Learning to Live with the Unchangeable
THERE was an ancient Greek philosopher who is reputed to have counseled: ‘Young man, get married, get married. If you get a good wife, you will be happy and that is a good thing. And if you do not get a good wife, you will become a philosopher and that also is a good thing.’ The idea of the latter part of the saying is that it is good to adjust to that which cannot be changed, taking a philosophical view of life, as it were.
This matter of learning to live with the unchangeable applies to ever so many facets of life. The very matter of one’s height might cause one grief. A girl more than six feet tall may fret because she is so tall. Then, again, a man less than five feet may chafe because he is so short. But as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is reported as saying: “Is there a man of you who by anxious thought can add a foot to his height?” (Matt. 6:27, The New English Bible) Furthermore, a person may have been born hunchbacked, with a speech impediment, with poor eyesight, or may have become a cripple due to polio.
What can any of these persons do? “What can’t be cured must be endured,” is the way one physician put it. One who learned to live with his extreme shortness is Carlos Romulo, a Philippine statesman. He says that he did not let his being so short abash him and, in time, found that it really was an asset, as people often have an inclination to favor the person who is very small.
One thing that all such disadvantaged persons can do is to learn to appreciate the blessings that they do have. Is it not true that life and even a measure of health are great blessings? There are the beauties of creation or “nature,” the pleasure of listening to beautiful music, the love of family and friends and the satisfaction that comes from being useful both to oneself and to others.
The same applies to one’s attitude toward world conditions, which are unchangeable as to getting any better. Should we be disturbed because of the increasing corruption in high places and the worsening violence and crime on city streets? The Bible gives good advice: “Do not show yourself heated up because of the evildoers.” Why not? Because in God’s due time they will be no more. (Ps. 37:1-13) Until then a person can learn to live with such conditions by being extremely cautious, not venturing out into the streets alone late at night, valuing his life more than the money he may have on his person, and so forth.
Yes, it will help us to learn to live with the unchangeable if we try to be philosophical about our particular situation and make the best of it. Accept the fact that all happiness is relative and that under present imperfect and sinful conditions there will always be some bitter with the sweet. So, in whatever state or condition you might find yourself, look for its compensations or mercies. The very unconsciousness of sleep is a blessing, concerning which a poet once wrote: “There’s mercy in every place, And mercy, encouraging thought, Gives even affliction a grace, And reconciles man to his lot.”
The same applies to our relations with others. Many married couples upon finding that they are not very compatible separate or divorce, but the better way would be to learn to adjust to each other. Thus there was the romantic Italian, fond of athletics, who married a rather conservative British girl. For years they had difficulty in living together, but for the sake of the children they did not break up. However, in time they learned to adjust, bringing more contentment and happiness into their marriage.
To take another true life story of the present time, there was the charming young woman who married a man who had everything in the way of personality and possessions for which she could have wished. But her desire for children was not fulfilled. Has she learned to live with the unchangeable? Yes, for now she can even joke about her frustration. Moreover, she fills her days with the full-time activity of sharing the “good news” with others—even as he does—and enjoys many blessings and satisfactions in teaching whole families, and especially mothers and their young children about Jehovah God and the blessings of his kingdom—rearing spiritual children, as it were, by making these Christian disciples.
Going to the Bible we find many other examples of those who learned to live with the unchangeable. Among those that might be noted here is the prophet Moses. How mightily God used him to bring his people out of Egypt, and yet they kept trying his patience year in and year out during that 40-year trek in the wilderness! (Deut. 8:2-5) How frustrating he must have found their lack of appreciation, their lack of faith, their complaining, their rebelliousness and their greedy selfishness! The love that he pours out to them as expressed in the book of Deuteronomy is proof of how well he learned to live with the unchanging weaknesses and failings of his people—unchanging as far as his being able to do anything about it.—Acts 7:30-39.
Modern servants of Jehovah God likewise often find conditions very trying. As they preach the good news of God’s kingdom, they have to put up with indifference and apathy, blind prejudice and bitter opposition. Do they give up because of these seemingly unchangeable conditions? Not at all. Rather, they work at becoming more resourceful; they work at strengthening their own faith; and they keep reminding themselves of the reasons why they are serving Jehovah God in this time of the end.
Truly, many are the situations under which various ones have had to endure, because of being unable to change them, or to get out from under them honorably. But whatever the situations may be, the wise course is to learn to live with them, by learning to adjust. Helping one to do so is the precious privilege of prayer, as well as the hope that God’s Word holds out of a “new heavens and a new earth” in which there will be no evil, no frustrations. Instead there will be everlasting life in happiness.—Phil. 4:6, 7; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:4.