As many of you know, my wife, Letty, teaches Kindergarteners. With these “young-uns” one has to come up with quick, memorable statements to help them adjust their thinking (what the Bible calls “renewal of the mind”). When a 5 year old has difficulty when getting a blue balloon instead of a red one or has to play with Legos instead of a Hot Wheels car, Letty says, “You get what you get, so be thankful for it!”
The phrase used to be, “You get what you get, so don’t have a fit!” But this new phrase is much better. Instead of “managing” their disappointment (“don’t have a fit”), these Kinders learn how to adjust their expectations. It’s “Transformation 101.”
It’s funny how us older folks still struggle with this basic lesson of contentment. Some of us are no different than 5 year olds. Our “balloons” and “toys” might be more sophisticated, but the end result is likely the same. When we encounter difficulties, unmet expectations, inconveniences, and disruptions, do we have a fit? Or do we look deeper than our circumstances and get to the place of acceptance, insight, even, thanksgiving?
Paul’s life is an example of Whole Life Worship when he shares to the Philippians, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” (Phil 4:12b). Contentment is what results when we truly of worship God’s goodness and sovereignty with our lives (not just our theology).
At the heart of contentment is the firm belief that God’s intentions for us are always GOOD. Doubting God’s goodness is what led to the “original sin” in the Garden. Likewise, believing in God’s good intentions is what empowered Jesus to say “no” to Satan’s temptations in the desert.
But sometimes the onus of doubt is not on God’s intentions, but in God’s power. That is why trusting in God’s sovereignty is the other lynchpin to contentment. God carries out His good intentions through all the situations that come our way because He is Sovereign. Even when our circumstances might seem like bad – or even evil, God can and will work it for good, for our best interests (Rom 8:28).
With the dual foundations of God’s goodness and sovereignty in place, contentment in any and every situation can be gained. Then, like the Apostle Paul, we can find strength and grace in difficulty. Over time, comes transformation and, with reflection and prayer, comes perspective and thanksgiving.
In college, I went on a four week Leadership Training course with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. We were housed in different homes near UC Berkeley. I was hoping that I would be paired with one of my buddies. Instead, I was assigned to room with a guy from UC Irvine named Randy. Randy had cerebral palsy, had to be transported by wheel chair, and was difficult to understand when he spoke.
Outwardly, I acted graciously (as Christians are supposed to do), but inwardly I “had a fit.” My soul was filled with inner protests like: “Why did I get paired up with Randy?” and “I paid good money to go on this retreat and have meaningful conversations with people, and now this?”
I wish I could say that during the four weeks with Randy I learned all the lessons about my selfish entitlement, prejudice, and lack of faith. Mostly, I faked my way through this “trial,” while thinking I was some sort of “martyr” for taking this on. But toward the end of the time, something in me “cracked” a little. A seed thought came to me: “Maybe this is for my own good.” It was the first baby step of a long journey in transformation.
Nearly 35 years later, I still have a ways to go. Thankfully, God is so patient with me. I look back on that moment now thinking that Randy was the real martyr to put up with a jerk like me. Most of all, I now see my pairing with Randy as a true blessing. Because of him, the first crack in my prison walls of self-centeredness, phoniness, entitlement, and religiosity was inflicted by the goodness and sovereignty of God. I’m glad I got what I got … and I’m truly thankful for it!