When technology glitches I want to scream, cuss, and throw my iPad out the office window. I know this isn’t a good reaction. How can I train myself to have a better response to technological failure?
We’ve all been there—hours of work vanish into the ether because we forgot to click “save,” or an application malfunction deletes all our data. What’s the reason for the outsized and, yes, sinful anger we can feel or express in these moments? More importantly, how do we combat it? There are two different factors at work.
1. We trust the false promise of technology that it will make us like God.
The labor-saving devices of previous eras—such as washing machines, lawn mowers, and dishwashers—serve us by augmenting the limits of our physical strength. But technological tools help us transcend our human limits entirely. Thanks to a myriad of apps and the ubiquity of high-speed WiFi, we can process complex mathematical computations or direct the buying, selling, and delivery of innumerable goods and services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The physical effort required for such feats is no greater than tapping on a keyboard, without even the effort of having to leave the couch. Technology draws us into the 21st-century iteration of the most ancient of lies: if we place our trust in a created thing, we will be like God (Gen. 3:4), digitally enabled to transcend bounds of space, time, and human cognition.
When the app crashes or the WiFi is down, our illusion of artificial omnipotence and omnipresence is shattered. We’re reminded that we are not God. And our sinful hearts don’t welcome the reminder.
2. All visible evidence of our efforts are lost.
With most manual labor, some evidence of our toil remains, even if the intended outcome is thwarted. The cake may be burned, but there is still a cake. The inner workings of the washing machine may be strewn across the garage, but the dismantled state still bears witness to someone’s good work in trying to repair it.
Not so with digital labor.
When we toil for hours over a PowerPoint presentation or a Google Sheet, only to have a laptop battery fail us, the evidence of our labors is summarily erased. We experience a reality of fallen existence: diligent work is no guarantee of evident fruit. And we cry out in dismay that we have “nothing to show for it” (Eccl. 1:3).
When the app crashes or the WiFi goes down, the illusion of our artificial omnipotence and omnipresence is shattered. . . . And our sinful hearts don’t welcome the reminder.
Of course, it’s not just the loss of digital results that can cause us to stumble into sinful anger. Just ask any parent who has found the toddler emptying cereal boxes into dresser drawers, or the puppy owner who sees garbage strewn across the freshly mopped floor.
The same Scriptures that confront and comfort us in the midst of our frustrations over physical labor can be applied to digital labor as well.
Embracing Our Limits
Paul encourages us to be steadfast, knowing our labor is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). He tells us to work heartily for God and not for men (Col. 3:23–24).
Such verses remind us that our work is always seen by the God whose vision isn’t limited. He blesses us for our diligence (Prov. 21:5), not the degree to which our diligence yields results that could never be guaranteed anyway.
In the morning as we log in to our computers, we can ask God to center our trust in his power and provision, not in the power of our technological tools. We can ask him to help us remember our limits and our laptop’s limits, and to entrust our work and its fruits to the King who is limitless—not just in his power but also in his love, and in his desire to do us good.
TGC’s “Thorns & Thistles” column seeks to apply wisdom with practical advice about faith, work, and economics. If you have a question on how to think about and practice your work in a way that honors God, let us know at [email protected].