All that stuff you didn’t pick? That you hate? Fits.

Don’t like it. But wouldn’t change it

It was Benton Harbor. I didn’t know anything about Benton Harbor, and it was never on my bucket list, but I needed a job and they had one. They said they’d call back in a day or two.

Years went by. Decades. Millenniums. Ice Ages came and went. The sun ran out of hydrogen and burned out and collapsed. Still I waited to hear from Benton Harbor.

Finally they called. “Sorry, we’ve had some corporate changes and the job’s been cancelled.”

It had been five days.

While waiting, I read my Bible. One passage talked to me: God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. It produces a harvest of righteousness and peace in those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. It’s not exactly that, but very close. It’s in Hebrews 12. I read it so much in those five days that I memorized it.

As soon as I memorized it, they called.

I took the word ‘discipline’ in the passage not to mean punishment necessarily, but training. The kind of thing parents do with kids. My waiting had been training. You want a HARVEST of righteousness and peace? Does that sound awesome? Let discipline train you.

Over the years I’ve used that passage to encourage others. My little waiting has encouraged someone! That fits.

That story of mine is kid’s stuff compared to yours and some others.

*   *   *   *

Disappointment

In the 1700’s Alexander MacKenzie dreamed and planned for years about finding a water route through Canada to the Pacific Ocean (the Northwest Passage). He was convinced a certain river would get him there.

He explored a thousand miles by canoe – and ended up in the Arctic Ocean, nowhere near the Pacific.

He named the river “Disappointment.”

What might have been

For ten years Paul planted churches where no Christian had gone before. He was on fire for Jesus, living on the edge, changing lives, and spreading the good news of God around the world.

Then he felt compelled to return to Jerusalem. His friends warned him not to go, that he would be arrested by his enemies. He went anyway. And spent the next ten years or so on trial and in jail.

His adventurous church-planting days were over. If only he had listened to his friends.

Too much to overcome

Dawn was a smart kid but her home life doomed her.

Her mom and step-dad were drug addicts. No electricity or running water at home. She walked to the park with plastic jugs to get water to flush the toilet. The house was filled with cockroaches, and trash was piled two feet high.

Dawn went months without showering, weeks wearing the same dress. She was mocked by classmates. She didn’t even have enough money for candles to do her homework after dark.

The summer after her junior year in high school her parents moved away and abandoned her. Dawn was seventeen years old and homeless. What a waste.

Alexander MacKenzie never found the Northwest Passage. But his journals became part of Thomas Jefferson’s inspiration to send Lewis and Clark across America to the Pacific Ocean. MacKenzie was knighted by Canada and became Sir Alexander MacKenzie.

Today the Disappointment River is named the Mackenzie River, the largest and longest river in Canada. So, does all the disappointment fit?

Paul went from church planting hero to sitting in jails and prisons, sometimes chained to a guard. He was stuck dictating letters to friends and to the churches he planted. All those churches? Gone. If he had planted more, they would be gone, too.

But the letters Paul wrote–because that was all he could do–became part of God’s words in the Bible. Paul thought he was just doing the best he could with what he had, but it was God’s plan all along for his writings to last far longer than the churches.

You can read those letters right now and take them personally as straight from God. Did that fit?

Dawn went from horrible home to no home at all. But teachers and staff at her high school helped her get a place to stay and a job as a janitor at the school. She was a straight-A student. She applied to four colleges. All accepted her. On a long shot she tried Harvard. Her history teacher wrote a recommendation extolling her never-give-up spirit.

Dawn finishes her first year at Harvard next month. She got a full ride; room, board, tuition. A homeless kid of drug addicts at Harvard. Does that all fit?

When you can, you pick your own definition of success

You pick discovering the Northwest Passage, planting churches, and a stable home life. And if that’s what you get, it fits. But even when you get what you don’t pick, it still fits.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace          for those who have been trained by it – Hebrews 12.11

When have you been trained by something you didn’t pick?

*   *   *   *

The Everything Fits affirmation: 

Everything about my life, everything that happens

the family I was born into

– the circumstances I have experienced and find myself in

– my personality and DNA and wiring and gifting –

is engineered or permitted or governed by a sovereign, just, loving God who always has three good things in mind

1) to develop my personal relationship and intimacy with him

2) to accomplish his purposes in the world, and

3) to further his own awesome, unmeasurable aims that are bigger than my ability to understand.

Therefore, whether it’s past, present, or future, I can have confidence and peace that somehow, someway, Everything Fits Even When It Doesn’t, and I will trust and cooperate with God in the fitting.   

About the Author

Gary

Gary Morland helps you feel better about your most challenging family relationships, and helps you actually improve those relationships - all by adopting simple attitudes, perspectives, expectations, and actions (the same ones that changed him and his family).

Comments

  1. Pam Cason

    God has a plan, even in the stuff I don’t pick. Thanks for the reminder in today’s post, Gary. I’m so enjoying this series.

  2. Fantastic post. It really speaks to me. In a very small way, I did something at church this weekend that I didn’t think I could and that I didn’t really want to do, but I accepted it as it came and I did it and it produced a harvest of righteousness and peace. I’m writing about it today over on http://lifetakesover.wordpress.com

  3. Wow. That was exactly what I needed to hear today.

  4. M

    People say, that these experiences make us who we are today, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, & there is ALWAYS, someone worse off than myself! There are times when I agree with them, & times I don’t like to hear it…all that stuff that’s happened that you hate? clay in God’s hands you say G…I’ll take it!!! No better place to be…keep making things fit! Enjoying this series, more than you know:)
    Blessings & <3 M

  5. Rebekah

    Great perspective, Gary. Thanks for the encouraging words :)

  6. Fantastic post. I think I’m in training at the moment… Plus, both verses that you quoted have been big ones that have kept popping up in my life lately. The Ecclesiastes one has been a reminder from God & a bit of a theme for the past few months, and the Hebrews one, my pastor quoted last night in his sermon. It’s also been popping up in different places here and there over the past few weeks, too… Thank you for yet another reminder of these precious Scriptures, and the hope.

    • I try to pay attention when something keeps ‘popping up’ :) Thx!

      • I’m trying to pay attention, too, and every day is bringing fresh realisation and awareness of why the verses have been ‘popping up’ so much. :) Thanks again.

  7. we see through the glass so darkly… God has the Master plan, we must trust.

  8. Jennifer

    Fantastic. I can only eek out a little “Thank you.” I’ll be sitting with this.

  9. Beth

    This week’s post fits. Hebrews 12 is exactly what I took away from our church sermon on Sunday. I think God might want me to think on that this week given life’s current stuff that I surely didn’t pick. Thank you for reaffirming that Scripture and for reminding me it’s training, not punishment
    .

  10. J.

    Oh Gary, this is SO good! What an encouragement! Especially the story of Dawn. ONLY GOD! You’ve helped me see, through continuing reading through your Monday posts. that there IS a reason for everything He does. There IS a purpose in the pain.
    Having come from a very disfunctional family, (although we’re ALL disfunctional in one way or another), He has made me stronger for it. He helped me to raise my own children in a non-alcoholic, non-drug addicted, non-swearing, cursing home. He taught me to instill unconditional love and acceptance and encouragement into my children–something I never knew as a child. He taught me to give my children a ‘voice’–something else I never had. He has kept my husband and me together for going on 36 years. The word ‘Divorce’ has never been used in our home. He has saved each one of us and given my children Christian spouses. The cycle of alcohol and abuse and misery and suicidal attempts has been broken. He has restored to me the years the locusts had eaten…and more!!! He had a purpose and a plan for me. Praise Him. “All the bad…is clay in His hands”. I like that!

  11. abbie

    I didn’t pick my current living situation and most days I would change it if I could. BUT, that doesn’t mean I’m not seeing radical hospitality in action. And I’m learning about grace for others and for myself, relying on God’s strength and patience, and trusting that his provision is the best for me. Even when I would change it.

  12. That all the disappointment, difficult circumstances, and hurts have value beyond what my human eyes can see – that is hope. That these light and momentary troubles are achieving something eternal – that is glory. That God graciously shares them with me – that is amazing! Thanks for the encouraging words for this weary soul.

Trackbacks

  1. […] – the circumstances I have experienced and find myself in […]

  2. […] – the circumstances I have experienced and find myself in […]

Speak Your Mind

*