I was having a bad day. I don’t have bad days very often, because the inner critic knows that “someone else always has it worse” and the inner God-lover knows He is “working all things together for good.” I have tiring, or busy, or frustrating days, but not bad days.
This was a bad day.
Questions of meaning and purpose hung over my dimly-lit office like the lingering smell from the previous tenants. They were in some kind of health insurance, but it smelled like an animal shelter.
I knew that it was illogical and ridiculous to think that I ought to be “doing more” with my life. Marriage, ministry, and an ever-flowing mountain of homework were surely enough. Yet the questions hung there.
I sought the Lord in prayer with my face on the floor, my nose catching a whiff of a very feline scent. My Bible was open and my heart was pouring out. Something more rational inside me knew that this would pass eventually. But the rest of me quivered with the question, “But when?”
We had plans to see a movie that night. It was hard to believe that Ant-Man could be a blockbuster film, but there it was. Paul Rudd seemed like a reasonable choice for a movie about a superhero who shrinks and telepathically controls insects.
Though I entered the theater in a fog, most of my anxiety had calmed down, partly from being around loved ones and partly from exhaustion. The lingering smell of popcorn from the previous occupant of my creaky seat had a numbing, nostalgic effect. The lights dimmed, the previews ran, and finally we got moving.
The movie was pretty fun. It’s important to be self-deprecating when your movie is about one of the guys from Anchorman fighting a tiny villain on a child’s train set. I was mellowing out.
As the final fight scene flashed back and forth between the protagonist’s view – an action-packed gladiatorial battle – and his daughter’s view – some sparks on a pint-sized play mat – I couldn’t help but see myself in the juxtaposition.
There I was, striving in what felt like a fight for my own heart and the hearts of my friends, and, truth be told, my efforts were a blip on the radar of reality. In a world full of trials, mine were almost unbearably small.
Most of us struggle at some point with feelings of insignificance. What completely drains us turns out to have barely made a dent in the depravity around us.
And yet, much like Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, in a pea-sized fight to protect his daughter and the world, our battles matter, at least partly because we are fighting them for the ones we love.
Paul (the Apostle) does not mince words with the Corinthians about how foolish it is for them to trust false teachers, these charlatans who only want to use them for their own gain. He employs as much sarcasm as he can throughout 2 Corinthians 11, “speaking as a fool” (21). Through many physical hardships, Paul reminds them, he has labored to share the gospel and build up the Church.
Then he writes this: “And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (28). He wants to “boast of the things that show [his] weakness” (30).
Now, there is a danger in most of my days of striving to look busy and chaotic for the Kingdom. This is not what Paul is talking about, and this was not what I felt as I left the theater that night.
I felt the deep weight of need in my own heart and in those I loved for the rescuing grace of Christ. I felt the beautiful privilege to care for my brothers and sisters in Christ. I felt a renewed confidence that God would again work wonders through “the day of small things” (Zechariah 4:10).
Now, in a new season of life and ministry, at the end of a tiring (but not-so-bad) day of anxieties and enjoyments, I’m remembering the past faithfulness of the Lord and straining forward to the glorious privilege of preaching God’s Word tomorrow morning.
To both Pauls I add a humble and hearty “Amen,” and with the Apostle, I say:
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:16,17).