Stuff happens. We find ourselves in circumstances that we didn't create or invite. As Spirit-filled followers of Christ we know what to do. We use prayer. We pray. We request others to pray. These prayers petition heaven for our circumstances to change. Our circumstances tend to dominate our prayers. But our prayers is not all that our circumstances seek to rule over.
Some people have learned that they can get the attention of others if they sulk and make demands of others through emotional blackmail. Circumstances are nearly always like these self-centred people. Before we go anywhere, do anything, make a decision, spend time with someone, or make plans, our circumstances want the final say. At the risk of offending your circumstances by calling it for what it often becomes: idolatrous, I want to give some shepherd's wisdom for dealing with your circumstances, and how you might adjust your prayer-life.
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
First Thessalonians 5:18
IF CIRCUMSTANCES PERMIT
Too many people honour God when circumstances permit. The attention-starved teenage girl who has gone to church most of her life now finds her circumstances have changed. When she was younger, her Daddy seemed to give her more tender attention. Now that she is older, Daddy doesn't seem to listen or even understand. She meets a crowd of similarly confused teens who seem to give her the attention she craves - on the condition that she conforms to their standards - standards that she knows are not God-honouring. But under these circumstances, it seems like attractive. Perhaps the young man who has graduated and landed a job for a company where corners are continually being cut, and the truth is often halved. Under the circumstances, his career demands that he skip church so that he can put in the extra hours his bosses say will be good for his career. Maybe circumstances help the neglected wife to justify her growing liaison with someone from work who seems to better understand her. In these instances, like a slow-growing noxious weed that chokes out all other plant life, circumstances withdraws its permission for the child of God to act like one. Christians do not honour and obey just when circumstances permit!
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;
The follower of Jesus is committed to following, serving, honouring Christ despite - not because of - whatever circumstances they might be facing. Marriage is a reflection of the ultimate loving commitment shared between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. No matter what the circumstances, God is love and He dwells in an eternal community of limitless love. When a couple marries, their marriage vows are a shadow of the commitment that the God of love enjoys and these vows usually contain the appropriate wording, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer. That is, no matter what the circumstances, no matter how difficult, no matter what the obstacle, there is an unshakeable commitment to love. The most important things in life, your peace with God, your relationship with our soul-mate, your privilege of pastoring your children, your commitment to your local community of faith, your level of workplace productivity, should all be acted on despite our circumstances.
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES?
Nick Vujicic was born with no arms and no legs. Despite this, he has overcome his circumstances to establish a corporation, travel the world, marry, and become a father. Little over a century ago, at just 19 months old, Helen Keller contracted what was suspected to be Scarlet Fever which left her deaf and blind. Through the patience of her teacher Annie Sullivan, Helen learned to read and write. In 1904 she went on to become the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor's Degree in Arts. Despite her circumstances, Helen Keller went on to achieve what can only be considered outstanding success. In 1964, President L. B. Johnson awarded her The Presidential Medal of Freedom. Neither Nick nor Helen allowed their circumstances to be the thing that determined what they could or couldn't do, and, who they could or couldn't be.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
How should we pray when our circumstances become intolerable? A brief study of the New Testament reveals that when circumstances were unfavourable for those characters in the New Testament they prayed. But what stands out about the way they prayed is that they prayed for the strength to deal with their circumstances - not for their circumstances to change! We could look at our Saviour heading to the Cross and see Him under adverse circumstances praying for the will of God to be done. We could look at the Apostle Paul in prison for preaching the Gospel. Instead of complaining in his Epistles about his "chains" and begging for believers to partner with him in prayer that he might be released, he seems to ask them to continue to pray that God might use him wherever he is!
for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!
Second Timothy 2:9
Most of Paul's Epistles to believers were actually written while he was in prison. Rather than let these circumstances dominate his prayer-life or limit his ability to be used by God, he chose to bloom where he was planted. Have you let your circumstances - your health, your finances, your work, your relationships - be at the forefront of your prayers? Have your circumstances been the defining agent of what you can or can't achieve? Do your circumstances tell you that change in your life is not possible? It's time to stop living "under the circumstances" and to start living the kind of life where you draw on God's grace to not only get you through, but to help you to be fruitful in the midst of it. Bloom where you are planted - despite your circumstances!