“But I wanted you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” (Philippians 1:12-14)
How many times have you wondered why something happened? Whether it was something in society, or in your personal life, the event left you speechless and maybe even breathless. Maybe it was mass shootings that seem to be happening with greater frequency, or possibly it was something catastrophic that happened to you. Regardless of the event, you found yourself asking the same one-word question over and over. “Why?”
I think we’re all experienced in the “why” department. Practically everyone I know has experienced something painful that left them repeating this single-syllable response: “Why?”
While I’m certainly in no position to offer answers and explanations for the tragedies of life, experience has taught me to shift my focus when events transpire that leave heartache and sorrow in their wake. I’m trying to learn from Paul and instead of asking “why,” which causes me to look within (the way events affect me), I’m trying to ask “how,” which encourages me to look up (the way God will use the experience). I’m learning that looking at things from a biblical perspective makes me better equipped to deal with the inescapable difficulties of life.
In an attempt to understand the hurtful experiences of your life, try to examine them from a different perspective. Sometimes perspective can make the difference. In his devotional book, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, Chuck Swindoll shares this story about perspective.
“The coed had two problems common to many students: low grades and no money. She was forced to communicate both to her parents, who she knew would have trouble understanding. After considerable thought she used a creative approach to soften the blows of reality and wrote:
Dear Mom and Dad,
Just thought I’d drop you a note to clue you in on my plans. I’ve fallen in love with
a guy named Jim. He quit school after grade eleven to get married. About a year
ago he got a divorce.
We’ve been going steady for two months and plan to get married in the fall. Until
then, I’ve decided to move into his apartment (I think I might be pregnant).
At any rate, I dropped out of school last week, although I’d like to finish college
sometime in the future.
On the next page she continued:
Mom and Dad, I just want you to know that everything I’ve written so far in this
letter is false. NONE of it is true.
But Mom and Dad, it IS true that I got a C in French and flunked Math. It IS true
that I’m going to need some more money for my tuition payments.”
That kid gets it! As a parent, I can almost hear the anxiety-reducing-sigh. Can’t you? This letter provides us a perfect example of the value of perspective. The lack of academic success and the accompanying need of money was NOTHING compared to what could have been true about the coed.
I’ve spent a great deal of time in the waiting rooms of Children’s Hospital, trying to help anxious parents. That experience has provided me with perspective when dealing with the difficulties I encounter in my life. “I could be in the waiting room of Children’s Hospital, awaiting news from my child’s doctor” is a phrase that has helped me keep things in perspective.
So, may I offer some hard-earned advice? When something unpleasant happens in your life (and it will) and you are tempted to ask “why,” may I suggest you instead ask “how?” As you do, reflect on what Paul wrote in Romans. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
John Burleson is the Pastor of Calvary Church of Conway. Email him with questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.