chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3, chapter 4, chapter 5, chapter 6, chapter 7, chapter 8, chapter 9 and chapter 10.
I will remember the works of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, And talk of Your deeds.
Last time we talked about What If; today we're on If Only.
I enjoyed three of the examples in this chapter, so I'm going to share them in full:
Jim refused to contract the If Only disease, even though he was constantly exposed to it. Jim and his family had left everything to go to Africa as missionaries. While there, Jim contracted a virus similar to chronic fatigue syndrome. He has been sick for twelve years. For six of those years he was bedridden. He has consulted thirty-five doctors on three continents without finding a cure, and he is only able to work limited hours.
This dear family visited us last summer. While Lois and the girls toured Colorado Springs, Jim stayed in our basement and read. Occasionally he joined his family, but he could climb the stairs only once a day and had to conserve his energy. This is after twelve years of suffering. One might think bitterness, self-pity, impatience, and anger would characterize this man. But that's not what I saw. His physical disease didn't cause him to think, If Only we hadn't gone to Africa. He was at peace with what God had allowed. Lois told me that once, during his six-year stint in bed, she asked Jim, 'Don't you ever feel sorry for yourself?' He responded, 'Pitying oneself takes too much energy. I don't have any energy to spare.'
How much time do we spend in self-pity, thinking If Only my situation were different? Jim didn't allow himself the luxury of If Onlys. He was content with what God had allowed in his life (pages 164-165).
Recorded in the wonderful little book Green Leaf in Drought is a saga of If Onlys. When the Communists ordered all missionaries out of China in 1947, Arthur and Wilma Matthews had just traveled to a remote part of China, and were prohibited from leaving. As all their colleagues escaped, the If Onlys plagued their hearts and minds. 'If Only that letter had not come, inviting us here. If Only Arthur had not signed that petition for world peace, which angered the authorities. If Only....'My fingers got tired before I typed the third story, but I found it online with a quick search: you can read Andrew Murray's rules here (and spend some time with someone I greatly admire while you're at it). According to Linda Dillow, he wrote those rules when he was in great pain. Someone came to him for advice, and he gave her the paper he was writing for himself. His choice--and what he was encouraging his visitor to do--was to focus on God and God's purposes, instead of the If Onlys.
Wilma became so distraught over their situation, so paralyzed by the 'If Onlys,' that on Easter she could not sing 'He Lives.' She felt God had deserted them. Alone in her drab kitchen, she turned to a pamphlet by A. B. Simpson titled, 'The If in Your Life.' She read the account of Lazarus's death and how Martha had said to Jesus, 'Lord, If Only You had been here, my brother would not have died.' And Jesus could have been there; He was not far away. He knew all about it and He let Lazarus die.
Wilma realized a great truth: There's an if in every life--something God could have done differently if He had chosen to do so. He has all power, yet He often allows that if to be there. God wanted to meet Wilma's if with His if, just as He had for Martha. Jesus told Martha, 'Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?' (John 11:40). Martha wanted Lazarua to be delivered from death; Christ wanted Lazarus to be triumphant over death.
Two years later, the Matthews were allowed to leave China. Despite severe testing and horrible circumstances, they deliberately chose not to think about the If Onlys and to focus instead on God's Loving Sovereignty. As a result they had internal peace, and God was glorified (page 165).
(Side note: I love that Linda Dillow uses so many examples from missionary life!)
The anecdote to If Only and to so many other distrustful maladies is remembering the works of the Lord (Psalm 77). We need to meditate on what He has done for us and tell others about it. Somewhere I once heard of rewriting Psalm 136, which tells the story of God's faithfulness to Israel, and making it fit with my own life story. I love that idea. Something along the lines of
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
To Him who allowed me to be born into a wonderful family of people who love Him,
For His mercy endures forever.
And blessed me with a happy childhood and early education,
For His mercy endures forever....
Would you like to share a Psalm of your life? If you do, I might come back and finish mine up. How are you doing with fighting If Onlys these days?