The other day, out of curiosity, I jokingly asked my teenage son what he thought the words on my tombstone would read. In typical 14-year-old boy fashion, he answered nonchalantly: “It would probably say: ‘She was always on time for everything.’”
He is not too far off the mark. I am the kind of person who shows up party venues before the host can get there or at the airport before the check-in counters open.
So when I am inevitably delayed by life’s regular blips—when I am stuck in one of Bangalore’s notorious traffic jams, when one of my kids forgets a textbook and needs to run back up to get it, or when the cab driver cancels on me—I find myself thrown off kilter, becoming anxious and growing increasingly frustrated.
We live in a decidedly imperfect world. Chaos inevitably worms its way into our daily lives. Some of us learn to live with it and manoeuvre around the glitches. Others may allow the everyday frustrations get to us and shake our equilibrium.
But what is God teaching us through those run-of-the-mill hiccups that we all encounter? While frustration is assuredly not the best response to life’s unescapable lemons, is there more we can do than “make lemonade?”
When things do not go our way, when we face one “system failure” after another, could it be that we actually have an opportunity to learn, to grow, to reflect, and to respond in a way that glorifies God in the mundane?
Daily Inconveniences are Opportunities for Sanctification
Perhaps when you were younger, your teachers or parents frowned at the “silly mistakes” you made in your exams. More often than not, we do not outgrow “silly mistakes.” They simply morph into adult avatars like overlooking an appointment, forgetting our reading glasses only to stare quizzically at restaurant menus, or dropping a tray of appetisers that we were about to serve guests.
Our default response is annoyance. But does our frustration over these minor malfunctions point to deep-seated pride? Does our irritation reveal a bent to perfectionism where we derive our self-worth from our productivity? Do the disruptions show us that we may have bought into the notion that we are in control?
What is God teaching us through those run-of-the-mill hiccups that we all encounter?
The next time we encounter life’s little setbacks, it may be an opportunity to ask if we are worshipping at altars of me-ism and productivity.
John Piper says this of God’s view of human efficiency: “God almost never takes the shortest route between point A and point B. The reason is that such efficiency—the efficiency of speed and directness—is not what he’s about. His purpose is to sanctify the traveller, not speed him between A and B. Frustrating human efficiency is one of God’s primary (I say primary, not secondary) means of sanctifying grace.”
Delays, detours, and disruptions to our routines compel us to question our self-sufficiency which often remains deceptively intact when life hums on without interruption. They give us an opportunity for self-examination where we can say, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24).
Daily Inconveniences Grow our Dependence on God
When routines function like clockwork, when the pace is fast and the to-do’s get checked off, there is a tendency to depend on the seemingly fail-proof system.
Several years ago, when my husband and I lived in the US, I would often marvel at how much I “accomplished” in one day. From the extra-large shopping carts to pre-washed vegetables to everything running on schedule, it was a well-oiled machine. I could easily move from one activity to another because friction was minimal. But when we moved back to India, thanks to daily hiccups like traffic jams, red tape, and almost no one keeping to time, the “airtight system” started to give way.
Delays, detours, and disruptions to our routines compel us to question our self-sufficiency
But it is when things do not work out the way they are “supposed to” that we learn to trust God. It is in the chaos that we put our full weight on the promise that he works all things out for our good and his glory (Rom. 8:28).
Practically speaking, inconveniences give us myriad opportunities to shoot up “arrow prayers.” Such short, earnest calls for help simply say, “Lord, I can’t, but you can,” or “God, I have no idea how this will turn out, but you do. So I trust you.”
Instead of going down the road of frustration, we have the opportunity to recast inconveniences as God’s training ground to dig deeper into his abundant reserves of grace.
Daily Inconveniences Give Us Occasion to Look Ahead
In revealing to us our own imperfection and the entrenched inadequacy of our world, minor setbacks remind us that this day-in-day-out is not all there is to life. They reveal once again that our citizenship is in heaven and not on earth.
God has set eternity in our hearts which means that our temporary home is not meant to satisfy us (Ecc. 3:11). Daily inconveniences grow in us a yearning for a perfect eternal home. Meanwhile, we can rest knowing that God still sees our going out and our coming in. He is familiar with all our ways—even when our paths are full of chaos.
Daily Inconveniences Help Us Connect with Others and Be a Blessing
No one’s life is hassle-free. In the midst of setbacks, we get to witness the fact that our lives are far from perfect. But even when we have to put out little fires, we are not easily shaken because we stand on the sure foundation that is Jesus. We say, “Me too,”—but we also get to testify that God gives us the grit and grace to get through this chaos.
Daily inconveniences grow in us a yearning for a perfect eternal home.
As we see others dealing with their chaotic moments, we have the privilege of being the hands and feet of Jesus to them. It is as simple as offering to babysit the neighbour’s children or dropping off a meal for a colleague who is unwell. While we can empathise with the chaos in others’ lives—because we are not exempt from it—we also get to humbly extend our help and demonstrate the love of Jesus in mundane, everyday moments.
When we come up against a series of mishaps, can we ask God to redeem them so they become opportunities for growth? May inconveniences increase our God-dependence, may they grow our understanding that even the most robust systems and processes will fail us and may they strengthen our desire to reach out with the love of Christ.