Help! My Progress Bar is Halted!


Day 3 of the U.S. Federal Government shutdown has ended with no resolution in sight. 800,000+ people out of work and wondering how they are going to pay bills is agonizing. However, the worst part of it is the indefinite-ness of it. How can you budget and plan when you don’t know whether you must wait 3 days or 30 days or 30 months? Some people are zen with ambiguity; however, it drives me insane.

But that is part of life. We’re always having to “wait and see” on something. And as much as we try to find resolution or make progress, often times just seems like nothing is happeneing.  It can be waiting for that career break, trying to save for a house, striving to become more patient and less angry, losing weight, etc…. It’s easy to believe God has given up, but that is often an illusion.

This reminds me of the times when I boot up my PS3 so I can watch Netflix or play a videogame and I get this ever-so-annoying interruption:

So after getting cozy on my couch with a warm dinner and/or cold drink next to me, I find my foray into epic media bliss has been delayed. When the Playstation needs to update, there is little I can do until it does (no Netflix, no Hulu, etc.), and while my food rapidly approaches room temperature, I have to sit on my couch and wait for this…

If you recently updated your Apple devices to iOS 7, you probably know the drill. That update took a loooong time; some people even reported waiting hours! All you want to do is get on your phone, pop out a few rounds of Candy Crush, and that little bar is not budging. You wonder if Jesus will return to Earth before you can get on your phone again. At these moments, the concept of eternity suddenly seems clear…

For me, the most frustrating thing about system updates is waiting for the bar to move to the end. It seems to be moving pretty quickly, but then it stops…and does not move! So you wait…and wait. Maybe you distract yourself with Facebook for a bit, finish Tolstoy’s War and Peace, compose a symphony, etc…  and come back….but the bar has not moved one millimeter.

 I think that we experience similar frustration with God. We all want God to “grow us” and “make stuff happen.” Your church leaders may be hounding you ask God to “search your heart” (Psalm 139:23) and reveal where you need to grow. Perhaps you are working hard towards achieving something…a career, a relationship, a visa, the Great American Novel….but the progress bar feels halted.

The day I decided to get a Mac…

When we are waiting for a system update, all we see is the progress bar, but not the complex computations and algorithms and retrievals that the software is doing to perform the update. The updates, while annoying, are necessary. Updates provide patches and fixes, so that the system can fix bugs and faulty code,  be stronger against cyber threats and viruses, and enable the system to interact more seamlessly with other applications. Sometimes, an update component requires a query of tens of thousands of items before it can proceed to the next step. Similarly, God is able to see the “back-end” of our lives. As corny as it sounds, he is always working….until it is time for us to face our own “blue screen of death.”

Romans 8:28  states: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good… to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

When I look at the progress bar on my software update, I cannot know whether it is halted on repairing a malfunction, bolstering defenses against a security breach, or improving some component. I think God works the same way…He may be fixing something in me that I would not even dream needs to be fixed. Moreover, as a critical aim of our system updating is to interact seamlessly with other applications, God calls us to interact with others to further promote his Glory.

So am I going to “rejoice in my suffering” (Romans 5:3) when I have to perform a system update on my PS3?  Probably not…but I can at least use the time to reflect on what God is doing in my life, and is certainly doing in yours as well.

And for my colleagues who are furloughed (and stewing in anxiety because you’re bored), I send you thoughts and prayers that this time will serve you positively. All the white ensuring a quick return to work and a paycheck, of course :)

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