“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” – Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor
Each day, we encounter dozens of circumstances that are completely out of our control. Over the course of weeks and months, those add up to hundreds and thousands. Though we live in a country based on principles of autonomy and freedom, in reality, much, if not most, of what we experience in life is far beyond our control and influence.
But as Frankl points out, the attitude with which we respond to situations is never, ever controlled by someone else. It’s always and entirely upon us. We get to choose to see obstacles as opportunities.
Consider the report of the spies sent into Caanan in Numbers 13:26-28:
Now they departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. Then they told him, and said: “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there.
They had peered into a land of giants. Major obstacle. But Caleb and Joshua saw it through the eyes of faith, hope and God’s empowering love. And through that lens they saw opportunity (v. 30):
Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”
Caleb didn’t just say “We stand a chance.” He said “We are WELL ABLE to overcome it.” The New Living translates it “We can certainly conquer it!” This, coming from a guy whom I don’t even think was battle experienced yet.
Yet, the majority didn’t by it. The whined, moped and complained about the obstacle. And that was their doom. Numbers 14:26-30:
And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me. Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the LORD, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above. Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in…”
What allows us to be Caleb’s and Joshua’s is the love of God. My beautiful fiance challenged me this morning to spend my work day considering (in the background of my mind) the fact that “He is for us and not against us.” What a simple, yet profound and empowering, truth.
Paul says in Romans 8:31 that “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Preceeding Paul in that revelation were Caleb and Joshua. They knew that if God was on their side, no enemy could withstand them. Look what Joshua says in Joshua 3:10:
By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will WITHOUT FAIL drive out from before you the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Perizzites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jebusites.
Joshua was compelled to fulfill his destiny in the Kingdom by God’s relentless love, grace and favor. No circumstance was allowed to stand in his way. Circumstances and obstacles will always come and present themselves. That’s a reality of war (and we’re at war). But, in Jesus’ name they will be overcome.
Paul builds upon his earlier revelation in Romans 8:
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-more than that, who was raised to life-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 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.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Gal 5:1). Now let us walk in it.