January 28, 2008
It Is What It Is
by Pastor George Van Alstine
âIt is what it is.â? Today, this is a common phrase used by people who are facing uncomfortable realities. Al Gore said it in commenting on the Supreme Court decision on the 2000 Florida vote that cost him an election. Reggie Miller, Indiana Pacers guard, used it to sum up the embarrassing 2004 bench-clearing brawl between his team and the Detroit Pistons. I probably hear it a couple of times a week, and Iâve been known to say it myself when other words canât describe my feelings.
âIt is what it isâ? can mean a lot of things:
â? âItâs happened; Iâm going to forget it and try to move on.â?
â? âItâs bad (for example, the price of gas), but I canât do anything about it. Iâll just have to endure it.â?
â? âI failed and I canât explain why. I wonât even try.â?
â? âDonât have any illusions. Reality will shoot you down.â?
Or it can be the lazy way out of an extended conversation:
â? âIt is what it is.â? (Donât ask me any questions; I donât want to talk about it anymore.)
I think âIt is what it isâ? can be either a noble statement or a pathetic statement, depending on the context and the situation. It can be noble when it means facing a difficult and unwelcome truth, without sugar-coating or false reassurance. This is the case when a person accepts the reality of a diagnosis that they have a terminal illness, or when parents fully face the fact that their son or daughter is a drug addict. The it-is-what-it-is attitude allows people to begin to develop a strategy to live with this reality and do their best to overcome it.
But âIt is what it isâ? can also be pathetic if it amounts to fatalistic resignation, disillusionment and inertia. For a person with a life-compromising habit, like overeating, smoking or fascination with pornography, âIt is what it isâ? can mean they donât intend to try to change things, and this may mean a life sentence to unhappiness and depression. Thatâs pathetic.
A believer in Jesus can say âIt is what it isâ? in an entirely different way. Think of the testimony of the Apostle Paul. In two different letters he reviews the various circumstances of his life and says, in effect, âIt is what it is.â? To the Corinthians, who were feeling sorry for themselves, he reluctantly listed the many troubles and trials he had endured for Christ (2 Corinthians 11:21-33). He also told them about some of his unique positive experiences, such as revelations (12:1-4). All these are simply facts of Paulâs existenceââIt is what it is.â? But there is one more fact he must add, a personal reassurance from God,
â? âMy grace is sufficient for you.â? (2 Corinthians 12:9)
So whether the âIt is what it isâ? is noble or pathetic, there is one other consistent reality: Godâs grace will always be enough! (Note: We are not guaranteed more than enough of Godâs graceâjust enough.)
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul tells them that heâs been up and heâs been down, heâs been rich and heâs been poor, heâs been healthy and heâs been sick. But in each type of situation heâs been âcontent with whatever I haveâ? (Philippians 3:11). Paul may have said âIt is what it is.â? But his use of the phrase would not have been an expression of helpless resignation. One more factor made the difference in his life:
â? âI can do all things through him who strengthens meâ? (verse 13).
So, if believers face all of their reality, they can say with confidence, even with a sense of victory,
â? âIt is what it is. And what it is is good, because Godâs grace is sufficient. I can do all things because he strengthens me.â?