Do you ever feel as though the circumstances of life are about to overwhelm you? It is said, We are worn down less by the mountain we climb than by the grain of sand in our shoe. I agree. Would you like to know what pebbles seem to frequent my sneakers?
- People who try to make me feel guilty.
- My unbalanced checkbook.
- My garage. (It continually proves the second law of thermodynamics—the universe is moving from order to disorder.)
- The incessant ringing of the telephone.
- Sibling rivalry.
- Things that break and need fixing.
- A drippy faucet. A smoking fireplace. And a leaky pipe in the ceiling.
- Car problems that always occur at the most inopportune times.
- A whining child.
- Things that aren't where I left them. Or forgetting where I left them.
- More sibling rivalry.
- An unresolved conflict with a family member.
- And tripping over all the stuff that six children can drag out! There have been times when the floors at our place were symbolic of a lot of life's circumstances: piled with the unpredictable and regularly cluttered with chaos.
I once took a census of our floors: there were enough children's books on the floor to load a good-sized library truck. And Legos! Legos may be creative and all, but they drive me crazy—10 zillion pieces specially designed to disappear forever down heat registers, or to be sucked into the abyss of the vacuum cleaner.
I found enough dolls to populate Toy City. We had four girls living in our house and over 25 dolls. And enough Cabbage Patch Kids ere on the floor to make one think our floor was the original patch.
In the dining room where we had just finished dinner, there was enough spilled food to feed a small African nation. Plus an empty coke can, two ribbons from some frazzled doll's hair, and one coat (one of our children threw it there I guess hoping it would grow and multiply in the fertile debris of the floor).
Are we out of control? Partially. But doesn't it happen to everyone from time to time? Little things get to us. Frequently.
Honestly, big problems are difficult, and there are more serious problems that do confound us, but today, tonight, right now, this is where more of us live—in the midst of the little things. It's called reality.
It reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw on a pickup truck some time ago: REALITY IS FOR THOSE WHO CAN'T COPE WITH DRUGS. I really do understand why we have a culture of "cop outs."
Where is God?
Is God involved in the details of life? Could God possibly want to teach us something in a flat tire? Does He really want to invade every moment of our day or would He prefer to reserve the 9:30 until 12:00 time slot on Sunday mornings?
One of the most practical spiritual truths is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:18—"In everything give thanks … " Just four little words that measure my walk with God. I'll never forget the first time I heard the concept of giving thanks in all things. It was 100 percent foreign to me. I didn't think like that. I was used to either calling things "bad luck," getting ticked off, or just shrugging my shoulders while muttering, "What's the use."
But I began to practice this newly found command and to my amazement I started to notice a change in my attitude about life in general. I began to realize that God wanted to invade every area of my life. Every area.
Learning to give thanks
Does He really want us to give thanks in all things? "I mean c'mon, isn't that a bit fanatical," you might ask. Why could this possibly be so important to God? Let me suggest three reasons.
First, giving thanks in all things expresses faith—faith in the God who knows what He's doing—faith in the God who sovereignly rules in all that happens to us. Isn't that what He wants from us?
Secondly, He commanded us to give thanks because He knew we wouldn't do it naturally. Giving thanks in all things means I am no longer walking as a mere man, grumbling and griping about "stuff," but walking as a spiritual man (1 Corinthians 2:14-15)—a man who sees God at work … even in the grains of sand that tend to fill my shoes.
Isn't that a little bit of what's wrong with twenty-first century Christianity? Don't we divorce God from the details of daily experience? Don't we ultimately live like those things which we can't seem to control? Let's be honest, we'd rather gripe, complain, and be miserable about circumstances than give thanks.
Thirdly, He wants to teach us how to deal with the irritating grains of sand so we can get on with climbing the mountains He has for us. All we see are the pebbles, and we think if we could just remove all those pebbles then we could get on with living. But God wants to use those irritants to instruct us and see us grow up. I wonder how many times He's had to teach me the same lesson before I finally learned it by obeying Him?
The following is an excerpt from a letter I wrote years ago, and it contains a written snapshot of our family under the siege of circumstances.
To start out with, we have been living out of suitcases for the past seven weeks, with our two little ones, both under two, going through Pampers like they owned the factory! You can guess what malady they were overtaken by!
We've had checks bounce because our paycheck was in the post office in Dallas and we couldn't get it out to deposit it. Not only were all those rubbery checks a stab to my credit rating but also my pride.
My billfold and Barbara's purse were relieved from our presence (stolen or lost) in the big west Texas city of—get this—Rising Star. Not only did we lose all of our credit cards, but our identification as well. After a couple of hours of frustrated searching and finding nothing, I was finally able to thank God that He was in control of our traveling disaster team.
Still gluttons for punishment we pressed on to Colorado where we decided to camp out with our two little ones (this was primarily because we didn't have enough capital on our person to finance a motel room). That night a deluge of rain camped with us. Our tent was transformed from a shelter into a funnel. We were kept dry by massive applications of Ashley's Pampers, placed at strategic locations to soak up the minor floods, which occurred repeatedly in our tent.
By the time we finally arrived for Family Ministry training, we were wondering if we were the ones the Lord wanted to start this ministry to the home. It seemed as though our home had quite a few bruises, scrapes, and lacerations. Let me confide in you that we had lost our perspective of thanking God "in all things."
Then a couple of days later a flash flood hit Estes Park—the worst in Colorado history—taking the lives of seven fellow Campus Crusade for Christ staff members. Vonette Bright (the wife of the Founder of CCC) and 21 other wives of those in leadership barely escaped a twenty-foot wall of water by going up the side of the canyon in total darkness.
You know something? That disastrous incident really changed our perspective. We didn't really have any problems. God showed us that we had our lives and the privilege of serving the King of kings and the Lord of lords. God used that tragedy to teach us many valuable lessons.
Pressured? Overwhelmed? Why not consider giving thanks for that which is so weighty? Feeling hemmed-in by life's daily drudgeries? Why not express faith and thankfulness that God knows what He's doing? Are you angry, resentful, and embittered about that over which you have no control? Why not give up these futile feelings and give thanks to the One who is in control? Had a bad day? Week? Month? Lift your eyes and heart by stopping right now and expressing thanks to the One who will not disappoint.
Do you have some grit and gravel in your shoe that feel like a herd of boulders? Before you try to empty them out, why don't you stop right now and give thanks for that rock pile and ask Him to teach you what you need to learn.
Sometimes we never outgrow our need to relearn the most fundamental lessons: "In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
Copyright © 2006 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.