This morning you are down in the proverbial dumps. The cat just threw up on the carpet; the automatic garage door is stuck half way up, making you miss a very important meeting in fifteen minutes. And to top matters off, some kid just hit a baseball through your front window, shattering the huge plate glass. What do you do when everything seems to be going wrong today?
by Jerry Gentry
"In your patience possess ye your souls" (Luke 21:19).
No doubt about it, things happen. And sometimes things happen that are a drag. Sometimes it just doesn't make sense, doesn't seem fair. You are not a cry baby. You have seen lots of things go wrong in your lifetime. But why do bad things have to happen all at once? You know the sun does not rise and set only for you. But why can't you get a break today, right now? Why do all these grievous little annoyances have to hit all at once at the worst possible time?
If life were like this every day, you think, unpleasant as it would be, you could could get used to it. But things have been going smoothly for many weeks now&emdash;with no major mishaps. You remembered to change the oil in the car, pick up the extra set of keys for your wife, even knock out a long punch list of little repairs around the house. You got a small raise at work. Actually you are quite pleased with the overall progress. But this morning, this disappointing morning, you are sick to your stomach, discouraged.
You clean up what the cat did on the carpet and just about gag. Then you try all the tricks you can find in your toolbox to get the garage door unstuck, but it won't budge. It is right there, too low to back the car under, too high to forget about. Then you think, if only I could get my hands on that kid who hit that baseball through our front window!
You go inside, try to force a smile, then call the office and tell them you are stranded and will not be in until later. By this time your wife is home, parked in the drive, walking in the front door and asking why the garage door is only part way up and what is all this shattered glass on the floor? She had taken the children to school in her car. As she had driven away, the garage door was closing properly, she thought. She quickly realizes you are having a "bad day."
You explain to her the best you can. Then you take a walk out the back door and into your large, grassy back yard studded with many large trees.
You think as you walk. You know that it is only natural for things to go wrong. You have long since learned that it is an adult's responsibility to fix things that break, clean things that get dirty, even urge things to happen when they seem stymied. But why do you feel so cheerless, so downcast, that you'd rather go back and start this day over, maybe even get up on the other side of the bed or something.
You wonder, "What is the best way to respond when things just go wrong?"
As a Christian, you know that persecution is to be expected. But this is not persecution; this is happenstance. These annoying things just dropped out of the blue, just happened, quite by accident, you think. Nobody intended to do you harm, yet you feel quite irritated, quite intruded upon, quite melancholy, heavy-hearted and spiritless.
You walk over to your favorite place, far in the back, under the shade of a giant oak. You reach down, pull off a stem of grass, and placing the stem between your teeth you sit down and meditate. "Am I just in too big of a hurry? Why am I so irritated? Why am I so focused on these things that went wrong instead of being thankful for all that is still intact?"
You think of Jesus, how he was irritated, bruised, inconvenienced and rejected, "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isa. 53:3). What you are experiencing is nothing by comparison. He laid it all down, and all you had to do this morning was clean up a small mess that took a few minutes, try to fix a garage door that would not budge and look at a pile of shattered glass. He took the wrongs of others carried to the extreme, not just accidental mishaps, with patience. He never lashed out, never answered back nor cursed. Yet his pain was beyond anything you can imagine. How did he do it? How did he not call for those twelve legions of angels to deliver Him from the cruel hands of His enemies? Part of the answer immediately pops into your mind.
You remember the scripture about Jesus "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebr. 12:2).
"For the joy." You know that Jesus kept joy in his heart. But what joy, you wonder? Certainly all that excruciating pain had no joy. The joy he kept high on his mind during those excruciating, humanly impossible hours was the selfless redemption of mankind, that is, your and my personal salvation. Had he not kept the joy of sharing eternity with all of us, a bunch of ne'er-do-wells, he would certainly have called down heaven to the rescue.
While he looked up and kept the joy of our salvation high on His mind (he had no sin so he needed no salvation for himself), he lived out perfectly what the apostle Paul later confessed: "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection" (1Cor. 9:27), thereby "despising the shame." You see, when you despise something, you put it low in your mind. Thus, Jesus kept his own bodily suffering in Godly perspective, low in His mind, thereby winning salvation for you and me. What love! What selfless personal sacrifice! What a victorious mindset!
You continue to meditate, keeping these thoughts high on your mind, while you rise and walk back to the house. Your wife meets you at the door with a cold glass of iced tea. "Thank you, darling," you smile. She smiles back and tells you the garage door is all the way up now. How? She found the "manual" lever, which you had previously overlooked! And she has cleaned up all that glass, even called the insurance agent, who has authorized the repair to be done this very afternoon. The garage door is still under warranty, she says, and will be fixed today also. "Don't worry, honey, everything will be just fine!" she assures you. You thank her, give her a kiss, thinking "what a wife!" and leave for the office. You are in brighter spirits now. But you know there is something deeper you must learn, something more you must keep foremost in your thoughts today.
You drive carefully, a little more slowly than usual today, the half hour distance to work. During this time you keep thinking about that verse about Jesus, "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
You remember a warning from the apostle Paul: "because of unbelief they [ancient Israel] were broken off. . . Be not highminded, but fear" (Rom. 11:20). Another verse pops into your head: "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1Cor. 10:12).
You now know that you have been just a little too reassured of late, a bit cocky, somewhat over confident. You thank God for these small irritations that have brought you back to ground zero, your focal point with God, your position of humility. How thankful you are now for the little irritations of this morning, that they are now past and that it was not something far more life threatening. You know to "Mind not high things. . . Be not wise in your own conceits" (Rom. 12:16). "Thank you God," you exclaim out loud, as you approach your office parking lot. "Bless you, God!"
How rich you admit you are, as you remember the admonition, "Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy" (1Tim. 6:17). You feel a little humbled that you wife released the frozen garage door, arranged for it's repair and took care of the broken window, all in stride. You thank God for such a thoughtful, helpful wife, who is also "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebr. 12:2).
You park, get out, and lock the car door behind you. Then you quietly begin to sing an old hymn as you walk: "My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus' blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus' name. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand&emdash;All other ground is sinking sand: All other ground is sinking sand." Bounding up the flight of stairs to your office, you keep these lofty thoughts and words foremost in your heart, as you greet your co-workers now, better late than never!
Today, and every day, you will keep all of life's mishaps and irritations down low. You will keep Jesus and the joy of your salvation high on your mind!