Don’t Separate Success and Failure

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances . . ."(1 Thess. 5:16-18).

"Let's do highs and lows!"

It's a family tradition that began when our daughters were young. We continue it today, though they are grown and in college. On birthdays, holidays, and special occasions, when we gather at the dinner table, we share our "highs": the good things that are happening in our lives. Then each of us talks about our "lows": the difficult and painful things. It's a great way to support and encourage each other.

There's only one rule. We always talk about both our highs and our lows at the same time. Why? Because that's the way life happens. The good and the bad, the joy and the pain, the success and the failure, always go together. No matter how good life is at a given moment, one doesn't have to look far to find the lows—the world around us is filled with them. But our natural inclination is to separate the highs from the lows.

German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer*, writing from his cell in a Nazi prison camp, said of his fellow prisoners:

I notice repeatedly here how few people there are who can harbor conflicting emotions at the same time. When bombers come, they are all fear; when there is something nice to eat, they are all greed; when they are disappointed, they are all despair; when they are successful, they can think of nothing else. They miss the fullness of life . . .

By contrast, Bonhoeffer said, "Christianity puts us into many different dimensions of life at the same time . . . We rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." For the person of faith, life is not reduced to a single dimension, but is "multi-dimensional." In fact, Bonhoeffer says, "It's only faith itself that can make possible a multi-dimensional life . . ."

Biblical faith affirms that God is present with us in all of life—in the highs as well as the lows. That's why the apostle Paul writes, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks." Paul urges readers in Thessalonica, who had experienced considerable persecution, to recognize that all of life is lived in the presence of God.

"Rejoice, give thanks in all circumstances." Why? Because even the bad things are somehow good? No! Rejoice and give thanks because God is always there with the grace and strength to help us see life through. Even in the pain and loss God is there, working to give us new life. Rejoice and give thanks, because nothing is ultimately beyond God's power to forgive, to heal, to redeem, or to restore.

The way of life Paul calls us to is one of joy and gratitude despite outward circumstances. This way of living is an attitude we choose. In every moment, every decision, every experience we're called to joyful gratitude. During the daily commute, at work, at home, paying bills, cleaning, cooking, watching your kids dance or play soccer—there's nothing in life so commonplace but that God is present in it.

"Let's do highs and lows!" The important question is this: What is God saying to us in the highs and the lows of life?

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

*Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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