Tag Archives: Trust (social sciences)

How should we respond to the consequences of other people’s choices?

Ripple effect on water.
Ripple effect on water. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes life is just hard. Much of the difficulty comes from the fact that we can’t control other people. As hard as we may try or as sincere as we may be, we simply aren’t capable of making anyone do anything. Sometimes it may even seem that we can’t make ourselves do what we know we must do. Old patterns are extremely difficult to change.

There are times when we’re at fault for the difficulties in our lives. Other times, though, we’ve done nothing to deserve suffering.

People’s actions often have a ripple effect. Picture yourself tapping your finger on water. What happens? You make a ripple—a series of circles that generates from the spot where you touched the water. The circles continue until they reach the water’s edge or until they’re intercepted by other objects or patterns. The same is true in our lives. The ripples we begin often have far-reaching effects as they intercept other people’s ripples and obstacles. They continue on for so much longer than just that tiny finger tap that started it all.

Just as our ripples affect others, theirs affect us. Oftentimes the ripples bring good things. Sometimes, however, they bring pain. Heartbreak. Even life change.

So what do we do when this happens? When the ripples bring a tide of tears and torment? It depends. Sometimes there’s nothing we can do but cling to our great God, our Abba (Daddy). Other times, we can add personal action to our faith.

In times of distress, I recall the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can;
 and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; 
Enjoying one moment at a time; 
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; 
Taking, as He did, this sinful world 
as it is, not as I would have it; 
Trusting that He will make all things right 
if I surrender to His Will;
 That I may be reasonably happy in this life 
and supremely happy with Him 
Forever in the next.
 Amen.

Reinhold Niebuhr

There’s so much wisdom in this beloved prayer. First of all, I’ve wasted countless hours and energy trying to change things over which I have no control. I’m getting better at letting go of these things. But the next couple of lines are the main challenge for me–“the courage to change the things I can.” Now that, coupled with “the wisdom to know the difference,” can be difficult. It can be easy to fall into a victim mentality, thinking I just have to endure my circumstances. Or I can find myself thinking of good solutions, but not carrying them out. Or debating with myself over a solution and neglecting to take action.

As an adult child of an alcoholic, I’m more prone to bear these kinds of burdens. But I know I’m not alone. Many people struggle with how to deal with the consequences of other people’s actions.

So, as I find myself being affected by the ripples of another person’s choices, I have some decisions of my own to make. I need to sort out “the things I cannot change,” and “the things I can.” Then I need to have serenity and courage to deal with the things in each category. That requires that God grant me “the wisdom to know the difference.”

This path isn’t easy. It isn’t pretty. It isn’t comfortable. But it is freeing. And it brings peace.

Jehovah-Jireh: The Lord Provides, if we give Him the chance

The Israelites Gather Manna in the Wilderness ...
The Israelites Gather Manna in the Wilderness (illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

God provides all of the time. Sometimes we try to provide for ourselves. I think that when we do that, we miss out on God’s blessings. We work so hard in our own strength to do something that God would happily do for us. How silly is that? Why would we insist on doing work that has already been done, or that we know someone else is planning to do for us?

There are two main reasons I can think of that we might do this: pride and lack of trust. Pride says, “I can’t stand the thought of God doing something I may be able to do on my own if I work hard enough. That would make me look weak, lazy, etc. (fill in the blank) Pride also says, “I have to earn God’s favor and I have to pay Him back for the gift of salvation. I can’t ask Him for anything else.” Lack of trust says, “If I don’t do it, it might not happen.” We may believe God is able to provide, but we may wonder whether He actually will. Or we may believe that our problem isn’t big enough for God to care about. Maybe we take care of all the “small stuff” and only approach Him with things we can’t possibly take care of on our own.

Just because we can provide something on our own doesn’t mean God wants us to do it in our own strength. We can do a lot of things on our own, but we also may neglect relationships with God and people in the process. We may burn ourselves out. We may take responsibility for something someone else is supposed to be doing. We may rob someone else of the opportunity to serve. We may miss out on what God really wants us to do.

Could the Israelites have provided for themselves in the desert? Maybe they couldn’t have produced much food, but they certainly could have allowed hunger to drive them to the promised land in their own time, rather than in God’s. Or, they could have decided that they would rely on God’s provision of manna for a short time, but figured that God didn’t want them relying on Him for too long. They could have pressed on to Canaan too quickly because of their lack of trust and their pride. That would have ended in disaster! Surely their enemies would have defeated them, or they would have met with other challenges for which they were unprepared. Trusting God’s provision and His timing, though it was probably difficult to do, was the best course of action.

Trusting God to provide is always our best course of action too. God is the same today as He was in Moses’s day. No matter how bleak our circumstances look, God is Jehovah-Jireh, the God who provides.

Heavenly Father, I don’t always know how you’re going to provide. Right now I’m in a season of having to trust You because I know You’ve called me to make a change that looks kind of crazy in the world’s eyes. But I trust You will provide, and I will give you the glory for it.