Honesty is incredibly important in every relationship. That’s why my wife and I occasionally ask one another to identify the little things we do that annoy one another. She leaves the kitchen cabinet doors open. I need to be reminded to take the trash to the street every Thursday. She runs to get an item she forgot while we are waiting in the checkout line at Kroger. When I go shopping, I forget multiple items. She occasionally gets the lyrics wrong when she sings. I interrupt the singing to correct her.
Those things are pretty trivial and even silly. Outside the home, the annoyances and inconveniences of everyday life can be real difficulties. We have all had that one co-worker, friend, neighbor, client, or even family member who pushed our buttons, even if they did not intend to. And even if everyone in your life was just perfect and a joy to be around, situations always have the potential to go the way we do not want them to.
Today’s worker expects the employer to create an environment that is minimal on inconveniences (at least to the best of his or her ability). Sometimes, we as Christians can have the same attitude towards God. If we are here doing the work of the kingdom, why does He allow these little inconveniences to pop up, as trivial as they may be? Why does He allow difficult people or annoying situations in our lives? Surely He knows we could get the work done if we were just left alone.
But we are forgetting that God’s hand is in every aspect of our lives, even the little things that annoy us. The Apostle Paul was no stranger to inconveniences:
“…a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
What Paul was experiencing was probably more than a minor annoyance, but the way he handled it still applies. There is nothing wrong with trying to improve a situation, especially by praying about it. But if God does not take away those little thorns, He must have a purpose for them: to conform us to the image of Christ.
So when your neighbor refuses to turn his music down, or your co-worker constantly forgets to cover her food in the office microwave… first, remember that you are not really suffering. But also remember that even those little silly things are opportunities to be like Christ. If you feel annoyance creeping up on you when those little things happen, take a breath, humble yourself, remember the very real suffering that is happening in the world, and let the grace of God be reflected in your attitude.