That morning, our car wouldn’t start. It made a sound like an emphatic no, and that was that. So we had it towed—the first in a series of car-related but otherwise disconnected events that would end four days later, with a crunch that was the sound of another driver colliding with (and, ultimately, totaling) our parked car.
The same day that we sent our car in for a minor repair, I had a backache. I assumed it was the sort of thing one gets for carting a toddler around on one hip all day, so I took a bunch of ibuprofen and went to bed early in a room redolent of Tiger Balm. What it was, though, was the flu—not the gruesome kind that leaves you sweaty and asleep on the bathroom floor, but the kind that whittles away at your constitution until you’re gaunt and delicate and feel the way I imagine Victorian invalids felt as they sipped boullion in beds hung with damask curtains.
I was the first, but we all caught it. Two weeks later, as I write this, three of us still have it.
I have forgotten what it’s like to feel rested.
If confronted with one of these things at a time, I would probably feel badly used by the universe. I would complain and feel bad about complaining, but I would complain anyway. But because the troubles have come all at once and have so shaken us out of our schedules and routines that I cannot rely on any single day to look the way I think it should, I have taken to peering behind every new issue to see what God is doing back there and how the heck we are supposed to respond.
And then J. I. Packer comes to my rescue:
“. . . the whole purpose of [the Christian’s] existence is that with heart and life they should worship and exalt God. In every situation, therefore, their one question is: what will make the most for God’s glory? What should I do in order that in these circumstances God may be glorified?”
How can we glorify God in these circumstances, when we are feverish, fatigued, and on hold with insurance companies? We can praise him by making homemade chicken broth and fetching water bottles for each other even when we’d all rather lie on the couch. We can get up with the baby again (without grumbling). We can keep the teapot full.
We can glorify him by showing patience toward insurance agents, each other, and the other driver. We can give thanks for the fact that the driver—having fallen asleep at the wheel—hit our empty, parked car and not a building. Or an oncoming car. Or a pedestrian.
Do we do this perfectly? No. Not even close. But it helps to remember that, even at 3:30 in the morning (when there is typically a lot of grumbling), we can thank God for giving us these particular trials at this particular time, because through them, we see him at work in us. We depend upon him, because we can’t take for granted some of the things that we’ve grown accustomed to—our health, for one. Our mobility. Our quiet nights.
None of this really has to do with today’s book. It would be a neat little conclusion if I could tell you, “And this book was so encouraging to us while we were sick!”, but in truth we read a lot of Mo Willems, watched Robin Hood about four times, and read this book not once.
But All Things Bright and Beautiful is lovely and restorative and I like looking through it now—it’s the literary equivalent, perhaps, of that Victorian boullion. Notice the lively, paper-cut illustrations! The comforting words of a familiar hymn! The fact that we check this one out from our local library over and over again!
And notice the joy! The joy is good. I needed the memory of that joy around 3:30 this morning.
All Things Bright and Beautiful
Cecil F. Alexander, Ashley Bryan (2010)