How can we assess the long-range value of the things that happen to us over the course of our lives? How can we determine whether they are good or bad?
We see on TV a team from the Publishers Clearing House unloading from a van and hustling across the lawn to a house to surprise someone with the news that he or she has just won their lottery and come into an unexpected fortune. The recipient is shown to be ecstatically happy about the surprising news. But is winning such a lottery something that turns out to be a blessing for the winners in the long run?
Interestingly, a number of follow-up studies have reported that at some point many of the winners were actually willing to say that, despite their high hopes, the win turned out to feel more like a curse. In time, their elation over the sudden wealth soured into regret that it happened in the first place, as discord, animosity and hostility arose among some family members over how the wealth should be shared with them. In retrospect, was winning the lottery a blessing or a curse?
Early in my ministry a stressed-out man, trembling and sobbing, told me about the devastation that had come upon him when unexpectedly he had been fired from his long-time job. He had felt quite secure in what he had thought of his life career. He was coming unglued, and I felt so sorry for him. In a matter of just a few years, however, he came back looking like a new man. He was in high spirits as he told me that he had found a new job much better-suited for his interests and abilities.
Then he said, “as miserable as that job loss was, I have now become able to say that I am actually glad it happened. I am much happier now.”
You might be surprised to know how many people have shared with me similar experiences over my 54 years of Christian ministry.
So what does this say to us about how to evaluate the long-range effects on us of things that happen to us during our lives? One of the biblical insights into the matter is found in Proverbs 3:5-6, where the writer urges us to “trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”
The Scriptures lead us to recognize the reality that we human beings simply do not have the larger perspective or the wisdom to determine at the moment the long-range effects of the things that happen to us over the course of our lives. We are wise, therefore, to turn to God, place our trust in Him and patiently seek his guidance.
I pray this blessing for you as for myself.
Dr. G. Daniel McCall is minister-emeritus at Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church.