The Short End of the Stick

By Fern Horst

Do you ever feel like you’ve been left with the most undesirable pieces of life in your hands? The short stick, so to speak?

I’ve been feeling that way lately after several “upheavals” in my life, each of which is a direct result of decisions made by others. In some situations like this we’re left with one inevitable choice over which we have no control. In other cases we’re left with several choices, all of which are undesirable “short sticks”, and we don’t want to choose any of them!

What do we do in these situations? How do we feel? And most importantly, how will we perceive these short sticks that life has handed to us?

It’s not hard to answer the question of feelings—inevitably we feel like we’ve been short-changed; we’re tempted to blame the people who made the decisions that affected us, we’re tempted to blame God.

But what do we have then? Better choices? Better feelings? An enlightened outlook on life?

It doesn’t seem to work that way. When we choose to blame someone else, either people or God, we’re making the choice to be bitter and resentful, and those attitudes do bring us harm.

Can we believe the God who tells us that He will work everything in our lives into a pattern of good for us (Romans 8:28)? Can we trust Him with the short sticks we’ve been handed? Can we relinquish our expectations and accept that they were not part of God’s sovereign plan? Yes, we can. We can because He’s consistent, He’s trustworthy, He’s faithful. And He longs for us to prove Him right!

This morning my father preached a sermon titled Fact, Faith, Feeling. He told the story of three men walking along a rail fence. Their names were Fact, Faith, and Feeling. Fact was the leader, with Faith behind him, and Feeling always behind Faith; whatever Faith did, Feeling did, too. As long as Faith kept his eyes on Fact, he and Feeling stayed on the fence. But any time Faith turned around to see how Feeling was coming along, both he and Feeling fell off the fence.

That’s the way it is with us. Faith represents each of us and the choice is ours of where we will place our faith—will we put our faith in facts or on feelings? Will we focus on the facts as God has told them to us in His Word, or will we focus on our feelings about the situations that surround us? We can focus on the short sticks of life—determined “short” by the values of society around us—or we can focus on the promise of a God who loves us completely, a promise that He will take everything that comes into our lives and fit each one into a pattern of good for us if we let Him.

If we focus on God’s facts, we’ll stay on the fence and continue on into the adventures God has for us; we’ll live happy, fulfilled lives. But, if we turn our backs on the facts and consider our feelings over God’s promises, we’re sure to fall flat on our faces in a tangle of resentment and bitterness.

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