What Do You Do When Things Go Wrong?

Sunday Musings

Life Together HandsI got some great counsel from a friend at a recent conference. He was talking about how companies and churches move from good to great. The conversation started with some questions. When things are going bad, when things are not going the way they could, or should, or the way you would like them to, or the way you expected them to, or as fast as you wanted them to—what do you do? Especially, what do you do at work with the team of people with whom you are working?

What about at Church? 

The music is too loud, or too slow, or too new, or too old for your liking. The preacher is too long, or too shallow, or too disorganized, or not practical enough, or too theological, or maybe you just don’t like the sound of his voice? Or maybe the thing that is under your saddle is the voice of that person behind you who can’t stay on key, or breath of that lady who always invades your space during the greeting time of the service, or those people who never seem to get their cell phone turned off, or the people who don’t seem to be singing during worship, or the sound tech who doesn’t seem to notice that there is a hum in the monitor?

What about your relationship with your spouse or your children?

When things aren’t going the way you think they should, when he or she isn’t showing you the respect or the love that you think they should, when your marriage isn’t turning out the way your thought, or isn’t as satisfying as you desire, or when your finances aren’t working out the way you hoped—what do you do?

My friend’s counsel was that in everyone of these situations our first and best response is to “go to the mirror rather than the window.” 

What does that mean?

Bonhoeffer image
Stylized Image of Bonhoeffer

It means that instead of critiquing, complaining about, or dismissing others as not “doing their part” (looking at the window) we go to the mirror and ask what could we do differently. It’s not that different from Jesus saying that before we go and talk to someone else or about someone else and their failures, we go and take the beam out of our own eye and let God deal with us first (Matthew 7:1-5).

Which brought to mind one of my favorite passages in Bonhoeffer’s Life Together

“God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, (Life Together)

Let’s pray that our “dreams of what should be” are always shaped by the Scripture and not our preferences, are seasoned with grace, and follow the patterns of God’s guidance. Let’s be a people that represent Jesus well.


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