This word has been coming up a lot in my world over the last few months. The word comes from the root Interpret which, according to Merriam-Webster, means “to conceive in the light of individual belief, judgement, or circumstance.”
Most of the time our interpretation is governed by our circumstances. When things are going well we are “blessed”. When they’re not going so well, we are “ok”, “not so good”, and, sometimes, even “rotten.” Our interpretation governs how we relate to God; and, more importantly, how we believe he is relating to us.
Paul, in Ephesians 4:16-18, encourages us to not rely on our circumstances as the arbiter of our interpretation:
"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."
It’s a similar line of thought to Jesus’ urging not to worry in Matthew 6:25-34:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Even with that said, interpreting our lives through the lens of circumstances is really how most of us learned to do life; and, unfortunately, I for one, brought that into all of my relationships including my marriage. It has taken me many years to unwind the damage of my faulty interpretations both personally and professionally.
The process, and, yes, it is a process, begins with leaning into what is objectively true; even when it doesn’t “feel” true. Today is a perfect example. I am struggling. I am feeling blah. Work is a chore and I haven’t even been there for five days. I am feeling ineffectual in my ministry; challenged, obstructed on every front. Unseen and unworthy. And yet …
“that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19
The reality is that I am “rooted and grounded in love”, Christ dwells in my heart through faith, and I am filled with all the fullness of God. So, I turn Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians into a cry of my own heart …
Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit. Glorious and eternal God. Father, come and strengthen me in my inner being through the riches of your glory. Lord Jesus, come dwell in my heart. And, where my faith is weak, encourage it, restore it, and renew it. Holy Spirit, align my heart with all the saints who have come before to comprehend the vastness of the love of Christ Jesus. Beyond the knowledge in my head and the circumstances that surround me, fill me with all the fullness of God. To the glory of your Kingdom come, that your will may be done here on earth and in my life as it is in heaven.
Hope rises. Amen!