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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Three’s a Crowd”
One of the biggest facts of life that everyone learns rather early on is that things don’t always go as planned, and sometimes to the tune of well-made plans going wrong. Certainly that’s true of Twilight Sparkle in this episode. After finally having enough time to spend a fun-filled say with her sister-in-law, everything goes south in a hurry when Discord’s latest attempt to troll her ends up forcing the both of them to abandon their plans for the day to tend to him.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I dare say given my mental state what “grinds my gears” more than anything is when I make plans only to have them totally fall through due to external circumstances, especially when the plans were made to do something fun or enjoyable. This can include plans for outings with friends or family members interrupted by illness or accident, or last minute hassles such as the car breaking down, or needing to make a lifestyle change due to loss of job or residence. Naturally, these things are all a part of life and unavoidable. As always, the important thing is not avoiding them but how we respond to them. And if you’re like me, times like this often make me go to the negative. They frustrate my attempts to be “as Christ” in a given situation and leave me distraught, disorganized, upset, and possibly even angry or depressed. These can happen whether or not something is naturally occurring or, as with Twilight, someone is trolling me on purpose to get my goat.
All emotions are God-given, but, as with many gifts from God, they can be misapplied if one isn’t careful and can lead people to make the wrong choices. This is especially true when things aren’t going well.
In the Book of Exodus, after the Israelites had finally been released from service in Egypt, which was still reeling from the death of its first born along with the rest of the plagues, being upset at the loss of their slaves ended up hurting the Egyptians more when they decided to go after them; leading to even more deaths in the Red Sea. In the Book of Samuel, note the first king of Israel, Saul, did not immediately face his downfall even after Samuel prophesied that his kingdom would be taken away from him. It was only after he allowed his anger, resentment, and rage to grow at that bad news, driving him to persecute David unjustly, get mercenaries to kill his own priests, and break God’s Law in consulting a medium that he finally met his end; which to me meant he did more to doom himself than God ever did. Likewise, there are at least a dozen accounts of how when the Israelites faced persecution they ended up making bad decisions, whether it be with those in the desert who constantly looked for an opportunity to go back to Egypt whenever a crisis arose, those who were quick to make foreign alliances or follow other gods when faced with enemies, or those who reacted to the prophets warning them of the coming exile by “shooting the messenger”.
However, Twilight and Discord both ended up with an unexpected surprise. As it turned out, Cadance had a great time even if it was mostly running around with Twilight tending to Discord or almost getting eaten by a giant worm monster, as it meant a chance to be active and excited for once rather than standing around bored in a palace. Her ultimate goal was to spend time with her sister-in-law, and with that in mind she was happy to do anything with her. Perhaps it wasn’t the most ideal or safest of situations, and certainly not what either girl expected, but the most was made out of it and a great time was to be had at the end of it.
Similarly, in the Bible, when things didn’t go as well as they could there were numerous times in which Christians found themselves in bad situations, yet didn’t let the pain or fear, or even frustration, of their current situation stop them from being effective. In Acts 16-40, Paul and Silas had been seized by a mob, beaten with rods, and, still bleeding and wounded, were locked in chains and thrown into a dark prison. I myself have been in 50 mph car accident once and the seat belt and air bag alone left me so sore that I barely wanted to move, so I can only imagine in how much pain and soreness those two men were after being publicly beaten. Yet even in the midst of their suffering, the Bible relates that they sang hymns and prayers to God even in the worst times. As a result, not only was there a supernatural event that broke the prison open, but led to the conversion of the jailer and his family; such that even in such a bad situation, likely enduring something neither of them had planned, Paul and Silas were still able to work for good. Later, when Paul came to Jerusalem for the intent of reporting the success of the Gospel over in Asia, he not only ended up arrested and passed around in prisons for years but, while en route to appeal his case in Rome, ended up shipwrecked on an island called Malta. Yet in spite of that, he was still able to preach the Gospel and minister wherever he went, both to his captors as well as to the locals on Malta (Acts 28:1-10). Aside from that, Paul mentions himself in the Letter to the Galatians that the only reason he preached to them in the first place was as a result of being waylaid by an illness (Galatians 4:13).
As incredible as Paul was, he was only one example of many Christians who had to struggle constantly throughout history but always made the best of any situation they were in. How he was able to endure in the midst of any trouble or plan-going-wrong was by never focusing too much on his situation. For him, the ultimate plan and goal was always in preaching the Gospel. And that could be done in both the best and the worst situations, no matter what happened to him. By keeping his focus on that, he was able to endure any adverse situation and even flourish in it.
As I stated before, things will inevitably “go wrong” in life. And odds are more than likely that eventually one of those times will happen at the worst of times, either ruining something we had planned or going so far as to “kick us when we’re down”. At times like that, it will be especially hard to stick to the Gospel, and especially easy to give in to disappointment and/or sin. Keep in mind two things:
- Attitude makes a great deal of difference. Since things will indeed eventually go wrong, learn to face them with a positive attitude and focus more on how to get past them and look for potential rather than sulking or dwelling on what went wrong.
- Keep your eyes on the overall goal. Even in the bleakest of situations, there’s always an opportunity. God does not “shut a door” in one’s life without opening another one. Rather than focus on what is lost, see what can be found or pursued in what is left behind. As a fellow Christian once told me, the enemy of something great is something good. Who knows if you may have had an opportunity taken away from you to make room for a greater one?
Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for all of the opportunities you present me with every day; including ones I seek and ones that I am presented with without looking. When times are rough and I am tempted to grow upset or discouraged by things that have caused my ‘dreams to be deferred’, whether they take place due to external factors or deliberate action of others, help me to focus on the overall goal of serving you and being as Christ to others so that, no matter the circumstances, I will always be building the Kingdom of God and avoiding sin. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”