean we are like that every minute, nor does it mean we are totally dominated by those negative feelings and thoughts. But they do have a tendency to dog our steps because we’ve learned how fleeting and fickle life can be.
Is this the human condition? Are we doomed to go through life seeing ourselves as the victims of its stresses and its unpredictability, protecting ourselves the best we can, never really at rest, never truly full of joy? I do not think we are doomed to such a life. Paul claimed in Philippians 4:12 that he had learned the secret of being content in “any and every situation.” That sounds good, doesn’t it? Can we be like that too?
I think the Psalms point us in the right direction. First I think of Psalm 9:2. “I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.” In Psalm 31:7 David told God “I will be glad and rejoice in your love.” We can settle our hearts down as we remember how God loves us. If we choose to rejoice in his love for us, in the fact that he reigns over everything in life, we can begin to find real peace. Nothing in this world can change his love for us. Nothing can threaten his rule. As we praise him our hearts are reminded of this truth, we once again can anchor in the Rock that cannot be moved.
Then there is that familiar verse in Psalm 118. We’ve all heard it before. Verse 24 says, “this is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” This is the day God has given me. Wherever I may be, whatever my circumstances, this is the day and the circumstance that God has given me. So many of our fears and frustrations come from looking to the future or the past. Our loving Father tells us not to worry about tomorrow, but to simply rejoice in the day we have today. Today is the only one of which we can be certain. So though we forget this simple truth, all we can really do for sure is to make the best of today.
What if I knew today was the last day of my life? I suspect I would want to live it to the fullest. I would want to squeeze the most out of every moment. I would want to express my love to every person in my life. I would want to be thankful for every little blessing I experienced during the day. The truth is, today is the last day of my life that I can be certain of, so as the Psalmist said I should rejoice and be glad in it. I suspect if I go through my days doing that I will quite likely find myself a lot less stressed about what I wish were different or what might happen tomorrow. Indeed, like Paul, I likely will be content.