Not long ago, I decided to replace the sidewalk that was broken up in front of our house. Over many decades, it had become a virtual obstacle course for anyone who walked on it. To say it was dangerous would be an understatement. My dear neighbor (a man in his 90s) had stumbled and fallen while walking his dog, and, as I observed others from the neighborhood on their daily walks try to navigate our property, I decided something must be done.
Replacing the sidewalk really is not a big deal, unless you also have to remove a 70+-year-old jacaranda tree, whose roots were the cause for the upheaval in the walk. Now that poses an entire other set of problems. If, for some reason, anyone would be unaware, removing trees in the City of Los Angeles is something the city wants to be involved with, understandably. So, following proper procedures, making application for permits, getting all the “i’s” dotted and all the “t’s” crossed was my first line of action. Now, with my paperwork in hand, approved contractors secured, the work began and so did the potential for trouble. It seems there are people, some more than others, who can be highly emotional about removing trees that have been a part of the neighborhood from the beginning! I get it. But I had done everything right, and still the word got to me that there was potential for trouble in the hood. In the end, it will all turn out to be OK, I’m certain, but in the immediate, let me share my thoughts.
I have decided to look beyond the trouble and see the higher good of caring for and protecting my neighbors and friends. This is what came to mind, as I read in our Pause Journal (Acts 7:54-56). The circumstance was that Stephen was facing trouble from some of his neighbors…they were furious. And what stood out to me was this principle: Stephen chose to look beyond the trouble.
If we are honest with ourselves and with one another, we know that one of the greatest burdens of life is for us to master the art of looking beyond the circumstances. It really is the ultimate test in life…how will I respond to my circumstances? When I do, I think there are some things I gain in the process of looking beyond: 1) I see reality as a whole, rather than as something partial based on my circumstance; 2) I realize that my issues are not unique, they are just unique to me; and 3) I can see the ultimate triumph of God and His goodness.
So, remember, no matter what your circumstance might be, there is wisdom to be found for anyone who chooses to Look Beyond the Trouble. And, by the way, I got to plant a new jacaranda tree, and it’s going to be beautiful!
Proverbs 10:12 (CEV) says, “Hatred stirs up trouble; love overlooks (looks beyond) the wrongs that others do” (emphasis mine).
Pastor Dan Hicks