Troubles are something many of us go to great lengths to avoid. Our culture feeds us continuous messages telling us the value of self-reliance, the importance of playing to our strengths and the assurance that we deserve the best of everything. Patience used to be considered a virtue, but our culture seems to be doing everything in its power to make it so we never have to wait for anything, ever. Unfortunately, it seems that much of what we are learning from the world around us is contrary to God’s economy. We are actually being trained to circumvent our troubles and to coddle our weaknesses instead of turning to God and His strength to sustain us through them.
Oftentimes it takes extreme situations for people to recognize that they aren’t self- sufficient and that they do need God’s grace. It might be facing a life-threatening illness or financial trouble; a high needs child or a hidden addiction. It might be suffering from abuse or deep-seated loneliness. People facing dire circumstances with no earthly solutions often find God’s grace to be the only true comfort.
However, what about those of us cruising through a season of life with relative ease? Is God’s grace still relevant in those times? What prompts us to cry out to Him when we aren’t facing a trauma? How can we be reminded daily of our need for Him?
Recently I learned a term from a friend’s teenage daughter that really strikes a cord with me. It’s called having a “First World Problem.” The example she gave was this: “There was this pair of Nike running shoes I really wanted in this amazing color called Tiffany Blue. I went to every store in the area and they were out of my size. I’m kinda bummed because I could only find them in Neon Pink… I know, total First World Problem, but still…” You might not be pining for a pair of Nike running shoes, but can you relate? Here in the First World, we worry about the color of our shoes, not whether we have shoes or not.
It could be easy to feel guilty comparing our First World Problems to the rest of the earth, but that isn’t my point. God can use even seemingly shallow “troubles” in our daily lives to convict our hearts and point us back toward Him. This is His grace. He is always ready and waiting to use our trials, both large and small, to turn our eyes off of ourselves and onto Him.
For me, the truth of this became abundantly clear last year when my house was being remodeled and absolutely nothing went according to plan. This was a definite First World Problem, but as I prayed through each frustration, I found God using the whole situation to refine me and to reveal His grace in deeper ways. While I lamented living without a kitchen for 6 months, I also thanked God that I had a roof over my head, food to eat and the promise of a new kitchen that would be finished eventually. With each frustration and roadblock, my husband and I would stop and pray: “God, what do you want us to learn from this? What are you trying to show us that we’re not seeing?” He revealed many attitudes and behaviors that needed changing. He also showed us the many, many blessings He showers on us every day.
I can also attest to seeing God’s grace in grave difficulties as I’ve sent family members home to heaven and have walked with others through serious illnesses. He has been there for me in times of deep loneliness, extreme stress and dark depression. What I’m learning is that He’s also ready to invade my life with His grace in my weaker moments each day. When I want to make a snap judgment about a person or situation, His Spirit whispers in my ear. I have the choice to exercise self-control and extend grace or to keep plowing ahead with my own critical spirit. When things I want to control don’t turn out the way I plan, I can put up a fit and be grumpy, or lean into God’s grace and trust that His plan is ultimately better. First Peter 4:10 is a good reminder for me: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (My italics.)
How about you? How is God at work in your First World Problems? Where is He inviting you to rely on His grace in every day situations? If you’re anything like me, this whole topic might sting a bit as God convicts you. Try leaning into His grace and surrendering your weaknesses to Him. Share what you’re learning by writing a comment so that others can be encouraged and inspired!