My husband has lots of wonderful skills and takes care of very important aspects of running this household, including cleaning up the messes I create in the kitchen. He is not, however, comfortable preparing those kitchen "messes"...

Yesterday, he had to reformat his computer. Since we live in the country, our wifi internet is slow at best and often unreliable. Needless to say, the downloading of Windows was taking forever, and since he had completed all of his normal tasks that didn't involve the computer, he was wandering around like a lost puppy, trying to strike up conversation with me, complaining about all the work he should be accomplishing on the computer but couldn't due to our slow internet, etc.

Meanwhile I was working hard to get supper on the table, and I didn't have the time to chat with him. Instead, I handed him a mango and a cutting board and knife. "Here," I said. "You look bored. Peel and slice this mango for the salad."

I wish I had a camera at that point, for the look on the man's face was priceless. I've never seen my self-assured husband looking so vulnerable and ... maybe even ... scared? What? Of a knife and a mango?

Needless to say, I had to coach him every step (or should I say "cut") of the way, and in the process, he suddenly remembered lots of things he could be doing while he was waiting for his computer! It was actually funny to see how quickly he put down the knife once the task was complete and...disappeared!

The reason I'm telling this story isn't really to chuckle at my husband. Rather, it is to point out something interesting: He had been complaining about his circumstances; however, once I handed him the mango and the knife, his circumstances suddenly didn't seem all that bad after all. In fact, I didn't hear any more complaints about his circumstances the rest of the day!

I once heard a story about a man who was struggling under a very heavy cross. He was met by an angel and invited to enter a storeroom. Inside the storeroom were hundreds of crosses of different sizes, and the angel instructed the man to exchange his heavy cross for any of the ones in the storeroom. Excited, the man ran from cross to cross, picking up some, shaking others; but as he neared the back of the storeroom, he became more and more discouraged. Finally, with a smile of triumph on his face, he picked up what appeared to be the smallest cross in the room and carried it away. At this point, the angel pointed out to the man that he had just taken back his own, original cross.

In the midst of trials and bad circumstances, it is relatively easy to adapt a measure of self-pity. And perhaps understandably so. After all, these trials have changed our lives dramatically, and usually not for the better. They hurt. They are inconvenient. They are awkward. When we look around, however, at the problems others have to bear, we realize that ours aren't so bad after all!

Could this be why we are told repeatedly to worry about others ahead of ourselves? "Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." (Philippians 2:4); and "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor." (Romans 12:10)

You see, when we focus on our own problems, they seem to mushroom until they take over our entire lives. When we focus on the needs of others, however, when we recognize and sympathize with what others are going through, our own problems shrink back to their ordinary size. Is it any wonder then, that we can actually say "thanks, God, for this trial"? And why not? Of all the crosses to bear, ours is generally the smallest.

Remember that the next time you are handed a knife and a mango. Or rather, remember that as you are going through your current valley experience. Focus on the needs of others, and your own problems will shrink back to manageable size.

But wait. We're talking about a death in the family here. Or didn't you realize I'm undergoing chemotherapy and I've never been so sick in my life? Or come on! You go through divorce if you think it's so easy! Please join us on Thursday for "Preparing the Mango, Part 2".

In His love,

Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author -- "Aboard God's Train -- A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer", Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.

(To access the entire "Preparing the Mango" mini-series, please click here.)