The Utility of Futility

“All men know the utility of useful things; but they do not know the utility of futility.” Chaung-Tzu

Ever have one of those days? A few weeks ago, I had one. Early one morning when my brother took me across town to pick up my car @ the repair shop, my misbehaving phone somehow stayed behind.

Can’t be without my phone for an hour?  Nope.

(We were under a tornado watch.)

So, I drove 20 minutes across town to pick up the phone. Then drove back across town for allergy shots at the doctor’s office (previously passed on the way from the repair shop home to pick up phone.)

Makes sense, right?

Then there’s the reason for allergy shots: I can’t breathe.

No, seriously.

Flowers busting into bloom everywhere make this a lovely time of year, truly beautiful, but they make the task of breathing difficult for this red head. (My parents couldn’t believe it when I came home after working years overseas to find I’m allergic to 48 of the 50 airborne things in these parts?!)

Makes sense, right? Allergic to my hometown? Where I grew up without these challenges?

Then, on the way back home from the allergy doctor’s office, the engine light in my car came back on. The #@*$# engine light.

Oh, those happy, ignorant, moments from the car shop home spent plotting trips in spiffed-up car, with all systems spinning in sync. After numerous trips to repair shop to service misbehaving engine light, this time had such high hopes (after a high bill!)

Bing, engine light is back on.

Turned around, drove back across town to the car repair shop to check error code, or something. Two hours later, engine light disappeared with more investigative auto work. Trekked happily back out with healthy car, but 10 miles later, bing! Engine light back on.

Can’t breathe, car still sick (after $900 tab), but at least I had my phone with me.

These are inconsequential annoyances (although breathing is necessary.) But there’s lots of seriously tough stuff going on in our whacked-out world: bombs, terror, lopsided lives facing oversized injustice, and too many hard-to-bear challenges at home.

That got me thinking about the utility of futility. Looked it up & found it’s actually a concept contemplated by others. (Comforting, that!)

Overcoming challenges often seems impossible when viable solutions seem like exercises in futility. Why bother? When nothing seems to change?

Sometimes as much as we try, we can’t fix it. Maybe we’ve tried to think and work outside the box, doing new things. But it still doesn’t work.

The point about the utility of futility, however, is to keep on trying.

Michael Irvin, a famous American football player, gave a Hall of Fame speech 10 years ago I still remember watching with my Papa. He was a colorful character (nice way of putting it.) During his speech, this hugely talented football player cried and asked his wife & children’s forgiveness for his past egregious mistakes. On national television. In front of a gazillion people.

He left us with a message: “Look up. Get up. Never give up.”

Got that? One more time: LOOK UP. GET UP. NEVER GIVE UP.

The utility of futility: we keep on going.

Even if an answer is not in sight, we keep trying. Maybe change is slow in coming, but we keep going. Seems insurmountable ending things like global hunger, disease, human trafficking, and fighting for justice where hope has been hammered with violent oppression.

Step by step, however small, we keep on going.

Sometimes we change in the process…

Especially if we seek God’s help – to let go, and let God?

Change the way we’re coping on the personal front as we seek Heavenly shots of God’s love to help us find that sweet spot where the utility of futility and the futility of utility merge…

Where our want-to-be struggles with not, not-to-be, can’t be, won’t-even-try-to-be?

We keep trying, one step, next step…trusting, praying… one step, next step:


grace, peace & futility utilities

Virginia : )

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2Corinthians 4:7-9)

looking up rainbow (outside our home!)

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6 Responses to The Utility of Futility

  1. Cindy Kranich says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences and the lessons learned for our benefit. It’s the annoying stuff that can derail me and take me by surprise. I recall those are favorite verses of yours and can hear you reciting them in my head. The picture is surreal! 🌈 🌲

    • Virginia says:

      Cin – the ZigZag pic is from our Charleston trip in February when we walked down by the battery (remember circuitous route to Ft. Sumter ferry?) Guess writing this post (while waiting for the car repair) was a way to use the experience for good? But still, it’s hard when we have one of ‘those days’ to keep in perspective. (That’s why I also pray for holy hilarity every day!) 🙂 Love & hugs!! Gin

  2. Great advice… Sometimes we ‘try’ too much and don’t get the answer we need, and then realize we haven’t prayed, when that should have been the first thing we should have done.
    Step by step, and day by day is the best way of work through difficult days… Thanks for the reminder! Diane

    • Virginia says:

      Amen, Diane! Prayer should always top our list, but too often we forget to go to God first. I’m not so very holy (yet) – sometimes I need God’s grace hour by hour (not just day by day.) Big blessings to you and many thanks for inspiring me & so many others with your blog & testimony of faithfulness amidst life’s challenges.

      grace, peace & hope – Virginia 🙂

  3. TMH says:

    Oh blessed futility!! [I should have misspelled a word in this comment in keeping with the theme.]
    My favorite line/reminder: But there’s lots of seriously tough stuff going on in our whacked-out world: bombs, terror, lopsided lives facing oversized injustice, and too many hard-to-bear challenges at home.
    On another note: a favorite site–you probably know it–

    • Virginia says:

      Thanks for the link to the 365 site, Tim. I didn’t know about it, but it looks like a cool way to squeeze in devotions (especially since it can be read on the go on our phones!) 🙂 Blessings!

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