When I am feeling so overwhelmed by all the bad that comes in and out of my life, I feel like I am the screw up, that nothing I am doing is helping anyone in my life. In fact, I am making it worse. My husband, my children, my friends, they all would be better off without me trying to help them. Now, this of course is a lie. It’s not true at all. It’s something I believe because I see so many things failing in my immediate circumstances. I can’t see the whole picture and how I am an important part of it. And that I have the capacity to do good. We are not good, so how can I believe that I am? It’s the Holy Spirit, that is all. Because, I can do a lot of crap all by myself that truly is no good without the love of God working through me.
I have encountered a lot of hurt, and some straight up bad stuff recently. People around me who have so much hurt, that there is no carefully constructed phrase that will make things hurt less. I remember when my friend lost her baby a couple years ago, I had no idea what to do. She is such a strong person, such a strong personality, that I didn’t want to be some coddling, cooing girlfriend whom she had never met before. I’m the friend who sat around the table with her debating things, hashing out ideas, complaining about getting older. Just being the strong personalities we are. When her community surrounded her in her grief, I saw folks craft those loving phrases, bring flowers, gifts, and meals. They offered playdates for her big kids, and showered love. These things are all good. I wanted to be her friend in a way that united us and brought a sense of normal (even though nothing ever could be). I brought my kids over to play with hers and I brought a buncha doughnuts. Evil, gooey, love from the bakery across the bridge. And we talked. Normal, it can never be in that state of grief. But can I tell you, I have no idea. Absolutely none.
The pain of losing a parent, betrayal by a spouse, caring for a chronically ill family member, suddenly becoming a single parent, giving birth to your still born baby, being a child of divorce, being abandoned, sexual molestation. I have no idea what any of these things truly feel like. I have only been there, next to those I love, as they go through the muck, the fire, the pain. I feel guilty for not knowing. But in this world, there will always be that knowledge. Pain.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
I have only lived 37 years. I have had my heart broken many times. But for all that breaking, I also am full of thanksgiving. I am thankful for the prayers of my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. My great-aunt who never married, and drove me bonkers with her pestering, she prayed for me. I feel like I have been living with a cloud of witnesses calling out on my behalf. Maybe that’s a reason that 37 years have seen less than some. Still, what can I give when I have not been in the shoes of those who now suffer? You know what, it doesn’t matter. Haven’t I learned my lesson? It’s not about me, so I cry out to God and I pray and I believe in my naive way that “everything’s gonna get better!” Actually, it’s more like, “No, no way, this can’t be happening.” Creation groans for the Lord, and so do I.
For those who are living in a personal hell of pain from sickness, abandonment, exhaustion, victimization, betrayal, I want to say that you are important. Your best efforts are really, truly, enough. For those who need you and love you, you are strength, light, hope, love. Don’t believe that you are less. Those children, parents, friends, spouses, they know you aren’t perfect. There are tears, and screams, and long never-ending sighs, but you are doing a great job. The Lord God is our perfect Father and he looks at us purified in the blood of Jesus and He holds us so gently in His hands. He does not grow weary, even though you do. He will make a way through the fire, the water, the hell, and you will be that vessel, all glued back together, that can hold everything once again. He heals, restores, builds up, and loves.
I may not always feel important. But I hope this word reaches someone who needs it. I often tell new mommies, “You are doing a great job.” That’s all I wanted to know. To all who need untethered encouragement. Here it is.