Praising God in an Imperfect World

By Gwen Sellers

Life is hard. Change is stressful. Transition is rough. But even when we aren't in the midst of an obvious life-stressor, we still live in a fallen world. And we're still hit on a regular basis by its shrapnel. It seems that no matter the circumstances, we can pretty generally and regularly attest that this life we lead is not an easy one. So how do we respond? Do we look at the proverbial glass as half-full or as half-empty? Or, as my brother-in-law would contend, the glass is inappropriately sized. I take the inappropriately-sized and half-full approach. Let me explain.

Our world is fallen and cursed. Sin runs rampant and infects everything. Even apart from the ill effects of obvious sinfulness, things just don't work the way they should. Appliances break, clothes wear out, droughts ruin crops, our bodies get sick, etc., etc. This is so pervasive in our lives that we even joke about it. It's Murphy's Law, right? Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. You'll plan each detail but at least one is bound to fall through. People will disappoint you. You will disappoint yourself. Dreams will be crushed. Life won't turn out how you expected it. It's just stark reality.

This, to me, is where the inappropriately-sized glass perspective makes sense. Our world isn't what it should be (Romans 8:18-25). We are made for more than this and those of us who have put our faith in Christ have the hope of eternity spent with Him. God will one day destroy this earth and provide a new heavens and new earth (2 Peter 3:11-13; Revelation 21-22). All will be redeemed. All will be made right. It is appropriate that we groan over the imperfections of our world. They simply aren't what best suits us and we know that something better is coming.

And, yet, we also still live in this world. God's grace is reality. And it is a reality that changes things. In the midst of our cursed and fallen world, Satan attempts to deceive and distort. He'll try to make us believe that things are worse than they really are, that God really doesn't love us, that there is nothing for which to be grateful. But this is so untrue. It's a blatant lie, as old as the Fall (Genesis 3:5). Satan will try to get us to question God's goodness. And circumstances can often seem to give truth to his lies. But we must not fall for that trick. Instead, this is where we can look at the glass as half-full. It's when we see God's gift and blessing in the midst of hardship that we best endure (Romans 5:3-5). Yes, the glass-to-real-world fit isn't quite right, but the glass is half-full. God will one day fully redeem, but even now He grants us His grace. We experience moments of His perfection, have foretastes of His abundance, and see glimpses of His beauty. And that is worth meditating on and praising God for.

Here's a recent example of this paradigm at work in my life. In my last blog I wrote about waiting on God, specifically regarding finding a house. The wait is over. I've recently moved into a new-to-me townhome. To be honest, the move was more difficult and stressful than I'd imagined. God had been so evident and faithful in the waiting. He challenged me and grew me and gave so many signs along the way that this process was His. Even finding the house was obviously a God-thing. Each little detail to get me to look at the place happened just as it needed to. The hard part of waiting was over, so it should all be downhill from here, right? Also, I consider myself to be a responsible person and did my portion of getting moving details in place. So I guess I expected the move to be completely seamless and perfect. But, perhaps as with my initial house-buying idea, God's timing and way is not mine (Isaiah 55:8-9).

I live alone and don't care for clutter so I expected moving my things would be a relatively quick process. Let me tell you, you don't know how much stuff you have until you move. I'd intended to move by myself with some help from friends for furniture. I made sure to take plenty of time off work and prepared for multiple days of being singularly focused on the move. But I also thought that I was being over-prepared and anxious and wouldn't really need it all. And here's the God-piece. It did happen quickly, but it required more help than I anticipated. God had already prepared that in advance. My parents helped with boxes, waited on new furniture to be delivered, and manned the fort when my friends were moving my furniture. My mom has answered countless phone calls from me and patiently listened and offered assistance. My friends not only moved my furniture but started cleaning my apartment. Another friend fixed up a few things in the house and put in new locks. It took a village I hadn't anticipated, but God had that village prepared in advance. He has provided me with very generous (and capable) friends. How amazing that I get to see just how thankful I am for them and just what kind of friends I have. I know that I'm not in this life alone. There are people who care about me, who offer to help, and who really mean it when they do.

There were also some cool God moments in other things. The final closing cost that I was given Monday afternoon was not the final closing cost that the title company presented on Wednesday afternoon. But they said no big deal and figured out the extra dollar some other way. A friend whose husband is a realtor told me that he's seen people re-do all the paperwork due to a difference in a penny. But it didn't hinder my transaction at all. Wow, God, thank you! Pizza was sent to me as a gift (how nice), but the tip wasn't included as I'd expected. The title company reimbursed me for recording fees in the exact amount I tipped. That's pretty neat. The previous owners left behind curtains that are a color I like and look great in my bedroom. Very nice to have a home-ier feel even before I decorate.

But, as you can imagine, there were also some details that didn't work out. The previous owners did not clean the house thoroughly. But, I know how to clean. The master bathroom does not have the drawer space I'm used to, but there is a whole other bathroom that I didn't have before. The washer and dryer were not included, as I'd thought they might be. But, they were old so having a newer set is great, and it turned out other things I'd budgeted for weren't expenses. The brand new dryer didn't come with all its pieces, but after a few phone calls and a helpful customer service agent, another brand new dryer is on the way. These are all pretty regular adjustment-type things. Not a shocker and they don't really mess with the sense of the goodness of God's provision. But when you're exhausted from moving and change, these things have a way of nagging.

The real kicker for me has been the internet/cable situation. I called two weeks prior to moving to schedule the change of service and was told they would verify everything and it should be an easy switch. Multiple phone calls and appointments later, I'm told I will have service two weeks after I planned. But God is using this. For one thing, it shows me just how addicted to internet and television I am. Rather than zone out at night to TV or feel in control and on top of things because I'm online, I'm being challenged to live a new way. Television can't be my escape from stress. I've been reminded that God is present and it is He who is my true Home and gives me peace; I need to look to Him, not the TV, for my comfort. In many ways, not having ready internet access was probably a forced rest from my A-type / get-it-all-done-right-now / look-high-achieving-and-perfect-to-the-world tendencies, and a reminder that God — not Gwen — is in control, during the hectic time of the move. Denied the ability to finish certain details, I had to take a needed break, and I also had to trust that it would be okay. God both rested me and challenged me in this. I've also been given the opportunity to demonstrate patience and kindness with customer service representatives, or at least to try. I am being firm with the company and advocating for myself, yet also doing my best to not ream out each representative with whom I speak.

And, again, God provides. My parents live close by and I've been able to use their internet. They've also loaned me a DVD player for nighttime entertainment. Interestingly enough, it seems my recorded shows are still recording, so I won't even miss out on things I'd wanted to see. When I'm not in the midst of moving, I'm at work where there is internet. And it turns out that work has a portable hotspot that I can bring home to use for things like email in the interim. What a great gift. As an added bonus, my internet/cable bill will be less as well. This one issue has threatened to negatively color my entire moving experience, but that is not God's purpose in this. Rather than focus on the inconvenience and annoyance, I want to look at the provisions and opportunities.

There is so much about the move for which to be grateful. It's time to embrace the joy and launch into this new phase. I have an open house celebration to plan for. People left and right are congratulating me and celebrating with me. Even the baker at the grocery store had a beaming smile and gave me a discount on the cake as a way to say congratulations and best wishes. People are readily sharing in this venture. And their excitement helps remind me to be grateful and to give the glory to God.

One guest I'm particularly excited to have at the open house is a new neighbor. As God would have it, this particular neighbor is one I thought was displeased with me when I was at the house for the inspection. But when I saw her on closing day, she seemed pleasant and gave some helpful information. And, when I actually met her a few days later, she was completely pleasant. She even told me she'd been praying for the new neighbors and invited me to join her for dinner. She also invited herself to join a summer Bible study I plan to host, and she had other good information as well as hopes for a neighborly friendship.

So, even though the move was not what I expected and I'm learning the ins-and-outs of my new home, God is faithful. He sees me. He loves me. He provides at each step. Challenges He uses to transform me and strengthen me, as well as to show me how I'm not alone.

Rather than bemoan the things that aren't working or the things I dislike, I want to give praise for the multitude of things that are working and that I love. I want to fully embrace this new phase that God has me in. It's so easy to want life to be easy or at least to be the same, but easy doesn't bring growth. And what I most want in life is to know God more and to be made more fully like Jesus. If an internet/cable connection and grimy outlets is what it takes, then okay. May I submit, learn, and look to God for where and how He is filling my glass. Yes, the size isn't quite right, but the filling is good and this time on earth is a shaping process. With that perspective in mind, my stress decreases and the hard, frustrating things of life are easier to handle. God really is in control. And He really is a loving and faithful father.

Though perhaps a bit overused, Paul's words in Philippians 4, written while imprisoned, seem a fitting reminder to me in this, and really every, situation: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:4-7). There is always something over which to rejoice. I want to train my eyes toward God, looking expectantly for His activity in my life. He is there, and when I look to Him, I see cause to give praise even if our current world is far from perfect.

Published 5-17-17