Time and Chance
There are some things we can control and some things we cannot. Recognizing what we can and cannot control makes a big difference in how we adjust to the problems of living. Although we have control over the choices we make, there are many other things over which we have no control.To illustrate, the Bible says that “time and chance” happens to us all (Ecclesiastes 9:11). “As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them” (v. 12). Through no fault of our own, we may experience evil times. The goal in these situations is to react in an appropriate way. It is not so much what is in our environment but how we react to it that determines how we feel. Like most people, I do not like to experience difficult times, but the Bible teaches me to be content over the things I cannot control. Paul said, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…” (Philippians 4:12).
There are many things over which we do not have control. For example, we do not have control over the choice of our parents, or where we were born, or the name we were given at birth. It was only later in life that I learned to appreciate how blessed I was to be born in the United States of America.Furthermore, I am glad I was born in the 1900s rather than the 1800s. I am also glad I had the opportunities and environment I had as a child. Many of these opportunities were because of time and chance, including what my parents did for me.In my case, I had more opportunities growing up than my parents but my sons have had more opportunities than I had. I anticipate that my grandchildren will have even more opportunities than my sons have had but this may not always be the case with each succeeding generation.
Evil times, however, can bring economic collapse, war, or disease to an entire nation and this may lower the quality of life for everyone. In addition, people may squander the inheritance and opportunities provided by parents and circumstance. As a result, children and grandchildren may suffer for the sins of the parents.Perhaps this is the meaning of God’s statement in Exodus 20:4, “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.”
We do not have control over other people, or the hurtful things they may do to us. Many people are frustrated and disappointed that they cannot control the behaviors of their parents, children, or friends.However, until they learn that they cannot control the behavior of others, they will likely do things that make these relationships even more difficult. We can influence other people but not control them, and we must learn to accept other people as they are rather than as we would like for them to be. To accept people as they are does not mean we must accept their values and behaviors. Instead, it means we are to be tolerant of others even though we may not agree with them. This is not the tolerance we hear about today, which argues that we are supposed to celebrate and embrace the views and behaviors of others. The new tolerance of today expects us to value the judgments of others in the same way as we value our own. For the Christian, this is not tolerance but capitulation to the world. Therefore, we can and must be tolerant of others but we do not have to value their beliefs and behaviors the same as our own.
The actions of others can greatly affect people for the rest of their lives. For example, I was born in Abilene, Texas, but in 1952, my dad happened to drive north on highway 65 in north central Arkansas looking for land. He bought some land between highway 65 and Shirley, Arkansas along the middle fork of the Little Red River.Had he stayed in Texas, I and my sister and brothers would have married different people and lived different lives. In my case, I met my wife because of something that happened to me the summer I graduated from college. A lady at my mother’s church just happened to mention to her that a small church near Bee Branch, Arkansas was looking for a preacher for the summer. This church was near where my mother lived in north central Arkansas. The brothers at that church could have selected someone else to preach that summer but they chose me, and because they did, I met someone one Sunday who was visiting from Wichita, Kansas. This brother told me about a job with the church in Wichita. I applied for the job, and the brothers there happened to choose me, and as a result I met my wife in that city. I often give credit to this anonymous woman for introducing me to my wife, but actually it never would have happened had my dad not bought land in north central Arkansas years earlier. Of course, it is not all chance because I made choices that also helped bring it about and sometimes choice and chance can be intertwined.
The 1991 movie, Grand Canyon, reminds me of the importance of time and chance in my own life. This movie is about how the chance encounters in your life can affect it forever. The movie story begins with the chance encounter of two individuals who lived in different worlds. The character played by Kevin Kline drives home from a Lakers game and becomes stranded in a rough neighborhood. The character played by Danny Glover is a tow truck driver who comes to his rescue. This begins a friendship that affects the worlds of both individuals. The movie goes on to show how this new relationship affects both families by providing more chance encounters for other family members. It also illustrates how both chance and choice are involved in creating the circumstances of life. For example, had the characters played by Kline and Glover not been willing to pursue their friendship, nothing would have happened after the first meeting.
What all of this means is that although we do not have control over the events of time and chance, we can still choose to make the best of these circumstances.We can also pray for wisdom as we navigate through the choices of life so that we can positively influence our circumstances. The Bible says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). This will allow God to work through us in the circumstances of our lives in order to bring about a positive outcome for ourselves and others.In this way, we can know that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).
J B Myers