Think of the worst thing that has happened to you in the past month. Was it a relationship problem? Losing your cool with a co-worker? Was it a difficult situation that came your way? Now, how did you respond? Anger? Confusion? Feelings of hopelessness?
Life is full of ups and downs. History shows that every person and every nation has difficulties and struggles. Like death and taxes difficulties in life are inevitable. The secret is not asking why they happen but how do we react to them? Zen Calvinism is the key.
Zen = heightened state of calm. Calvinism = God is in control
One of the best bits of advice on this topic is from Carl Trueman. Dr Trueman, from Westminster Theological Seminary, has coined a phrase Zen Calvinism to describe his outlook when he sees bad things happening. So when he reads of wars he remembers Zen Calvinism.
When he sees conflicts in his church or tensions in his community he looks to Zen Calvinism. When he wonders what hope there is for his adopted nation of the United States of America or what is happening back in his motherland of England, he thinks of Zen Calvinism.
So what is Zen Calvinism? In a nutshell it is pointing to the Biblical gospel theme of when trouble strikes trust in God's plan. When difficulties come, as they always will, stay calm like a Zen Master. And know that God has the best answer because He is all wise, all loving and in complete control.
These themes are emphasized by church reformer John Calvin. The big technical word used is providence (or sovereignty): God is all powerful and nothing is outside of His control. He will bring about all things for His glory. The result is that we can trust in Him completely. We can have a deep peace and confidence grounded in who God is.
History shows this. The ultimate example is Jesus' death. His disciples fall apart as they see their Messiah die and their hopes of a new king fall away. Yet in God's plan Jesus conquers death as well as sin and as a result reigns forever (see 1 Corinthians chapter 15 verses 56-57). This He had promised many years before. They should have known this "Zen Calvinism."
Keep calm and carry on
So looking through this lens of history, our problems can be seen in a new light. We can stay calm when trouble strikes. Not because of a "Pollyanna" positive attitude or wishful thinking.
But we can find peace because we know that God is a God of love and has a plan reflecting this nature. He cares for each of us and brings about His glory in our lives. Dr Trueman coins it, Zen Calvinism.
I have found this attitude a remarkable release from the burdens of worry and stress. Even though I don't understand what has happened or what can be done to fix it. Yet I can see from the Bible that God has a plan and He has proven again and again that He will bring about this plan.
This includes how He is working in your life. This knowledge brings a deep peace: both in your mind but also between yourself and God as you turn back to Him.
One of the best books on this is Jerry Bridges, "Trusting God."
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and Pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover.html