The Trouble with Tribbles is one of my favorite episodes from the original Star Trek. Captain Kirk is focused on an issue with the Klingons. Meanwhile, cute round fuzzy balls that purr have started reproducing and thereby become another problem—but only temporarily. In the end, the tribbles solve Kirk’s problem with the Klingons.

Life is like that sometimes. There are always problems, most minor, occasionally major, and sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s a big problem and what isn’t. And the number of problems that come our way are seemingly endless. What we wouldn’t do to be free from the stress!

As the old joke would put it: take my week. Please.

First, the main water line to my house broke on Monday morning: roots. I spent the day digging down to the break, sawing roots, and making multiple trips to Home Depot. I also scraped my arms and my fingers ached for days.

Recently I discovered an email from an “agent” offering to represent me. A quick search with Google confirmed my suspicion that this individual was a con artist. Legitimate agents find work for their clients and take a percentage of the money made. Con artists ask for money up front for “reading fees” and “office expenses” and the like. This agent was the fee charging sort. It is annoying to find that at this point in my career, I still attract that sort of person. Especially since I already have an agent. A real one.

My oldest daughter rescued a stray cat that then had kittens in my garage. We’ve found homes for three out of the four kittens and even one for the mommy cat. Yesterday she went into heat. She is now overly enamored with me. She also keeps trying to get into our house from the garage and this evening scared my middle daughter when it came bounding into the kitchen.

Then there are the bills that need paying. And my oldest daughter is leaving for her Junior year of college in August. Did I mention bills needing to be paid? College is expensive and every time I turn around, there seems to be something else unexpected that I need to pay. My wife and I have been married thirty years; our anniversary is on June 25th. But with all the expenses, I was despairing of finding anyway to do anything to celebrate the milestone. We’d be lucky to even scrounge enough together to go to McDonalds.

In the midst of things going wrong it is very easy to start berating oneself. Especially when one has a history of depression. Not that a depressed person needs help becoming depressed or that depression is the consequence of events. But stress can be a trigger if one has a habit of negative thoughts.

Obviously, curling up into a fetal position is the wrong way to deal with trouble. Instead, one needs to focus on each problem, one at a time, recognize the challenge, and then act to fix it. The solution is not always pleasant, it is not always the ideal, it isn’t always what one wants, but it is what one has to do.

And in the midst of any trouble, big or small—and sometimes it feels as if the little daily stresses are the worst—it is important to look up from the muck and see the bigger picture. When faced with a black mark on a white sheet of paper, it is hard to recognize that the majority of the paper is still white. You have to work at reminding yourself about the things in life that are wonderful. You have trouble at work because you have a job. Without a job you wouldn’t have the job stresses, but is not having a job really what you want?

Just because something bad happens to you, it doesn’t mean that you’re a loser. And if your mistakes do seem to overwhelm, then seek help. If you had a broken arm, you wouldn’t be slow to find a doctor. And talk to your friends and your family. Don’t try to carry it all by yourself. The burden is always lighter if you’re not alone. A friend called me on Tuesday wondering why I hadn’t asked him for help when my water pipe broke. I had been so focused on trying to fix the pipe, I didn’t even think about trying to get help.

Of course my week had other things in it besides the troubles. Sunday night our friends and family gave my wife and I a surprise party for our 30th wedding anniversary: and it really was a complete surprise, utterly unexpected. Somehow my children and friends kept it all a secret and we didn’t suspect a thing until everyone shouted “surprise.” We had a great time, and we even got gift cards to several restaurants and a movie theater. Not only did we get to actually celebrate our 30 years together, we also will get to go out together a few times in the coming weeks, something we might not otherwise have gotten to do.

So that was a much better surprise than finding water bubbling in one’s front yard on Monday morning. It helps keep the troubles in perspective, and to remind us that all is not lost.

However, that cat is still in heat.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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