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How to Respond When Life Isn’t as It ‘Should’ Be

Coping with setbacks

Coping with life's challenges
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Our rental building decided it was time—after six months of complaints from residents about having only one working washing machine—to install a new laundry room. The only problem was that the person making arrangements neglected to get the proper building permits. So the old machine was removed… And then there was nothing.

Not only was there no washing machine, but there wasn’t even a notice to say what had happened. You’d think self-preservation would come into play (how many angry phone calls do you think were made?), but here we are, five days later, with nary a printed apology nor explanation.

My 15-year-old and I, at the end of a long day of work and school, are in the local laundromat. It is an interesting experience. I remember it well from the days before we lived in a building with laundry facilities. My son has never done this.

The laundromat is thankfully clean, with at least 35 washers and 20 huge driers. It is also expensive: $6.49 per large load, and a dollar for each ten minutes of drier time.

It is cold outside, and I am tired. My teen keeps trying to foist off bringing the dry clothes back on me so he can go home and relax. And yet…We can do this. It is unpleasant and wearying and costly, it feels unnecessarily difficult, and our hearts veer toward irritation instead of coping. And yet it is abundantly clear that enough people live with this burden every week for the laundromat to stay in business. For hundreds of people who live near us, this is normal.

It helps to think about what is normal for others when I have to deal with something that is not-normal for me. It was normal for the Israelites in the wilderness to have sand in their shoes, to eat manna three times a day, to deal with sweltering heat and lack of water for washing. If you offered me that kind of “opportunity” to follow God, I would probably be horrified. 

Still, those were the circumstances in which Israel was expected to draw closer to the Lord and to learn to follow His ways. 

It’s a sobering thought: when life hands us irritations and inconveniences, sorrows and difficulties, do we see them as paths that lead us to God? Or do we merely perceive them as disappointments that draw us away from the way we think life “should” be?

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