We often to look to God for comfort during great adversity: when we lose a loved one, when we are crippled with anxiety or worry, or when we find ourselves in the trenches of work, struggling to get through the demands of one more relentless day. Interestingly, though we resolve to seek shelter during these hurricanes, we are nevertheless not so bothered to do so during a regular precipitation, and yet, these small adversities collectively affect us all the same.
When we spill our coffee on a half-hour’s work, when we sprint over the hill only to find the bus departing from our bus-stop, when we back-hand a glass off the tabletop, trip on a step, stain our good shirt, get stuck in traffic, or have to deal with a very slow person, we can become frustrated far beyond the appropriate extent for the circumstance. And yet, during these hiccups, we often do not seek comfort in God; of course, if we did, we would be constantly doing so!
Rather, these small hiccups require a different kind of a remedy: not a cry for help, but the correct perspective of our fallen world. Stoic philosopher Seneca was one of the first to outline the root cause of frustrations like these: misplaced hope colliding with unforeseen reality. To illustrate, we are not frustrated when we must stop for 30 seconds at a red light, because we have come to expect red lights. However, when we must come to a stop for 30 seconds due to a car in front spontaneously stopping, we are furious, because this thirty-second delay is unexpected and ‘unnecessary’.
Here is the correct perspective: in a sinless world, spontaneous hiccups are to be expected, and are strictly necessary. While we are not in heaven, we should absolutely expect some people to act in ways which produce unnecessary hassle. We should absolutely expect to, in the next few months, spill a coffee, miss a bus, smash a glass, trip over, ruin our clothes and get stuck in traffic. Some ignorant Christian messengers are excellent at recklessly building hope in people wherever they can, only to watch them cling by a hair to their faith when everything falls apart. The wise Christian knows where to place their hope, and where not to.
Often, in a sinless world, the bad guys will win, good deeds will go unappreciated, misfortune will strike at the worst of times, and coffee will be spilled. In my view, it is not enough to maintain relentless optimism for the afterlife, but to balance this with an appropriate pessimism for our fallen world. Only when we achieve this dual perspective do we stand any chance at achieving inner peace, and can truly appreciate all of the miraculous good that can exist in this fundamentally corrupt reality, by His grace.
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.
Spill your coffee and chuckle.