Satan wants to convince us that the only way we can ever be different is if our circumstances change. So we play the “if only” game:
- “If only we didn’t have to move . . .”
- “If only we lived closer to my parents . . .”
- “If only we had a bigger house . . .”
- “If only we had more money . . .”
- “If only my husband didn’t have to work so many hours . . .”
- “If only I were married . . .”
- “If only I weren’t married . . .”
- “If only I were married to someone different . . .”
- “If only I had children . . .”
- “If only I didn’t have so many children . . .”
- “If only I hadn’t lost that child . . .”
- “If only my husband would communicate . . .”
We’ve been deceived into believing we would be happier if we had a different set of circumstances. But the Truth is, if we’re not content within our present circumstances, we’re not likely to be happy in another set of circumstances.
When she was in her fifties, nineteenth-century writer Elizabeth Prentiss learned that her husband would be taking a new job that required them to uproot from their home in New York and move to Chicago. The move meant leaving all their friends and posed a danger to her fragile health. In a letter to a friend, she wrote,
We want to know no will but God’s in this question. . . . The experience of the past winter would impress upon me the fact that place and position have next to nothing to do with happiness; that we can be wretched in a palace, radiant in a dungeon. . . . Perhaps this heartbreaking is exactly what we need to remind us . . . that we are pilgrims and strangers on the earth. 1
George Washington’s wife, Martha, expressed the same conviction in a letter written to her friend Mercy Warren:
I am still determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances. We carry the seeds of the one or the other about with us in our minds, wherever we go. 2
Centuries earlier, the apostle Paul learned that he could rejoice and be content in any circumstance because his joy and well-being were not dependent on his circumstances, but on the steadfast love and faithfulness of God and the condition of his relationship with God (Phil. 4:11–12).
Elizabeth Prentiss, Martha Washington, and the apostle Paul all came to understood a life-changing Truth: we might not be able to control our circumstances, but our circumstances don’t have to control us.
The truth is, we can trust a wise, loving, sovereign God to control every circumstance of our lives.
Joy, peace, and stability come from believing that every circumstance that touches our lives has first been filtered through His fingers of love and is part of a great, eternal plan that He is working out in this world and in our lives.
1. George Lewis Prentiss, ed., More Love to Thee: The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss (Amityville, NY: Calvary, 1994), 374.
2. Harry C. Green and Mary W. Green, “The Pioneer Mothers of America,” 1912, cited in Verna M. Hall, comp., The Christian History of the American Revolution: Consider and Ponder (San Francisco: Foundation of American Christian Education, 1988), 76.
Adapted from Lies Women Believe: And the Truth That Sets Them Free, copyright © 2001, 2018 by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, Revived Hearts Foundation. Published by Moody Publishers. Used with permission.