Have you ever felt like you were walking around with a great, big target painted on your back? Maybe you, like me, sometimes feel that the challenges and pain of life hit you in waves that come, one right after the other, with no time to catch your breath and they leave you feeling like you’re drowning emotionally. It can happen in a moment: you’re going along thinking you’re doing pretty well, and then… WHAM! You’re knocked flat on your back, wondering what in the world just happened, and trying desperately to find your feet again.
Life in this world can be beautiful and exciting for us and it can also be overwhelming and terrifying at times. Painful things happen to us all and the older we get, the more difficult things we have to face. So, what do we do when life gets hard and confusing? Where do we go?
Those of us who know and love Jesus understand that those curveballs life throws at us aren’t really coming from “life” at all… they’re coming at us, filtered directly through the hands of our loving God. In the Bible we’re challenged to trust God no matter what’s going on in our lives and He gives us many promises to hang onto like the one in Jeremiah 29:11: “I know, declares the LORD, the plans I have for you; plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” When we feel overwhelmed and defeated, Jesus invites us, in Matthew 11:28-29, to “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”. One of my favorite promises is found in Isaiah 40:29-31, “He (God) gives power to the weary and strength to the powerless. Though youths will become weak and tired and young men will stumble badly, those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will soar high on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.”
These biblical promises are true and wonderful but what happens when we find ourselves staring into the emotional abyss, facing a situation we have no idea how to handle? Maybe we have a child who’s addicted to drugs, a husband who’s cheating on us, a terminal cancer diagnosis from the doctor, another miscarriage, lonely nights, more broken dreams, more unrelenting pain… what then?
It’s times like these that reveal how we see God. If our perception of God is accurate we will be willing to trust Him even when the difficult circumstances we’re facing seem to scream out that He’s not good and He’s not faithful. If, however, we see Him more like a cosmic genie who exists to make our lives comfortable and pain-free we will respond with anger and be unwilling to trust Him. When the bottom falls out in our lives, whether we choose to trust Him or angrily turn away from Him depends on whether we know and trust His heart of love towards us.
I remember years ago, when my then 11-year-old daughter cut off the tip of her finger in an accident at McDonald’s. The doctor told me there were few things more painful than to lose a fingertip yet that same doctor said in order for her mangled fingertip to heal properly I would have to wash it under running water twice a day for the next week. If I didn’t keep breaking up those blood clots forming at the tip and clean it thoroughly her finger might get infected and those blood clots would cause the finger to heal improperly.
I still have vivid memories of twice-daily forcing her finger under the running water and gently rubbing that mangled tip. After bandaging it up again I’d hold her as she cried and tell her how sorry I was to have to cause her the pain she was feeling. After she left the bathroom I’d shut the door and sit alone in that room and cry. It was so hard for me as her mother to follow the doctor’s orders because all I wanted to do was leave that poor, throbbing finger alone and hold her close. Believe me, that’s all she wanted me to do as well! I had to hear her beg me over and over not to touch it and once I even heard her scream angry words at me, that she hated me for putting her through this. Let’s just say that, in my daughter’s pain-fueled perception, I wasn’t loving and kind at all.
It would have been great if she had said, “Mom, I don’t understand why you’re doing this but I trust your heart towards me, that you love me and wouldn’t be hurting my finger if it weren’t for my own good.” Yeah, right. As an 11-year-old she never said that to me; instead, in those moments, she saw me as uncaring and sadistic. She never would have nominated me for the “Mother of the Year” award, that’s for sure. Her wrong perception of me prevented her from trusting me and her eyes betrayed the fear and anger she felt whenever I came to within one foot of that poor finger. I knew in my heart that if it were possible, I would have taken all her pain on myself, but for her own good I was also determined to do whatever I had to do, to ensure her fingertip healed as completely as possible.
When circumstances cause us pain I believe that God feels compassion for us and knows these things will bring about our growth and our good if we trust Him through the process. If I, as a human mother, felt compassion for my daughter as she hurt, yet I was willing to actually cause her more pain in order for her to find healing, then how much more does God feel the pain that He allows to happen in our lives and grieves right along with us as we cry?
My experiences in dealing with my own chronic pain and shattered dreams have shown me, time and time again, the loving and gracious heart of God. I sure don’t pretend to understand why He allows some of the things He does but I know… yes, I know… that He is working in all the things of my life, for His glory and my good. All things. Always. And He is wanting to work the same in you if you’re willing to trust His heart. No matter what you’re facing today, let me remind us all of these words to an old song, “…God is too wise to be mistaken and God is too good to be unkind. So, when you don’t understand, when you can’t see His plan, when you can’t trace His hand, TRUST HIS HEART.