This past August, I borrowed a friend’s pickup truck to help my daughter move into an apartment near her graduate school. I used the pickup to tow a trailer filled with her belongings some six hundred miles from our home in Ohio.
I have driven a pickup truck before. I have also pulled a trailer with a pickup. What I had not done, until this August, was back up a truck with a trailer attached. To the experienced driver, this is a piece of cake. To the neophyte (me) it is like trying to solve Rubik’s Cube. Such was my dilemma – and my adventure – as I pulled into the tiny parking lot in front of the apartment complex.
Everything is reversed when backing up a trailer. Left is right. Right is left. Turn the wheel the wrong way and the trailer will jackknife. My every attempt (and I lost count) to back up was met with shouts of “Left! No! The other left! No! Right! Turn the wheel to the right!” Needless to say, the more I tried to back up the more perplexed I became. The more perplexed I became the more difficult the task of backing up.
Sometimes life is as perplexing as trying to back up a truck with a trailer hitched to it. Everything is reversed. Right is left. Left is right. Up is down. Down is up. When I am perplexed I am uncomfortable. Humans do not like being uncomfortable. We prefer clarity to confusion; simplicity to stress. And yet it is only when we wrestle through our confusion we learn. It is under stress when we discover strength and resolve we did not realize we possessed. It is when we are perplexed we discover the depth of hope that is ours through trust in Jesus Christ.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is in the New Testament. It’s found in 2 Corinthians 4.8, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair. . .” The apostle Paul experienced affliction, but God always provided a way out. He experienced perplexity, but he never came to his wit’s end. Affliction inspired him to trust the God who orchestrated his circumstances. Perplexity prompted him to seek out the Lord who led him into tight places. For the Christ-follower this is a learned skill. And the learning process is often painful requiring patience, trust and steadfastness.
As I write this, my family and I are in the midst of a perplexing situation. The details are unimportant. What is important is that we are learning daily to trust the Lord to lead us through uncertain, perplexing times. We are choosing to trust Him rather than yield to despair. We are not always successful. We are human. We have moods. There are days when we brood about the future and grow anxious. There are moments when the temptation to throw up our hands and give up is very great. Yet despite these moods, we stand firm. Now lest you marvel at our steadfastness, let me assure you that the strength to stand firm does not originate from within us. It is given to us by the One who has orchestrated our circumstances. It is imparted to us by the Lord who leads us into tight spaces. In our discomfort we are learning the power of His comforting grace. In our distress we are discovering the enduring strength of His steadfast love. In realizing our foolishness we are learning to trust more and more in His infinite wisdom.
So even though being perplexed is uncomfortable, it is not a bad thing. It is an opportunity to learn more patience, more trust and more steadfastness through faith in Jesus.
Eventually, and just before frustration set in, I managed to back the trailer to within a reasonable distance from the front door. As I got out of the truck – and noticing the trailer was a good thirty feet from the front door – I quipped, “They tell student pilots, ‘Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing.’”
All right. So the trailer was thirty feet from the front door. However, the trailer was undamaged. No other cars were damaged (and there were several in the lot). Of greater importance, my friend’s pickup truck was undamaged.
Here is some good news: No one emerges from a season of being perplexed having done everything to perfection.
Then again, God does not expect perfection.
He expects faithfulness.
And here’s some more good news: God gives us the faith to pursue faithfulness.
You think about that.