Lately I’ve been struck by the power of little things. The single comment that colors your entire day. The chance encounter that opens up a new opportunity at work. The random thought that blossoms into a year-long project.
I’ve noticed these little things since a meeting about three weeks ago. It was a big day for me—I’d been simmering on a new idea for a few months and this meeting was my time to pitch my dream to a few key players. Their response would shape whether or not this thing would get legs or not. If it didn’t, I’d wasted a ton of energy and thought. And, what’s worse is I really liked my idea so I’d be defeated if they shot it down.
On the way to the meeting, I got an email—you know the kind that hints at an impending confrontation but doesn’t come right out and say what’s wrong.
You may be the kind of person who can just ignore looming problems, but I’m not. I stewed on it the entire way to my meeting. I played out options of what might be wrong and what I might say in reply. I stepped into my big meeting in mental turmoil and the result was predictable. It went bad—really bad. I was off my game. The pitch I’d rehearsed for weeks fell flat. I missed my opportunity.
It would be unfair to place the blame on that email. Maybe my idea stunk. Maybe it wasn’t the right time. Who knows? But, what I do know is that one little email changed the trajectory of that meeting and shaped the direction of my life in a very real way.
Little Things Aren’t Little
The influence of little things can cause me to hyper-focus on every detail, thinking that if I can somehow control everything about my life then I can move toward my predetermined end. But, it doesn’t take long to realize the futility of this approach.
I can’t control my life—and neither can you. People do all sorts of things we can’t control. Life throws us curves we’d never anticipate. It’s just the way things are. Sometimes these little things work in our favor—propelling us further, faster than we once thought possible. Sometimes the little things work against us—derailing our plans before we ever begin.
Trusting The One Who Controls Little Things
There’s two ways I should respond to the power of little things. First, this reality should prompt a deep dependence on the sovereignty of God. I can’t control or manipulate the little things, but He can. Chance events or random circumstances aren’t chance or random at all in light of God’s perfect work in the life of a Christian. Little things are at the mercy of a sovereign God.
He’s at work, willing and working according to His good pleasure in order to complete the good work He started long ago in my life (Phil 1:6; 2:13).
There’s no doubt that this final product is going to look far different than the life I’ve created for myself in my mind. I may feel like a pinball at times—bouncing from one little thing to the next without clarity on exactly where I will land. But, because He is sovereign and because He is good, I can trust Him with all of my heart, and not lean on my own understanding. And, even though I may not like it at times, I can rest in the fact that somehow, someway He is going to use all of these little things to direct my path (Prov 3:5–6).
Carefully Giving Little Things
But that’s not all. The power of little things should make me more mindful of the affect the little things I do can have on others. I’m often sloppy in the little things. I’ve sent emails like the one I received. I’ve missed an opportunity to affirm someone on a job well done or pray with a brother in crisis.
If I trace my failure back to its origin, I’d likely find that I neglect the little things because I’m too concerned about running after my big thing, even though other little things always influence my pursuit. So, I discount the influence of the very same factors that have a massive impact on my life. Foolish, indeed.
So, while I can’t manipulate all of the little things in my life, I can control the little things I do.
- I can season my speech with grace so that others walk away from conversations encouraged and empowered (Col 4:6).
- I can avoid retaliation and choose to do good to my enemies (Lk 6:35).
- I can speak a word of truth to the persistent worrier (Matt 6:25).
- I can take the posture of a servant and do things I don’t want to do without concern for how these actions will benefit me (Phil 2:4–11).
These simple acts of worshipful obedience can have a profound impact on those around me. They can be the God-given means of orchestrating the steps of others so that they walk the path God has ordained for them.
Sure, in and of themselves, most of the things you and I do are little but that doesn’t make them insignificant. In fact, it’s the cumulative effect of little things that shape our future. By the way, the email–well it turned out that I’d misread it completely. It wasn’t a big deal after all. And, isn’t that how it always goes?