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God is Teaching Me About… Circumstantial Happiness

From giving Him my all to giving up control, join me this week as I share some things God has been teaching me lately.

 

Circumstantial Happiness

 

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

Philippians 4:12, NIV

 

Throughout most of my life, I’ve struggled with what I call circumstantial happiness. I’ve been happy a lot of the time. But things have gone well a lot of the time, too. And when those circumstances came along that weren’t so great, I became anxious, discontent, or grumpy. For the most part, this is our sinful human nature (or maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel better).

When I became a Christian, I didn’t suddenly become someone who could look past dire circumstances and have a rosy outlook because I rested in Christ. I wanted it to be that way. I sang the hymn, He Leadeth Me, and desperately wanted to be “content, whatever lot I see,” as the lyrics say. Alas, I’ve always been more of a “murmur and repine” gal.

Recently, though, I’ve noticed a basic level of happiness and contentment that’s present in my life, even when circumstances aren’t particularly going my way. It feels much better when I don’t allow circumstances to give me mood whiplash. I hope it’s a positive trend. I know there will be discouraging times in the future and God doesn’t promise us a life without painful circumstances. However, God does promise to lead us through the difficult times (see Deuteronomy 31:8, Isaiah 43:2, John 14:15-17).

I believe it’s possible to have an inner contentment, even during the tough times. God gives us peace that resides in us regardless of circumstances. I see God’s fingerprints all over this gradual change in my attitude. It has opened up room for a deeper relationship with my heavenly Father, one where I can be centered on God and truly appreciate how Joseph H. Gilmore wrote such beautiful words:

Lord, I would place my hand in Thine,

Nor ever murmur nor repine;
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since ’tis my God that leadeth me.  

(He Leadeth Me, Joseph H. Gilmore, 1862, Copyright: Public Domain)

Humbly learning these lessons,

Allison

God is Teaching Me About… Beauty from Ashes

From giving Him my all to giving up control, join me this week as I share some things God has been teaching me lately.

 

Beauty from Ashes

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“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

Isaiah 61:1-3, NIV (emphasis mine)

Over the past few years, God has pointed me to the verse above about giving beauty instead of ashes. When I first read these verses, I only focused on the beauty. I truly believe God takes our ashes and turns them into something beautiful. I accepted this promise from God, and I kept waiting for the transformation.

Eventually, I realized the process is not quite as glamorous as it sounds. In order to transform them into something beautiful, God must first make the ashes … by burning away those parts of us that aren’t like Him.

“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”

Isaiah 48:10, NIV

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

1 Peter 1:6-7, NIV

If we’re followers of God, He is continually refining us through fire and making ashes. I take great comfort in the certainty Elisabeth Elliot finds in this process. In These Strange Ashes, Elliot says, “Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ashes.”

It never ends with ashes. If there are still ashes, God isn’t done yet. He is creating beauty along the way. I’m finally starting to see some of the beauty, but it’s nothing like I expected. In many ways, it’s so much better.

God is the Beautiful One, and He’s making us more like Him.

Humbly learning these lessons,

Allison