with Bob Condly

June 2016

Finding Peace in the Midst of Change

(Letting Go: https://rarasaur.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/letting-go.jpg)

I’m struck by the fact that things seem to be at once permanent and impermanent. They appear constant and beyond our ability to alter but actually, they’re already and always changing. Driving taught me this lesson.

Like many of you, I commute several times a week. Sometimes, like early Sunday mornings, the roads are barren for long stretches, but during rush hour, well, I have to pay closer attention!

Especially in heavy traffic, I dislike being in the wrong lane when I’m approaching a ramp or a corner. It’s stressful to have to worry about merging or changing lanes before I run out of room. Far more relaxing to get in the proper lane as early as possible and stay there, even if it’s slower.

Yet I’ve also noticed that traffic conditions aren’t fixed. A space in a congested street opens up without my help; a car blocking me from changing lanes moves past in just a short time.

But it’s not only traffic patterns. We joke in Wisconsin: “What, you don’t like the weather? Just wait five minutes and it’ll change!”

And has a friend, relative, or coworker ever been polite one minute, pushed you away the next, and then smiled later on? Where was this person’s head at? Hard to tell!

Through these experiences, I glean that nothing is static. Things change, people change. In the words of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” 

The Bible says as much, too. Paul warned Christians that “this world in its present form is passing away.” And James reminded believers that “you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

Yet our hearts continue to pine for durability. “Real love,” as Pastor Tim Keller points out, “instinctively desires permanence.”

It’s found in God: “In the beginning, Lord, You laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But You remain the same, and Your years will never end.”

Maybe “you can’t step in the same river twice.” Perhaps “you can’t step in the same river once.” But my soul feels lighter as I’ve eased my expectations about circumstances and retreated from demanding consistency from people.

When he insisted that “all is flux” maybe Heraclitus was onto something. But it doesn’t get me down because I know that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Look to the Lord and, as promised, “He will be the stability of your times.”

All Six of You


“You are the average of the five people you hang out with the most.” – Jim Rohn

Quick now, what’s your reaction? Do you feel encouraged because you’ve surrounded yourself with good people or are you nervous about all the poor influences in your life?

As a motivational speaker, Rohn came up with this observation working with business leaders and producing his personal development systems.

On the surface, the statement appears innocuous. It implies that you should assess the character of the people who make the biggest impact on your life. And the Bible backs this up: “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’”

But dig a little deeper, and you may unearth some flaws.

  • Life coach Celes Chua says that “I don’t fully agree with this statement because it negates the fact we have our own consciousness as well.” True, you can’t reduce human personality to the contributions of others.
  • Copywriter and self-help author Terry Lancaster stresses “the part that doesn’t get as much attention: You affect the people you associate with as much as they affect you.” Yes, influence goes both ways.
  • Aimee Groth, an editor at Business Insider, rebuffs the hint that you should invite only fans in your life. “While it’s ideal to be closely surrounded by positive, supportive people who want you to succeed, it’s also necessary to have your critics.” Agreed; negative people can actually make a positive impact on you. (Even if they didn’t mean to!)
  • Psychology researcher Keith Hillman points out that “the first big issue with trying to choose the five people you spend most time with is that you can’t choose them.” To improve yourself, you may try to join the jet set. But “if you’re trying to hang out with five people who are doing better than you, then you become the one dragging the group down. What’s to stop them from just leaving you behind too?” Uh oh, you’re out!

Fair comments all, but I wonder if criticism of Rohn’s admonition distracts from an even deeper distress. Maybe disapproval abides in something other than rational objections. Perhaps it’s fear.

Not fear of your associates; something more basic. Fear of fatalism.

Most people recoil from the possibility that their lives are fixed, that they have little to no control over them. And even in situations you can’t govern, at least you can control yourself. As Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist who suffered in a Nazi concentration camp, put it, “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, to choose one’s own way.”

But Rohn’s proverb seems to suggest that you can’t; that you’re a product of other people. They get to determine who you are, your personality, your character. Talk about powerlessness!

It would be easy to reply, “Well, if you don’t like your friends, get new ones. If you have lousy co-workers, quit your job. Can’t tolerate your classmates? The term will end soon anyway. Just hang in there!”

But that’s where the deterministic sense of powerlessness asserts itself. Do you feel stuck in relationships, circumstances, or commitments? Or have you ditched unhealthy persons but fret that the wounds they inflicted on you remain?  Are you damaged goods?

Rohn was right to stress the relational quality of our lives. We’re nothing without others; it’s how we were made. According to Genesis 2:18, “the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” And Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says that “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”

You need others, but you’re no captive. At least you don’t have to be. When you confess Jesus as Lord, He rules you but He doesn’t bully you. Christ repairs your injured soul (Psalm 23:3) and prospers it (3 John 2). And He puts you in healthy groups (Psalm 68:6).

So yes, relationships matter. But the God who made relationships can redeem them; He can make them right. Trust Him; enjoy who He puts in your life, and see how high you can go.

with Bob Condly

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