It’s a beautiful day. I’m gritting my teeth as I write this. Declaring this day beautiful is roughly the equivalent of looking around at an empty hovel and pronouncing it an elegant townhouse full of comfortable furniture, lovely artwork, plush carpeting and a pretty, smiling barista who has just handed me a cappuccino and a slice of pumpkin bread ― on the house.
Earlier, I was having a horrible day, all the worse for my inability to identify the trouble. All I knew was that I was anxious, confused and sad for no reason at all, even after getting a good night’s sleep and spending the first hour of my day in the Word, praying and thanking God for his blessings and care.
After praying, I checked my e-mail and spent some time writing, but I still couldn’t shake the blues. So I went out into the uncharacteristically sunny Vancouver afternoon (that I couldn’t seem to enjoy) and struck up a conversation with my roommate, Jason. He was having a bad day too, having just spent the first half of it driving all over God’s creation trying to get to a friend’s house to help stack firewood. Two wrong addresses later, he was back home, out of gas, and missing his $100 cell phone case. I figured we might both be able to salvage our day by going out and enjoying a bit of early summer recreation, but Jason had some prior commitment, and he vanished shortly thereafter.
I always feel better when I’m pedaling my bicycle, so I resolved to bike out to the bank and then do some shopping I’d been putting off. Anything to get out of that horrible empty house. There is something sinful about sitting indoors on a clear, sunny day, no matter how worthwhile the indoor activity. But as I was getting up to speed on my bike, I thought: is this what I’ve been reduced to? Going to the bank on a gorgeous sunny day? I should be enjoying a picnic lunch in the park with a pretty lady. Did I axe-murder an entire monastery in a past life?
Then God started talking to me. He told me: I want you to turn your day around forcefully. And I knew exactly what he was talking about. He wanted me to start thanking him for things that hadn’t happened yet, declaring how blessed I am, even saying out loud how joyful and serene I felt. Not all that long ago, I would have thought this was psychotic behavior at best. But God has been insisting that I start imitating the One who “calls things that are not as though they were” (Rom. 4:17).
I hate doing this, and I’ve started to suspect that there is a bit of petulance in my refusal to “speak things into existence” after the fashion of Romans 4:17. After all, if I am declaring my proverbial cupboards full, there is no room left for complaining about empty ones. I would be directly contradicting myself. I admit that I have often derived a perverse enjoyment from inwardly complaining about things I thought God ought to have given me. I have always been overly swayed by my own ideas about the things I deserve to have in life and when they ought to be appearing.
It has been said that pain is a great persuader, and I’ve had more than my share lately. This is God’s way of saying that he’s not going to let me put this principle off anymore. All this came to me while I was pedaling down 99th Street.
So I started thanking God for all sorts of things I don’t even have (yet). I told him how good and generous and kind he is, how richly he has blessed me, how abundantly he has provided for me, how he has given me all the desires of my heart. I only felt marginally better afterward, but this is a new procedure, so it’s going to take some time. I do not intend to lose sight of the fact that God is all these things no matter what percentage of my desires are fulfilled. This isn’t about how I feel afterward. Peace comes not by adjusting my circumstances to fit my expectations (which is impossible anyway), but by abandoning my expectations and praising God for his goodness without regard to my feelings.
Much has been said about unconditional love, but I’m discovering unconditional peace. This is the kind of peace that comes by telling God to have his way in my life and asking him to help me to find contentment in it. Period. This peace cannot ever be taken away once it has been apprehended (though it can be forfeited). It is a robust pain reliever, dismissing at once a thousand aches about things I thought I had to have by now. This is unconditional peace.
I call it portable sunshine.