I did it again! I overloaded the shredder and jammed it. Tell me–why do I try to shred six pieces of paper at one time when the instructions clearly say five? Why won’t I take the time to divide the pages into two stacks and shred them separately? But here’s the clincher–why can’t I get it through my head that unjamming the shredder takes much more time than doing it right the first time?
On this particular day I fastidiously ripped out one page after the other as far down as I could, and then seesawed the machine between reverse and forward trying to dislodge the wad of paper that was stuck. Fifteen minutes later, frustrated and aggravated, I finally gave up knowing that I was the problem, not the shredder.
The owner’s manual had stated explicitly: Shred only five sheets at a time. Why? Because that’s all the machine was designed to do. No matter how impatient I was, the shredder could only handle five sheets–not six.
Do you ever feel like a wad of paper stuck in a shredder? Do you ever feel overwhelmed because life keeps piling on more and more responsibilities or too many complicated issues? Have you ever gotten to the point where life just seems too hard?
David knew that feeling well. After months or perhaps years of running for his life from Saul, an insanely jealous king, David felt stuck in a set of circumstances that he didn’t know what to do with. The weight of having to constantly look over his shoulder became too much.
In Psalm 55, David poured his heart out to God. “Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught…My heart is in anguish within me… Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest–I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm'” (vv. 1-2,4-8).
Because David was feeling so distraught, running away seemed like a viable solution to him, and that’s exactly what he did. Convinced that Saul would stop at nothing to kill him, David fled to Philistine territory hoping to get unstuck (1 Samuel 27).
The apostle Paul knew the feeling of being stuck, too, but he also knew that the only way to survive it was to keep a proper perspective about life. Concerning his ministry he said, “ We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
I like the way The Message translates these verses: “We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.”
Please reread that last paragraph if you feel like running away or you are at a place in life where you don’t know what to do–where you feel like you’ve been thrown down–where you are a wad of paper jammed in a shredder.
At times like these Paul knew he must not fixate on the hardship. Rather, he reminded himself that there is a purpose in everything we go through. He knew that often jams in life don’t make sense and threaten to rattle our sense of security. Therefore, he chose to believe that there’s a bigger picture which cannot be seen by human eyes.
Because David believed he could trust God, he resolved to cry out to Him. He was confident the Lord would hear him. “Evening and morning and noon I cry out in distress and He hears my voice,” David said (v. 18).
LIke David and Paul, we have to trust that God knows all about our jams–the ones we got ourselves into because of impatience or poor choices and the ones that have been thrust upon us for no apparent reason.
The Lord knows that believers and shredders have one thing in common–both have limitations–and He promises to support and guide us through the stressors which threaten to overtake us. No matter whether we are stuck in temptation or overwhelmed with life, the Lord promises to “provide a way out so that [we] can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
So be encouraged today not to give up on your “jam“ but keep on working through it. You may have to throw it in reverse and forward a few times to get unstuck, but rest assured the Lord will lovingly help you persevere as He accomplishes His will in your life.
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporal, but what is unseen is eternal” (vv. 17-18).
Dear Father, life sometimes seems to throw too many issues at us at once and leaves us feeling like a wad of paper stuck in a shredder. When we don’t know what to do, help us believe with all our hearts that You always know what to do. Help us trust You to use all of our circumstances for an eternal purpose which only You can see at this point. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:7-18