Last Thursday, one of my doctors was concerned about some new symptoms I've been having and decided I needed to come in Monday to be examined. Because her office is two hours away from home, it became an all-day event. After being examined, she decided I need to have an outpatient procedure done Friday. This will also be an all-day event. That leaves Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. But as I write this, there is now a possibility I need to drive an hour away on Tuesday to sign papers in order to receive a medical treatment on either Wednesday or Thursday. So now I'm left with one day to do with as I please, and that depends on if I feel well. Needless to say, this is not how I envisioned my week.
Admittedly, it's frustrating to have weeks like this where there is absolutely no control over the situation. This is a big part of why I've struggled so long in accepting setbacks such as this week. But I've started to realize something over the years. To many, it may not be profound, but for me, this realization has changed my life.
I can't control my sickness. There will always be things that happen I can't change. There will always be weeks when my plans snowball. There will always be curveballs my body throws at me, and I have to learn to deal with them. There will always be the need to be flexible with a chronic illness. Once I realized these truths, life became different in a good way. I don't freak out when my plans go awry. I don't become frustrated and lose my joy.
It's easy to feel sorry for myself when I experience weeks like this one. Yet God has shown me it's important I fight this tendency. In the Old Testament, Job struggled with this as well. Feeling sorry for ourselves can lead to bitterness. Although it is easy to become bitter when enduring hardship, it is not healthy for us emotionally, spiritually, or physically. Pouting is also unhealthy for our relationships. As a general rule, a pouter is a person who feels sorry for himself and wants others to pity his plight as well. But nobody likes to be around a pouter. Sometimes, we pity ourselves so much that we do not leave room for anyone else to feel sorry for us. Although the goal of having others take notice of our pain is reached, our plan backfires on us because no one wants to be around us any longer. This is why God’s Word speaks out against allowing bitterness to take root in our hearts. Ephesians 4:31 says to put all bitterness away from you, and Hebrews 12:15 speaks of the effects bitterness can cause. “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.”
The original Greek word for bitter actually means poison. When we allow ourselves to become bitter, God says we poison our souls. I think this is another reason why God speaks out so adamantly against bitterness.
We are never in a greater set-up to miss the grace of God than when we think we do not deserve our hardship. The very essence of grace is that we don’t deserve it. The fact that it is grace means it is something we cannot possibly earn. We need to realize that God has not forgotten about us. Although we may be enduring a time of hardship, He is aware of our situations and He cares. God calls us His children; we have His favor (1 John 3:1).
So whether this week has gone exactly as you planned, or nothing has gone your way focus on God and not your frustrations. Look for His goodness, love, and favor towards you each day. When one does this, he grows as an individual, becoming better and not bitter. And who knows? You may even find yourself enjoying the day despite all the things which have gone wrong.
"But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God's holy best. At the time, discipline isn't much fun. It always feels like it's going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it's the well-trained who finds themselves mature in their relationship with God." ~ Hebrews 12:11 (The Message)
(c) June 15, 2011