Sometimes seeing the big picture is hard. I once heard a story, and I will tell it how I remember it, about a newly married woman. Her husband made enough money so she felt blessed that she would be able to be at the home to keep up the house, take care of future children, cook meals and do the day-to-day business of the family.
One day her husband returned home and noticed half a bag of potatoes sitting around the kitchen sink. Hearing sobs, he followed his wife's voice until he found her. He asked, "What is wrong? What happened?" She just continued in tears unable to speak. The husband felt terrible and figured he had done something wrong.
When she composed herself and was able to speak, the woman told her husband what had happened. As she was peeling the potatoes, she started thinking about all the years she would be married. She multiplied how many potatoes she had by an approximate amount of times she would have to peel potatoes over the years. Millions of potatoes filled her mind and she was simply overwhelmed by the enormity of her commitment.
When we look at the big picture on any project or the human condition around the world it's easy to be overtaken by a sense of helplessness. Big is big -- no way around it. We want to count our lives in minutes, and then realize as we age it's easier to tick off decades. If we counted each minute and accounted for everything we have put our hands to, we would simply shut down. While it is nice to reminisce, spending too much time on the past can leave you stuck there.
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The Prophets weren't well-liked in the old country of Israel. I think it was simply because they told people what was going to happen, and it often wasn't good news.
God saw the end of an age and in sorrow allowed a few people to tell their friends that faith was dying and self-dependence had replaced a prayerful dependence on the Lord. Isaiah spoke God's word, "I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me." God calls them to seek justice, end the evils among them, and turn back toward their original love for God's goodness. In foreknowledge he knows of that the destruction of their nation was on the way.
I am thankful God never leaves us to wallow in our distress. Though we have times of trouble, God speaks blessings such as this, also from Isaiah's book: "Zion will be redeemed with justice and a promise is given that in the last days," the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it."
After all the potatoes have been peeled, even after we have spent eons tending to our world, God promises to shore up our efforts with His strength. So we do all the good that we can, but also are assured that the greatest good is still coming. We remember that God walked among us 2,000 years ago, and His spirit is with us today.
This promise is for everyone who has been worried about the big picture. Anyone who has lost sleep because they see the world ending in a great fire with all lost to chaos.
God is saying to all of us: "Leave the big picture to me. I am your strength."
Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him on Twitter @dannonhill.