Life on hold

23 October 2020

“I feel like my life’s on hold.”  “I’m not able to get on with my life.”  Do you find yourself thinking like that?  It’s understandable.  So many of our activities have been interrupted, so many of our plans shelved.  There are so many things we’re no longer able to do, so many things stopped, so many not started.

Helen and I were chatting in those terms the other day, when I found myself wondering what the apostle Paul would make of our conversation.  I suspect he’d say something like this: “Well, my friends, this is the life God has given you at the moment.  The question is, How will you live it?”

As we’ve been reading through his letter to the Philippians as a church, it seems to me he’s not too bothered he’s in chains, nor even that some are taking advantage of his situation, so long as Christ is preached.  Amazingly, later in the letter he can say, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation … I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

I have to admit that I haven’t entirely learned that secret yet!  I’m so often frustrated, irritated or grumpy when things don’t go the way I’d hoped for, planned or wanted.  Perhaps part of the problem is that I think of it as “my life” – for me to plan, organise and use as I choose.  But what if it’s the life God has given me?  And it’s not just that he made me, and then leaves me to get on with it, but that the life I have now is the life he wants me to have now.  That’s very different.

Then I can see the opportunities and not just the problems: the opportunity to be less frantic and more thoughtful, to read some of those books I’ve been meaning to read (both Christian and not), to go deeper in the relationships I do have, to build relationships with those nearby, to spend more time reading the Bible and praying.

The key thing is my attitude: I’m still able to love God and to love other people in my present circumstances.  And as far as I know, God hasn’t withdrawn either of those two commands.  The question is how I can do that best.  I think that’s at least partly what Paul had in mind when he prayed for his friends in Philippi, “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best…”  When we love well, we’ll know what to do.

Lord, help me to live the life you’ve given me, loving you and others as best I can, and not to wait for the life I want to begin.  Amen.

Chris Hobbs