I've been down this road a few times. The trip is bumpy, with unexpected turns and pretty dull scenery, but it's not so bad, and when I finally get to my destination, I know it will all be just fine. For the second time in as many weeks, I had a line on an upright bass, a commitment from the seller, only to get word that someone else got in between us. Poof! Just like that, the deal evaporates.
There was a time when this would have really bothered me. I'd have been stewing over it for weeks, if not months (although I have to admit that missing out on that pristine 1947 Kay still stings). God however, has a way of using life to teach us lessons in wisdom, patience, and priorities. I know plenty of people who would gladly trade places with me. They're facing life issues that make anything I'm dealing with look pretty welcome by comparison. And the amazing thing about it is, most of them look at their problems and say, "It's not as bad as..." For some, entering valleys from which they may not exit, they still look around them and see people worse off.
One of the markers of spiritual health is the ability and the willingness to get our eyes off ourselves and see others. There are many people who could talk the ears off an elephant with all their professions of faith and holiness, but when it comes to actually listening to or caring for another, they wither like cut flowers in the sun. I used to pray that God would give me a heart of compassion for others until I read in Mark's gospel these words: "When [Jesus] went ashore he saw a great crowd and had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd" (6:34). The only way anyone ever learns compassion is not by praying for it, but by mixing it up with people who are struggling through life and not making much headway. These days, whenever I start stinking thinking that life isn't fair or that things didn't go my way, I know what to do: take a break from my plans and priorities and spend time with people facing real problems. Mine are pretty petty, and I am grateful to be in that blessed place of which Jesus spoke when he said it is more blessed to give than to receive. He has graciously allowed me to spend much of my life on the giving side. It's no credit to me, but to his mercy, for which I must some day give account.