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Future Things

Ecclesiastes is an interesting read because it was written by a very smart individual as he wrestled with the temporary nature of earthly life. He, like us, desired to feel young forever, be reasonably in control of the circumstances of his life, and to be successful in his ventures. After putting enormous amounts of effort into these pursuits, he came to the conclusion that we all age, we are not in control of very much and success is harder to achieve and maintain than it should be. Having reached that conclusion, he had the choice of either becoming cynical about life or developing character that can withstand the ups and downs of life. Ecclesiastes is a journal of his wrestling match with this choice. This morning the following statement caught my attention:
When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this:
God has made the one as well as the other.
Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future. (Ecc. 7:14)
I have the advantage of being able to look back on a significant portion of my life and I realize most of it I could never have predicted. Consider this short list of experiences I have had which have surprised me:
• I got married at 20 years old.
• I lived in Bakersfield, CA for 8 years, a city which was the subject of a lot of jokes when I was growing up. We used to say, “It is not the end of the earth but you can see it from there.” I now have many lifelong friends from a place I thought I would never live in.
• When my dad had a massive stroke at 48 years old, I expected he would not live very long. We just celebrated his 82nd birthday and he is as sharp mentally today as anyone I know.
• I was diagnosed with high blood pressure in my forties. I had committed to working out and eating healthy as a young man (motivated by my dad’s health issues) with the anticipation that hypertension would not be a part of my personal history. It is under control today but it looks like a lifelong challenge.
• My son was lost for 6 hours when he was 6 years old. We had done everything we knew without success. We also watched the efforts of 11 sheriff cars and 2 helicopters fail to produce results. We got him back but not before asking the question, “If we never see him again or if they bring us our son injured or dead, will we still believe that God is good?”
• That same son ruptured his spleen in 7th grade and had to lie on his back for a week followed by a year without any strenuous activity. Fortunately, he is doing well today (even playing college football) but for a long time we weren’t sure if his physical ability or confidence would return.
I could go on just like you could about all the unexpected things that have happened in life. The point is that none of us can predict the future so we need to train our attitudes today to deal with whatever comes our way. To prepare for the good things, we need to cultivate a grateful spirit that can readily celebrate the privilege. To prepare for the bad things, we need to remind ourselves constantly that God is always present and that He will always find a way to bring something good to the surface.
God, prepare me today for what will come my way tomorrow.

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