If only …

If only …

Could I have achieved more if only my circumstances had been different?

4 min ·

I remember hearing my mother say one day, “If only I had more cupboards in the kitchen it wouldn’t be so messy.” This was a theme that carried on throughout her life as she wasn’t too enthusiastic about doing housework; and let’s face it, it is so much easier to blame our house design than become efficient at keeping house.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree …

I became an “if only” person. From my youth up until fairly recently it has been: If only my bedroom wasn’t so cold I could do my homework; if only I had transport I could get a Saturday job; if only the shredder worked I could clear the garden; if only I had more time I could finish my projects; and (to my husband) if only you came in on time your dinner wouldn’t be cold …

I have gradually come to realise that I was making excuses for my circumstances; I could hear myself saying “if only” too many times. I decided that I should get a grip and just get started to see what I could do by organising my time better and tidying up the garden without the shredder. Once I had made the decision, I got a new surge of energy and inspiration. The more I just got down to the job in hand and put my shoulder to the task, without thinking how much easier it would be if I had hard floors, high tech gardening equipment or better storage solutions, then jobs got done and I developed a sense of satisfaction.

But if we are an “if only” person when it concerns the practical things of life, then we also have the tendency to be an “if only” person about emotional and spiritual things, and that means we probably end up blaming other people or life’s circumstances for how we feel. This certainly has been true for me, and thought patterns can go like this: If my colleague hadn’t criticised me, I wouldn’t have become depressed. If my friends had invited me, I wouldn’t have felt sorry for myself. If I had more money, I could be generous. If God had given me a nicer personality, I would be kinder. If I had a better job, I would be less stressed.

If I was married/single.

If I had/didn’t have kids.

If I was fatter/thinner/taller/shorter.

If I lived in a hot country with lots of sunshine …

And so, it could go on.

One result of living in a state of constant dissatisfaction with our circumstances is that we become spiritually passive, permanently waiting for God to change things. And yet God is waiting for us to start, to get going – He can guide our direction if we are moving, but not if we are sitting still. We can be surprisingly unaware that what needs to change is us.

If like me, you have a tendency towards a passive personality that wonders how much life could have been different if circumstances had not “conspired” against us, then consider this. Next time the wishful thought comes about what we could achieve if we had the same good fortune and bank account as others, go into battle.

First, God would rather help us resist envious thoughts than shower us with money, as being content is more valuable in a disciple than being rich. And secondly, serve guests beans on toast and coffee if we can’t afford fine cheeses and good wine. Friends who want fellowship don’t demand fine dining and won’t judge us on our tableware.

And thirdly, God has an overview of absolutely everything. He allows things to happen to us and not to happen. He has the long view in mind with the aim of shaping us into the image of His Son and all our life circumstances have a part in this process.

It is not the amount of “talents” that God gives us that defines us – it is what we do with them that counts.

“And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one …” Matthew 25:15.

“‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things … Enter into the joy of your lord.’” Matthew 25:21.

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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.