Ever have a week where nothing seems to go your way?
That was me this past week. Work has been a fire hose of tasks, plus we have a new intern whose help I’m grateful for, but who also requires precious time to train on everything from how to use our phones to how to set up a search engine marketing campaign. Family issues regarding my mother-in-law are still not resolved, and there appears to be no progress toward a resolution, even as we pass the 18-month mark. Little things set me off: on Tuesday, while driving from work to dinner where I meet my husband and mother-in-law every Tuesday night, I drive up to an accident on a two-lane road probably 30 seconds after it happens. My westbound lane is blocked by the accident but the eastbound lane isn’t; however, no one pointing west can drive around the accident because no cars going east will stop and give us the courtesy of a pass. When paramedics and police arrive 20 minutes later to clear the accident (no one was seriously injured), I see a way to drive around the perimeter of the accident area, turn into a neighborhood, and be on my way. but when I roll forward, a first responder yells at me, “This area is now blocked off! I don’t care where you live! Get out!”
Frustrated by my wait and his rudeness, I turn around and take another route to the restaurant. But when I arrive, and my husband makes a joke about how long they’ve waited for me, and he and his mother laugh at what appears to be my expense (but which my husband later insists was directed At a joke he was telling right as I walked in), I lose my cool, blow up at him, and storm out… With a curt apology to my mother-in-law… Who we only see once per week… And who has done nothing to deserve the contagious ugliness from my day.
How does daily life spin out of control? Is it ever in our control to begin with?
I’ve been reviewing Philippians in light of last week, and I’m reminded of God’s sovereignty in everything that happens. Paul writes in 4:4-7 that we should always rejoice in The Lord because He is near, and He guards our hearts and minds:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (Phil. 4:4-5)
He has the power to keep negativity, rudeness, anger, frustration, desperation, exhaustion and sadness – everything I was experiencing last week – at bay, and he mercifully does so if we keep our eyes on Him and our thoughts attuned to Him. Later, in verses 11 through 18, Paul thanks the church at Philippi for sending gifts. On the surface, Paul is thanking them for food and other aid materials – prisoners were on their won for food, water, medicinal items, and other supplies back then – but I think Paul is just as much speaking about the gift of knowing, and accepting, that God’s in control, AND will take care of us. Coming fro someone who is in prison, and who knows he will likely perish in prison, that’s a strong show oF faith.
Bad things happen. I have a terrible week at work. We discover that mother-in-law’s care is not as honest as we think it is. I get angry that the hubs is not taking enough action to stop it. We create more fights. “Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ,” Paul writes. “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.” (Phil. 3:18-19) Even for proud, loud, Bible-reading, worship-singing, joy-like-a-fountain Christians, it’s tough to not be an enemy of the cross some days. We like seeing others get their due. We have these earthly bodies that crave nourishment a few times per day, and we become hangry if we don’t satisfy that craving. We feel satisfied when we fight back in the same ugly way others treat us, the way you might find yourself giving a one-fingered salute to that driver who cut you off.
Whatever happens, conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then… I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.
Even with our slip-ups, it’s going to be okay. Believers like us clash with this world because our citizenship isn’t here, it’s in heaven.
The way to be content through all this – and there IS a way, as crazy as that sounds — is to continually give it up to God. Paul says we can do all things through him who gives us strength, through continuous prayer and petition.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7)
God knows what kind of week I’m going to have. I might not like it. Others might step in to make the week more difficult. But God’s above it all, and He only asks that we give everything to Him to handle. He can handle it when we can’t. It’s going to be okay.