I thought of this question again when I read how one father’s afternoon went recently. He was taking his young son to feed the ducks at a nearby lake. In typical toddler zeal, his boy raced out of the family’s 2006 Jeep Commander as soon as it came to “rest”. Unknown to the lad, he was dashing straight towards a 35′ cliff. In desperation, the father fled the vehicle, rescuing his boy just feet from the edge.
So far, this dad’s 2 for 2 in my book. Not only was he spending time with his son, but he also showed fatherly care by saving his boy from injury.
However, in all the excitement, he forgot to set the emergency brake on the Jeep. Duh! So while he’s saving his boy’s live, the car rolls away and plunges into the lake below! Wait, it gets worse. The officer on the scene ends up writing the dad $110 worth of traffic fines! He should have been hailed a hero; instead he gets two moving violations. Can you believe that?!
You can read more about the story here: Dad saves boy before car plunges down cliff — and gets pair of traffic tickets | Fox News.
I feel for this dad, particularly so at this moment of writing. I try so hard to always do the right thing. Yet it often seems the case that I have little to show for all my work.
I believe this story strikes a chord with many. While our setbacks may not always be as dramatic as this man’s, it does raise a relevant question, “How do we respond to setbacks — to those disappointments in life?”
Jesus words in John 16:33 come to mind, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I am also reminded of Peter’s encouragement in I Peter 3:13-14, “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.” He later writes, “…do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (4:12-13).
The lesson Peter learned from Jesus on that final morning was this: expect suffering. Certainly this was a principle familiar to Jesus. And it was one that Peter would come to know intimately, along with countless other saints.
On the surface, I can readily give cognitive assent to this truth. But when I find myself the loser of unfair play, the stooge of a practical joke, or the causality of the “system,” something inside my hollers for justice.
My kids will often complain, “It’s not fair!” To which I retort, “Get over it!” My terse advice, while true, is hard to personally apply. Small wonder, then, that my council is generally unhelpful to resolving their conflict! Something bigger, deeper must be going on.
Maybe the God I say I believe in is smaller than the God I actually believe in?
Maybe I expect fairness?
Maybe I still think I can control the outcome of my choices?
Somehow my reaction to setbacks reveals a great deal about the answers to the questions above. So how do I usually respond? Not too well, to be frank. (Ironically, this is the second full writing of this post – the first somehow got mysteriously deleted. Frustrating!) And so I’m humbly reminded that my own attitude, perspective, and expectations are in continual need of re-alignment. How easily I forget what I know to be true!
What about you? What setbacks have you encountered in life? How have they shaped and re-shaped your view of God?