Things May be Better
"Hi Pastor! Remember me?" I reached out to shake the visitor's hand, while performing a quick review of my memory banks, but it was no use. "I hope you'll forgive me. I just can't place you," I said. With a big smile on his face, the gentleman replied, "You haven't forgotten me already have you? I'm Martin!"
Ah yes, it began to came back to me as I placed his name with his face. Martin had been a church member at one of my former pastorates. "Why Martin... it's great to see you again!" How are things with you?" I said.
As Martin talked on, my recollection of the past grew stronger, but my enthusiasm began to diminish as I remembered that my association with him had not always been all that pleasant. If memory served me, Martin was never happy with me or the church. He complained often, was a frequent dissenter at business meetings, and had even left the church on several occasions.
Predictably, his conversation soon took on a negative tone, but with a surprising twist. "Things have never been the same at that church since you were there," he said. "Those were the good ole' days!"
Good ole' days? Did my ears deceive me, or was Martin describing his previous unhappy years at our church as good ole' days? I was amazed and somewhat amused to hear him continue to compliment the church of the past, as he contrasted it with his miserable estimate of the present church. The irony of it all was that his complaints were the same as they had always been, but he now somehow viewed the former as better than the present.
"How sad," I thought to myself. Many people will go through life disappointed, finding fault with everything, but will later look back with fondness, realizing that it was better than what they thought. In reality, they're in the midst of the good ole' days, and don't even know it!
Many people struggle with what I call the "greener grass syndrome." To them, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Their contentment with life is always attached to some other place, some other time, or with someone else. The solution to their marital problems is to get a new wife or husband. The answer to their dissatisfaction in the work place is to get a different job. They look at their circumstances as if they were a paper cup, to be crumpled and tossed in the trash in exchange for a new one.
Unfortunately, our modern "feel good" culture has helped to shape these attitudes that feed such carnal impulses. A society of painkillers, fast food, and technological marvels has taught us that anything that is less than perfect, instantaneous or self-gratifying should be aborted... like an unwanted unborn baby. In essence, we learn that problems are mere inconveniences that should be "avoided and discarded," instead of being accepted as "character-building challenges that should be overcome." Is it no wonder why it is rare to find anyone with genuine character today?
Contentment really has nothing to do with circumstances, but it has everything to do with one's attitude. As a well-known preacher once said, "life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it." To some people, problems represent barriers that end their progress... but to others, they represent hurdles to be leaped over. We may not be able to change the destiny of circumstances that we will face in life, but we can change our attitude toward them.
Believe it or not, regardless of how bad it may sometimes seem, things are never as bad as they could be. And wouldn't it be ironic that if someday, when persons face things that are even worse, they will reflect back on their present circumstances and think of them as the best times in their life! Some people are so obsessed with the thorns, that they don't realize that they're sitting in a rose bush.
Despite whatever challenges you face, don't postpone your happiness to some other time or place, and don't be blinded from the good things that God has placed around you today. An intimate relationship with Jesus Christ is the only thing that brings true inner contentment. So be filled with the love of Jesus, and smell the roses that God has put in your life. Lighten up... and enjoy the good ole' days!
"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy; meditate on these things" (Phil. 4:8).