Today didn’t go as planned. Not even close.
Our dog Puzzle didn’t eat a bite on Sunday. I woke up today (Monday) to find two large pools of diarrhea in the family room and a cowering dog in the kitchen. I called the vet. They had an opening in one hour. For the next forty-five minutes I scrubbed and scoured the cesspools in our carpet.
When I coaxed Puzzle to the car, I discovered a flat tire. I pumped it up and sped to the vet. I had missed the “window” and sat for an hour amidst yapping dogs and a shivering Puzzle. (He’s fine; he just ate something bad.)
I dropped Puzzle off at home, and I limped to the tire store. They said it would take twenty minutes. An hour and twenty minutes later they said a nail and punctured the sidewall and I needed a new tire. But it wasn’t in stock. I’d have to come back.
I rushed to Panera’s for a lunch appointment, but my friend didn’t show up. He texted, saying that he had a toothache and was dashing to the dentist for an emergency visit.
I hurried home only to discover that my website was down. Apparently there had been a “massive DDoS attack on GoDaddy.com” (whatever that means) which affected thousands of sites. Including mine.
While talking with technical support, my wife came home with a kidney stone episode, so I ended the call and ran out to buy her some painkillers.
By mid afternoon my friend had a pain in the mouth, my wife had a pain in the side, and my day had been a pain in the ____ (fill in the blank).
And isn’t that typical?
Events often ignore our plans. A child is sick; the dishwasher overflows; a client is upset; the cat runs away; we trip over a toy; we are rear-ended at a stoplight.
I took some time to pray (and to still my frustrated heart). What was going on? I see bumper stickers that read, “Diarrhea Happens” (or words to that affect). Is that all this was? Just the normal result of living in a broken world?
Then a friend emailed me this poem by John Newton (author of Amazing Grace). It ends with these words,
These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set you free;
And break your schemes of earthly joy,
That you may find your all in Me. (“These Inward Trials”)
God “employs” these trials for a purpose. To purify our hearts. God didn’t create the brokenness of the world, but he arranges it to create in us something glorious. He takes the raw material of everyday events, to mold us into, “gods and goddesses … which, if you saw today, you would be strongly tempted to worship” (C. S. Lewis).
Because we are in a battle
We battle for family, friends and ourselves. But most of our battles seem dinky. We miss the warfare because of the very smallness of our daily battles. They aren’t mere irritations; they are firefights. They aren’t simple hassles; they are combat.
Our daily struggle doesn’t seem epic. They’re hardly Jonah’s whale or David’s Goliath.
In daily life, it’s not massive whales that take us out; it’s the day-to-day guppies of long lines. It’s not hulking giants that we fight; it’s dogs with diarrhea.
In the past, I’ve thought of our daily skirmishes as training for epic battles. While partly true, it’s misleading. Daily irritations are epic battles—epic battles for our hearts.
Yes, the world is broken; a friend talks about us behind our back. Unfortunately, we too contribute to the brokenness. God designed us to be, “completely humble, gentle, patient, and bearing with one another in love” (Eph. 4:1–2).
Instead, we’re impatient, irritable, harsh, resigned, self-centered, and fearful.
In this epic battle, God is reclaiming our hearts. He is “employing” the brokenness of the world to create new, living, vibrant men and women. The battle is not simply to survive daily trials; the battle is to create men and women who triumph through them.
But what about dreadful trials?
It’s not always sick dogs. What about hearing you have cancer? What about losing our children to car accidents or drug overdoses? What do we do with real horrors?
I wish I had words of wisdom or comfort. I don’t. But I know this. God didn’t sit idly on the sidelines; occasionally glancing at the horrors of the broken world, occasionally texting advice through a prophet. He joined our battle. “Emmanuel” means God with us.
When Jesus became man, he fully entered into our brokenness. He experienced hunger, thirst, messed up schedules, broken people, and disappointments. We’ve had no earthy irritation that he didn’t experience. He entered into our daily battle with brokenness.
And then he faced one more battle. He faced the ultimate battle that we could never bear. When he battled the Goliath of eternal death, he didn’t pull out his slingshot; he bowed his head and took the blow. When he faced the whale of the depths of Sheol, he allowed himself to be swallowed whole, and to feel the fire of hell. In our place.
I don’t have an answer for the evil horrors we sometimes face. But I know this. It can’t be that he’s abandoned us. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us. It can’t be that he fails to hear our cries.
His cry of dereliction from the cross means this: it’s a cry of a Love that faced our ultimate horror; it’s a cry of a Love that says he will never abandon us; it’s a cry of a Love that fought our ultimate battle.
It’s God’s cry of love for us, “that we may find our all in Him.”