Whatsover things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, . . . if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil. 4:8, KJV).
Most Sabbath mornings we drive the back roads to church. My husband and I love the many acres of farmland that border both sides of the road, with the surrounding hills covered with grazing cows. But the zenith of the trip is a breathtaking view of a beautiful valley. We never tire of gazing down at the sinuous oak trees and glassy ponds that grace this amazing landscape.
Aside from the obvious, what’s the real value in taking this route? So often we choose to look at all the unlovely and disturbing things in this world just because. And while the main roads may be easier to travel, the experience can become dreary, which eventually leaves us feeling down and depressed.
There is a story of Ellen White and a friend in Switzerland. The two corresponded regularly, but the woman’s letters were always gloomy. Mrs. White prayed for her friend and wrote concerning her situation. “I had a dream presented to me three times,” she said. “I was walking in a beautiful garden, and Sister Martha was by my side. As soon as she came into the garden I said, ‘Martha, do you not see this beautiful garden? See, here are the lilies, the roses, and the pinks.’
“ ‘Yes,’ ” she said, as she looked up and smiled.
“Soon I looked to see where she was. . . . She was in another part of the garden, and was grasping a thistle. Then she pricked her hand on the bramble bushes. ‘Why do they keep all these thistles and briers in the garden?’ [she said.] ‘Why do they let them stay here?’ Then there appeared before us a tall, dignified man who said, ‘Gather the roses, the lilies and the pinks; discard the brambles and touch them not.’ ”1
All around the world calamity and chaos are common occurrences, and we cannot escape the deluge of heartbreaking stories. Therefore, it can be so easy to become discouraged and lose sight of the good. But despite all the bad in the world, good is still present, because God is still present. And we don’t have to dwell on the negative.
Again Ellen White writes, “Now, we may go into a cellar and stay there and look around into its dark corners, and we can talk of the darkness and say, ‘Oh, it is so dark here,’ and keep talking about it. But will it make it any lighter? Oh no! What are you going to do? Come out of it; come out of the dark into the upper chamber where the light of God’s countenance shines brightly.”2
It’s up to us. Or better said, it’s up to me. I can choose whether or not I look at the thorns or the roses. The choice is right before me—I can see the glass half full or half empty. I can’t cure the evil in this world, but I can cope.
And I can choose a path that takes me through a scenic route. It may take a little effort. But in the end it won’t take me any longer to reach my destination. And not only will it be enjoyable for me but also for those in my little world who choose to come along for the ride.
1 Ellen G. White, The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 77.
2 Ibid., p. 76.
Emily Felts Jones writes from Tennessee. This article was published July 12, 2012.