The original plan was to just spend the first week of this Scripture-thon on Philippians. I thought one day per chapter was plenty to squeeze the book dry of all juicy scriptural revelations. However, the more I pressed in, the more just kept flowing out. Scripture is truly the well of living water that never runs dry.
I’d often jog to the East River and watch the lapping water to remind myself of God’s living water in this dry anxious world – Williamsburg Bridge – April 11, 2020
Paul implores us in Philippians 2:14 to “do all things without grumbling or disputing.”
During my time in the city, I found that there were two groups of people – those that tolerate work in order to live in the city, and those that tolerate living in the city in order to work. Most of my UTNY program were of the former, and most my workplace were of the latter. Yet both are filled with grumblings of dissatisfaction for half their time.
First day of school – UTNY Center, NYC – Jan 17, 2020
Last glimpse of my work desk before packing and driving to Austin – May 8, 2020
It’s easy to blame our discontent on circumstance. However, Hebrews 12:15 tells “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”
“Bitterness” is described as a “root.” Roots aren’t external but underground. And in the same way, we harbor bitterness in our heart, towards people and circumstances in our life. It’s not what they do to us, but how we perceive them.
Paul continues in Philippians 2:15 to explain that we shouldn’t grumble so “that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”
If we forget about our stature as God’s children, we forget that this life is one that He blessed us with. The joy of living turns into a grind of day-ins and day-outs. Our light is put out. We start grumbling. And we just blend into the grayscale monotony in the dull background of everyone else’s life.
When I first came to NYC, I saw the city through the wide-eyes of a child, with every moment a photo-worthy memory. But as the season progressed, the experience became a routine.
Wake up at 7, make breakfast, shave and groom, eat breakfast, brush my teeth, change into work clothes, walk to the subway stop, pray for a seat on the G train, read my Kindle, switch lines, squeeze into the 7 train, go to work, work until 6, go to school, leave from school at 9, walk to the 7 train, switch to the G train, get home at 10, catch up on homework, shower, read, sleep at 12.
From being excited to wait in line at chick fil a – Jan 15 – to lacking joy while even holding the cutest dog – Feb 15 (dramatized before and after)
It quickly became a blur. And it made me grumble, is this the life that God calls me to live?
1 Corinthians 10:31 answers “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
It’s clear that whatever life I have right now, I am to live in a manner that gives glory to God. In the future God may have different plans for me (and indeed He did with Covid). But God has allowed us to find ourselves where we are right now, and we’re to give Him glory in the process.
I don’t know right now where God is calling me to live physically, what He’s calling me to do with a career, who He’s calling me to pursue. But I know He tells me to follow Him (Matthew 16:24), asks me to work for Him (Colossians 3:23), and commands me to love my neighbor (Matthew 22:39). These truths may not give me the answers to my “calling”, but if I follow Him every day, I can trust that He has a path planned out for me.
And though following Him may lead me through valleys of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4), I need not grumble about today because He has ultimately promised eternal life tomorrow (Romans 6:23).
By living with confident hope in a world of grumbling, perhaps we’ll do a bit of the aforementioned “shin[ing] as lights in the world.”
- Pray for wisdom. Pray for our corporate, church, and political leaders as they navigate processes, decisions, and regulations surrounding Covid-19 and the reopening of businesses. Pray that they are not swayed by human emotions and instead seek God-given wisdom in truth.
- Pray for peace in people’s hearts. Pray for those who are afraid – whether of racism, disease, or the future. Pray for them to have the peace of God which surpasses all understanding.