“Oh no!” I muttered as the engine suddenly quit and our car coasted to a stop by the side of the road to the airport. Jo turned to me with that “Not again!” look on her face. I checked the gauges, ran the starter, but the engine was dead.
“You’re not even gone and already my problems are starting!” Jo said, “Last time I was already half way home from taking you to the airport when the radiator hose burst!”
“I’m sorry, honey, but I’ve got to go. I’ll flag down a taxi, and when I get to the airport I’ll call for a tow truck. I’m so sorry it’s beginning already. I’ll pray for you.”
Why is it that every time I leave, my wife has to cope by herself with things outside her area of competence like broken washing machines, dryers, and refrigerators? All of which were working fine while I was home. Why did the furnace fan start to squeal so horribly that cold winter night? “Is it something serious?” she worried. “Do I need to shut off the furnace?”
My daughters tell of similar coincidences. Not just with wrecked vehicles, conked out appliances and leaky roofs, but coping alone when kids get sick. It’s not easy for a young mother of two to decide alone at midnight if it’s okay to wait until the morning to see a doctor or to pack up the baby and take the feverish toddler to Emergency immediately. I’ve heard these types of stories many times, usually from wives, and sometimes from husbands left alone with their children.
Why is it that so many times when a spouse leaves on a business or ministry trip things start going wrong at home?
There is a sound theological reason for this phenomenon. We all know that God intends our life to be a growing experience. And just as an athlete develops her muscles by stressing them and working against resistance, so God develops our character and ability to cope by bringing adversity for us to deal with. If the athlete’s husband lifted the weights for her, she would grow no muscles.
A good spouse is a partner who takes full responsibility for certain areas of home life. Often the husband takes care of the mechanical stuff. When something breaks down, he prides himself in making sure it is fixed quickly and permanently. This eliminates several areas of stress the wife never has to deal with.
But when the husband is away, God suddenly has a wide-open opportunity to help the wife develop her ability to deal with adversity and learn to cope with situations she is not comfortable in. Similarly, when the wife is away, the husband suddenly has to be both father and mother to the kids. That’s when health problems and school situations he doesn’t know how to deal with pop up.
God has set the stage. Now it’s up to us. We can resent the intrusion. We can fret and worry. We can dash about wildly looking for someone to help. (I have done all these!) Or we can recognize God’s hand in the problem situation and immediately talk to Him.
I often pray first thing in the morning, “Lord, help me to remember that nothing is going to happen today that You and I together can’t handle.” This little prayer is on a plaque near my desk. It is based on James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (NIV) God knows how to deal with every problem we can possibly encounter. Ask him, and He will give us the wisdom we need to deal with it effectively.
God’s purpose for us is not to give us nice, comfortable lives. Instead, He intends for us to grow and mature in our relationship with Him. He wants to make us holy, to make us like Himself. And that will only happen as we learn to turn to God for help in every irritation, adversity and problem. Over and over again.