If you trouble yourself to keep up with the modern vernacular, then you may be familiar with the term ‘First World Problems’. Originating in 1979 and gaining popularity with the rise of memetic internet culture, a ‘first world problem’ is an issue or occurrence that inconveniences us but rapidly appears trivial and insignificant when compared to larger world issues. Wikipedia lists ‘slow internet access’ and ‘getting a bad haircut’ as examples of the phrase and Saturday Night Live recently did a sketch based around the concept. From a psychological perspective, a ‘First World Problem’ would be considered something that, while inconvenient, does not threaten the achievement of any stage of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Essentially we label our trivial problems as ‘First World Problems’ because we like to reassure ourselves that this is the worse it gets for us.
Now the reason I’m talking about ‘First World Problems’ is because recently, an acquaintance joked that the Biblical figure Job, if he had been familiar with the concept, may have wished for first world problems. If you’re not familiar with the story, Job is described as being “perfect and upright, and one [a man] that feared God, and eschewed evil” and so God, so firm in the belief that Job’s faith will not waver, tells the Devil that he is free to utterly ruin Job’s life in every imaginable, with the exception of harm to Job himself. Being, you know, the Devil, Satan decided that this was a great idea and spends the subsequent thirty or so chapters. God is right to put his faith in Job, who for the large part just kinda takes it all on the chin. Even when he snaps and demands to know why this is happening to him, a true man of God, and God’s reply is less than satisfactory, Job apologizes for snapping. Eventually, Job gets back everything he lost and lives on to see the next four generations of his family. The thing is that saying that Job would have wished for First World Problems is missing the point of the book of Job because if he were to wish for something less, then he would be casting aside his faith in God.
When something bad happens to us, it’s very easy to shift the blame to someone else or something else. When you fail an exam, it’s easier to blame it on a bad question; when you end a friendship, it’s easier to blame it on the other person’s lack of commitment. The easiest person to blame is God, it’s why ‘Goddammit’ appears to roll off the tongue so easily. We find it so easy to blame God because he’s not going to come down and personally defend himself for the transgression of you dropping the coffee pot and so we feel like the blame has been taken away from you. The worse the problem, the better it feels to blame the silent higher power.
But here’s the thing. Ignoring your problems doesn’t make them magically go away and the same goes for shifting the blame- if you blame divine intervention for the that D in calculus, you’re going to fail the resit as well. Sometimes life is out of our control but the times you do have some say, take responsibility. To be honest, it doesn’t matter which god, if any, you follow, taking responsibility for what you do is still a liberating action. So the next time something doesn’t go your way, have some faith that all is not lost and take some time to see how you can make things better.