A man once shared the following story, which he described as “the key to happiness:”
“Thirty years ago, I was head over heels in love with the sweetest girl that ever lived, my wife. She had one fault then, and she has it still: she is always late.
“One day she begged me to take her to a concert. I promised her I would on one condition–that she would be ready a half-hour ahead of time. If she was not ready on time, we agreed I would tear up the tickets.
“When I got to her home about twenty minutes before time, her mother met me at the door and sadly shook her head. ‘Jane will never be ready in time. She just came in.’ As the minutes dragged by, I got more and more furious. Finally, when the half hour was up, I flung myself in a chair by the table and picked up a book. On the fly leaf of it were four little lines that changed my whole life. They read:
‘For every evil under the sun,
There is a remedy or there is none.
If there is one, seek till you find it;
If there be none, never mind it.’
“I decided there was no remedy for her tardiness, so I would simply accept it. I also decided at that moment that this would be my philosophy for life. Nothing ever took more misery out of my life than the determination that I wouldn’t get upset over the things I couldn’t change.”
Friends, this is indeed great advice for finding happiness and contentment in life. An old prayer expresses the same attitude: “Lord, grant me the courage to change the things I can change, the grace to accept the things I can’t change, and the wisdom to know the difference.” In my own life I have found it helpful to distinguish between “problems” and “situations.” “Problems” have solutions, and with God’s help, we need to work hard to find and implement those solutions. “Situations” however, don’t have solutions. Unless the Lord intervenes in some remarkable way, we will have to continue to live with that situation day after day. Asking God to give us the grace to accept this situation is an important step to finding happiness.
The Apostle Paul talks about having a “thorn in the flesh” which he prayed God would remove from his life. This apparently was a physical illness or handicap of some kind, yet after he had prayed three times, Paul says it became clear that God was not going to change the situation. Rather the Lord said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).”
Friend, perhaps you are struggling with poor health, financial difficulties or a family conflict. It is good to pray and ask God to change or help you change these circumstances, yet when it becomes clear that these are not “problems” but “situations,” we then need to rely on the Lord to help us accept what we cannot change and to find joy even in midst of a less than perfect situation. If we do that, I am confident we will find God’s grace is indeed sufficient to give us happiness.
Rev. Dan Erickson
Senior Pastor, Chisholm Baptist Church