17 May God Wants to Change You More Than Your Circumstances
We tend to dream about a different reality from our current one, thinking how good it will be “if only I have a more loving family, if only I am more beautiful, if only there is no COVID-19, if only the circuit breaker can be over soon…” And in our prayers, we always like to ask God to change our unpleasant circumstances. But sometimes, God does not change our circumstances until He changes us, especially our hearts. For God is certainly more interested in how I am transformed than how my situation changes. And sometimes, the very set of circumstances that we asked God to change is in fact necessary to bring about a deeper transformation in us.
Do not be stumbled by unchanged circumstances.
1) Changed circumstances is not the only way for God to prove that He loves us.
Many a times, we just whine in self-pity when life brings us lousy circumstances. We long for God to use His mighty power to save us out of the dreadful situation, to prove His love for us. However, God does not always grant us that wish. Because changing our circumstances is not the only way God can prove His love for us; giving us eternal life and making us a better person, making us more Christ-like, are other ways to demonstrate His love for us. The truth is, God does not need further proof of His love for us after what Jesus did on the cross (cf. <Ro 5:8>).
<Ro 8> also says: 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
2) Unchanged circumstances cannot become our excuses.
We often make excuses out of our circumstances, claiming that because the circumstances remain the same, we cannot do this or do that; we cannot make any progress, or we cannot snap out of our misery because the situation is the same. We then resign to our fate and embrace a sense of fatalism. When we do that, we are saying that our destiny is determined by our circumstances instead of by the God who is above all. However, the Bible contains stories after stories of how God’s people were not defeated by dismal circumstances, and how God could still demonstrate His love and faithful power in spite of seemingly bad situations. Therefore, circumstances cannot define our fate, nor can they disprove God’s love.
3) If the good God so decides, then there are surely blessings in the unchanged.
One typical example is Paul’s thorn in the flesh. It was left unchanged because God wanted to show Paul how sufficient grace is like. Abraham and Sarah’s childless situation was also left unchanged for decades because God wanted to increase their faith and teach them the lesson of patience. Therefore, let us not be deceived by unchanged circumstances. God is with us and so there is disguised grace, even in unchanged dire situations.
When God saves us in Christ, what He promised to change is us, not our circumstances.
1) God is more interested in the transformation of our lives.
When we received Christ as our Saviour, the Bible says that we became a “new creation” <2 Co 5:17>, instead of telling us that our circumstances will surely change. Now, being a “new creation” means our nature, including our perspectives, responses and coping mechanisms toward the same set of circumstances are now different. Yes, God is certainly able to change our bad situations, but He is more interested in the transformation of our lives. As <Ro 8:29> tells us, For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. <1 John 2:6> also says, Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. Jesus also said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” <Mt 11:29> Indeed, our circumstances may not change, but when our heart changes to be like Jesus, then we can restore the peace we long for. As God’s word says, when we learn from Jesus, we can find rest for our souls, no matter what our circumstances are. More than changing our circumstances, God’s highest purpose is to save our souls as well as sanctify us to conform us to the image of Christ. Since that is God’s concern, then in whatever situations we are in now, let us ponder about how God is using our circumstances to change our heart, perspectives, actions, and character.
2) It is alright to pursue changes, but the goal must be right.
Usually we long for changes for the sake of our own comfort, happiness or goals. However, our desire for change cannot be just for our personal goals. Even if we are seeking changes for the seemingly nobler goal of the general good of all people, if that good is only confined to this earthly living, then it is not good enough. As believers of the truth, our goal should be higher. The changes we seek should lead to eternal salvation and value. Thus, besides merely praying for a change in our earthly circumstances, let us also pray that we ourselves can be transformed into a more God-pleasing person, and that those who have yet to receive salvation can also come into God’s redemption. May God help us align our hearts with His, and let the circumstances He permits in our lives serve their purpose before they are changed.
Brothers and sisters, it has been more than three months since COVID-19 hit us in Singapore. Despite the pandemic and the circuit breaker being circumstances which we hope can change for the better soon, how have you yourself changed thus far? Are you sensing God’s wonderful transformational work in you during this pandemic? Circumstances may change all the time, but if we can be transformed into a more blessed, satisfied and Christ-like follower of God, this change can benefit us for a lifetime. May God continue His good work in all of us!