This morning I opened the fridge to get the milk for my tea. No milk.
I find myself feeling Eeyore-like with a black cloud over my head and a target on my back. My already full plate doesn’t seem able to hold anything else and I’m speeding down the slippery slope of self-pity. At the same time, I’m exasperated with myself for my despondency.
I realize that none of my frustrations are tragedies. The windshield is fixable. I love my husband; we’ll work through our disagreement. The dentist will fill the cavity and the vet has medicine for the dog. Our refrigerator is still under warranty and milk is one grocery store trip away.
My understanding of the relative good news of my bad day pushes me even closer to the brink. Is my faith so weak, that I lack joy because I have no milk in my tea for one day? Is a crack in my windshield enough for me to doubt God’s goodness to me? Why do minor illnesses feel like burdens too heavy when others are diagnosed with life-threatening conditions? The mundane frustrations of my first world struggles provide further evidence of my failures. I am the toughest of clay in the Potter’s hand.
And so the spiral proceeds downwards.
Even in the midst of a good life, it’s a broken life. Schedules are delayed, feelings are hurt, and material goods are in the constant habit of breaking down. Sometimes it’s not the huge trials of life that sink us, but the constant pressure of many small burdens that cause us to stumble.
I want to walk through these mundane moments with grace but it’s a fight against the hardened attitudes in my heart. What can we do when we see ourselves succumbing to grumbling and complaining in the daily grind? There are four truths that I find helpful to consider while asking the Lord to rescue me from my descent.
If I want to fight against my grumbling and complaining, the first thing I have to do is call a spade a spade. I need to call my wrong attitudes by their appropriate name: sin. I don’t really want to do this at all. I want to sit and stew and pour myself a nice warm cup of self-pity. But, if the Israelites were kept out of the Promised Land for forty years because of a grumbling and complaining spirit, then I have a neon sign sized warning that a discontented heart does not please the Lord. It’s an act of treason, a claim that I could rule better if given the chance to be sovereign over my life. The first brake on the slope of discontent is to admit to myself the sinfulness of my own heart and attitudes.
Once I’ve admitted to myself that I have a sin problem, not just a circumstance problem, I confess. Sometimes I drag myself to the throne of grace, hemming and hawing, but I come. I pour it all out. I tell Jesus that I’m frustrated about my circumstances, and that I know my heart is the bigger problem. I tell Him I’m tired and weary of the world and how it never seems to go right. I tell Him I’m ashamed by my own lack of progress and faith in His providence in my life. I beg Him to change me and to make me more like Jesus (which I recognize will involve many more days like this one, heating up the fire so that He can pour off the dross). As I confess, His word reminds me that He knows, He understands, and He taught us, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)
As I confess, I’m also admitting my continual need of grace. I want to be better than a needy beggar always coming back for more. My discouragement over my lack of progress is mixed with my dismay that I still need grace. As I begin to accept that this process of confession and repentance is all part of a daily walk with God, my spirits begin to lift. Of course I still need Jesus! I know that, but now I’m forced to experience my deep thirst for the living waters only He can provide. It’s Him strengthening me that allows me to abound. Not me being strong enough to no longer need Him. I must accept that this will be a life long pursuit: His grace chasing me down, showing me my sin, and rescuing me time and time again.
As confession works on my soul, grace works its effect on my heart. Rather than complain about my day, I repent and receive it. I believe that joy is possible, not because circumstances are ideal, but because God is Lord over all of my circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16 – 18).
The bedrock of our rejoicing isn’t the goodness of our day, but the goodness of our God. He promises in all things (the good, the bad, and the ugly) to be working for our good. He promises to make me holy, and often His best tools are the very ones that chip away at my self-reliance. Oh, the humility that is wrought when I realize that I need Him for so much more than the tragedies of life! I need Him each and every moment; for every thought I think and for every step I take.
These meditations open my heart to receive and rejoice in my day, thanking Him in all things. The spiral downward ceases as he plucks me from the miry bog. My heart rejoices:
I waited patiently for the LORD;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD. – Psalms 40:1-3