As I went out to shovel snow, the last thing I expected was an encounter with God.
I was just relieved that, after three weeks of heavy snow and freezing temperatures that had caused life to grind to a halt, it seemed like the snow was finally thawing, and getting my car out looked like a realistic possibility at last.
My cheerful mood was quick to fade, however, as I reached my car only to discover a massive pile of snow blocking it in. It seemed that the driver of the car next to mine had got there first and had cleared all the snow from in front of their car and dumped it in front of mine!
I could feel the anger boiling up within me. How could they be so thoughtless and selfish? There were plenty of other places they could have put the snow, places where it would have been in no-one’s way. Why had they dumped it all in front of my car?
My initial reaction was to give up and go back inside. What had already promised to be a lengthy task had now doubled in size and it seemed so unfair. Why should I have to take the time and effort to sort this out when it wasn’t my fault? Why should I have to pay for someone else’s selfishness?
I began to make my way inside but, as I did, a stronger desire kicked in – a desire for freedom.
I realized that, despite the other driver’s selfishness, I had a choice. I could spend my day feeling angry and complaining about what had happened, or I could take some action to change the situation. Getting my car out was going to take longer than I had hoped, but it was still perfectly possible.
Returning to the car, I began shovelling and, as I did, God spoke.
He showed me that, in a much more serious way than with a pile of snow, I was struggling with the impact of someone else’s selfish behaviour and that I was tempted to give up on the long, hard work of digging myself out. It was far too easy to give in to a victim mentality – to blame everything that was wrong with my life on someone else’s actions, to whine that it wasn’t fair and it wasn’t my fault, to use that as an excuse not to deal with it.
God showed me that, while it was true that the situation was unfair and that I was not to blame, the issue was where it would lead if I wandered down the path of fixating on those things. It would lead to an ungrateful, complaining attitude, to bitterness, self-pity and self-righteousness; it would lead to a feeling of powerlessness, of being trapped, of being held captive by someone else’s selfish actions. It was not a path I wanted to walk.
I saw that we all encounter difficulties at times which are just part of life, such as the heavy snowfall, but that we also encounter difficulties that are caused by other people, such as the pile of snow in front of my car. And yes, this makes it harder. It may cause us pain, it may slow down our progress, it may call for a lot more effort on our part to overcome it, but we still have a choice about how we respond.
There is something we can do that can achieve what no amount of anger or whining or complaining can do – that can lead us to freedom. We can pick up the shovel and slowly but surely, a little bit at a time, begin to dig ourselves out.
That doesn’t mean we have to do it alone. Support from friends and family can be crucial, as can help from a professional counsellor, and we certainly need God’s help. It’s only in his strength that we can truly find freedom and healing, and the grace to forgive, but he also wants us to play our part, and only we can be responsible for our attitude – making the choice to pursue freedom no matter what it takes.
As I finally drove my car out that day, I felt satisfied. I was glad I had put in the time and effort, that I had overcome the challenge, and that I was now reaping the reward. I was also grateful that God had used an inconvenient situation to challenge me, and left me with fresh determination for the task ahead.
This is a revised version of a post I published a few years ago (back when hardly anyone read my blog!)
Obviously there are all kinds of situations in life where we are affected by others’ selfishness and where we have the need to “dig ourselves out” but I wanted to highlight one opportunity coming up soon that may be helpful to some…
Childhood sexual abuse is something which affects many, many people and can have a long-term impact on all areas of life. If you or someone you know has been affected, you might be interested in a new Journey to Heal online study coming up soon. It goes through the book Journey to Heal by Crystal Sutherland and offers practical help and support as well as biblical insights to help you dig yourself out! Find out more here.