Groaning in Travail
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Romans 8:22
Someone close to me is continually frustrated in his efforts to complete projects. It seems that products designed to accomplish specific tasks are always insufficient for the job. They are made too cheaply, don’t come with the right parts, the instructions are incomplete or nonsensical, fail to last a reasonable length of time—you get the idea.
I have tried to figure out if these things are so bad, why aren’t their more dissatisfied people? Are their needs different than his, so it works for them, but not for his needs? No, because he doesn’t use them (usually) outside their advertised purpose.
Is it a matter of expectation? In other words, are folks just satisfied with mediocrity, and he still has ideals set to a higher standard of performance? Maybe.
Is he just unlucky in the items he chooses to buy, both mechanical and electronic? I doubt it. I don’t know many people who spend more time researching products ahead of time than him.
As I share similar struggles to him at times (I think most of us do.), I try to understand what seems to be the problem.
One thing is likely he expects things to last, and perhaps many people are more comfortable than him with the idea that most things are disposable today.
Another idea is that he has an engineer’s heart and wants/expects things to move/work smoothly to a high degree of perfection, while others just do the best they can and focus on things with a higher priority in their lives.
I’m not issuing value judgments here either way—just trying to look at potential contrasts to see which ones fit best.
We live in a fallen world. All of us are more affected by various aspects of that fallen state than others, but we each have some key vulnerability(ies). This may be his. But whatever it is for you, me, or him, it is our reminder that there is something better out there, a hope that is calling out to us from the futility of our struggles. Pain, frustration, despair are things that call us to higher possibilities reminding us that this isn’t our true home. C.S. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain that “Pain is God’s megaphone, to rouse a deaf world.”
But, as Christians, we would like to think we are roused, so He can put the megaphone away and quit yelling at us. It is like the sleepy high school student, yelling at mom to pipe down with an irritated, “I’m up! I’m up!”
But are we? Will we fall back asleep the moment it’s peaceful and quiet in our contented lives? Or, perhaps God isn’t yelling through a megaphone anymore, and now that we are awake, we see the mess of the world on our own, and we can’t seem to get away from it, because we are still in that world.
Does it really matter which way it is? It is our reality, regardless. So the question is how are we to respond?
Whether it is a continually buggy computer, or a vehicle that makes that horrible rattle that can’t be located, or a boss or colleague that makes work miserable, or a chronic malady hampering our health, we have to deal with it.
I’m not a self-help guru, so I don’t have “three easy steps” or “90 days to a new you.” All I know to do is to talk with the Lord about it, choose what attitude to have (and ask His help to maintain it!), and keep our attention focused on the important things in our lives, not the loudest.
A friend of mine puts it like this: “Imagine your right hand is Christ and your left is your problems. If you focus on your problems, it is like you hold your left hand in front of your eyes and your right hand at arm’s length, and your problems are big and overwhelming and Christ seems small. If however, you focus on Christ and eternal things, it is like you are holding your right hand in front of your eyes and your left at arm’s length, and now Jesus is revealed to be bigger than your problems, and they, in turn, are cut down to size.”
A little cheesy perhaps, especially to write out, but there is a lot of truth to that.
“For the joy set before Him, Christ endured the cross.” Ok. That is perspective. What problems are in our lives that compare to crucifixion? That is a BIG inconvenience to one’s life (yes, tongue in cheek). Yet, He saw a joy that made that horror endurable. If our microscopic problems are so powerful that our joy is stolen, how pitiful is that joy?
Perhaps we do still need God to use that megaphone after all.