God is more interested in your character than your comfort…

By Terry Pluto, Beacon Journal columnist

The other morning, I had to drive a friend to work. I also was supposed to take a prescription to be filled and film to be developed to the drugstore.

I forgot to take that stuff with me.

I came back, picked it up, ran the errands. Then I went to write a story, and I realized that I didn’t have my address book with me. I needed to call someone. I tried to reach someone else — I knew THAT number — but the person didn’t answer the phone.

As I write this, I know how stupid and trivial it sounds. But it really was annoying me. I could not believe how it bugged me, because what actually happened here?

Nothing of even the slightest consequence.

Sometimes, making a list of what is bothering us is pretty revealing and embarrassing. After a bad day, just try it. It can be pretty humbling.

There was a best-selling book called Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff, by Richard Carlson. He had some great ideas like don’t answer the phone when you are already late and leaving the house. I may add, don’t obsess over e-mails. They can wait. Some deserve to wait until eternity.

Carlson died of a heart attack at the age of 45.

In the movie Hud, Paul Newman says, “Nobody gets out of life alive.” Actually, it’s not all small stuff, just most of it.

But the small stuff seems to rule.

A few weeks ago, I was beating myself up over a list of people I needed to call. None were urgent, but the list was getting longer by the day — and because I saw it growing, it bothered me more. Rather than at least call someone, I called nobody.

It took a week for me to start calling just one person a day. I began to feel better and actually get something done. I’m not claiming any great wisdom. But I do know how it’s easy to be prisoner of a list of small stuff.

That’s when I thought of a message by John Jenkins, pastor of First Baptist Church of Glenarden, Md. He recently spoke at Akron’s House of the Lord, and I was given the CD.

He used this passage from Jeremiah 12:5: “If you have raced with the footmen and they have worn you out, how can you compete with the horses?”

His point is most of what drags us down is “the footmen,” the things and people that chew up our time and leave us wondering, “What did I ever do today? Nothing.”

Major problems may turn our lives upside down. It could be an illness, a divorce, a job crisis…

While those are harder to deal with, these life-changing giants remind us of that most of what we face each day are ants, which Jenkins called “the footmen.” It could be the petty politics of the office, the rude family member, the car that needs to be serviced and I don’t have the time for that right now.

Jenkins believes fighting through the footmen is a way God prepares us to handle the big horses that will eventually come.

I know a Catholic priest who grew up in India, and he still lives there and runs an orphanage. He comes to Akron every few years to raise money and is constantly amazed not only at our level of comfort — but how we expect life to go smoothly.

Rather than this being the Age of Enlightenment, for some of us, it’s the Age of Entitlement.

Rich Warren is the author of The Purpose Driven Life, which has sold a staggering 30 million copies. He’s also a pastor of Saddleback Church in California, and his wife has battled cancer the last few years.

In a widely distributed interview with Paul Bradshaw, Warren said he used to think life was peaks and valleys, highs and lows.

“Now, I see life as a series of problems,” he said. “You’re just coming out of one… or you’re in one… or you’re getting ready to go into one.

He said life is more like two rails on a railroad track, with something good and bad in your life all the time.

As Warren puts it, “God is more interested in your character than your comfort.”

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