I rarely get to do work projects, so I was excited to go with Chuck and patch over a busted out window for a family. The window was broken in an attempted break in. Now, in freezing winter weather, the house was cold and the family asked us for help. This winter has had the most snow in 20 years, and almost none of it melted.
And so the adventure began.
When I go outside to gather tools, I mostly just step into giants piles of snow and feel snow slip into my shoes. All the locks for the toolsheds are frozen. Piles of snow block the door and all the lumber is buried, making it nearly impossible to get. So I have to do what I’ve been doing all winter, shovel more snow.
After a bit, I give up on the lumber and decide to get the work truck warmed up and over to the tool shed. However, the truck is dead and opening the hood requires moving more snow and ice and tiny fingers to reach the latch. I don’t have tiny fingers. My fingers can just fit in the gap, and barely touch the hood latch, but it won’t open. I try various implements from my car before it finally gives in and the hood is open. Jumper cables attached, I turn the key and…nothing. The car won’t crank at all and indicates the battery is fully charged. So something else must be wrong – the ignition switch, electrical something. I have no idea. I abandon that truck and try another one, except it’s blocked in by a 3 foot snow mountain. I try backing the truck out, but I can’t get the right angle to drive around the snow mountain. In frustration, I turn to Plan B: Drive through the snow mountain. I rev the truck and drive through the snow mountain, but the truck promptly makes a horrible sound, spews black smoke, and dies. Now I’m full of anger, frustration, and fear that I’ve blown the engine. Thankfully it restarts, and Chuck and I load up our tools and head out to go board up a window.
The roads are icy, forcing us to drive there slowly and get to work. We are all ready to start screwing in the board when we discover that all five batteries are dead – every one of them. So we have to leave the work project, drive slowly to the church building, get working batteries, and drive back slowly. This project is taking too long, stressing me out, and we’re cutting it close on time because Chuck has to pick up his kids from school. A short distance from the house, a giant farm machine armed with a massive pokey snow plow, heads straight at us. Logically, I scoot over a bit so it can pass by. Of course, once we try to get out, the truck slides off the shoulder and is now royally stuck. I get outside and try to push and rock it while Chuck drives, but to no avail. Then I lose it. I start cursing: the snow, the truck, the farm machine that made us run off the road, the Rez, and pretty much everything. As I’m doing that, from the distance comes the farm machine. It turns out he saw us slide off the road, turned around, and came back to help us. In no time, we are out of the ditch and the window is done with time to spare.
On the ride back, I asked Chuck, “Does it ever feel like all we do is spin our wheels? We’re trying hard, but nothing ever happens. You just keep turning and nothing improves, but only gets worse?” We talked for it a bit and that helped, but I had a Eureka moment the next morning when the Men’s Prayer Breakfast met and we read Psalm 53. Verses 1-3 lay out that everything stinks: no one does good, nobody seeks God, and everyone is fallen and corrupt. In verse 4 it turns: God will punish the wicked and scatter their bones, putting them to shame and terror. And then it ends with “Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.”
When I’m angry, frustrated, and sad, it’s easy for me to look around and think: “God doesn’t care. He doesn’t see. He’s probably making everything more difficult for me, and laughing at my failures.” It’s like Asaph in Psalm 73, it’s easy to slip into the belief that evil people will win and they are happy.
But the truth is: God has sent salvation, is sending salvation, and will send salvation so that we can rejoice and be glad. We do spin our wheels a lot. Life can be really hard and frustrating sometimes. But we are not alone – God is with us, working things for our good and His glory, and He’s put people alongside of us who can hear our gripes and hold us up when we feel like we can’t keep going.