“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. (Jeremiah 29:11)
I was on my way home when I saw it. There, in the sky. It was cloudy and overcast; but, just ahead, glorious rays of sunshine broke through the clouds, shining down on the earth. When I was a child, I was told those rays were windows from Heaven, places from where God and our lost loved ones watched over us. Today, the clouds were thick and although they attempted to cover up the sun; the bright light cut through the clouds and cast down to the earth.
The clouds couldn’t contain that glorious sun.
It had been a pretty rough morning. I dropped my kids at school. There were sniffles and sneezes, tears and anxiety. One child was getting over a cold and the other was worried about the upcoming school day. It was an emotionally charged morning at our house; but we stumbled through it, and got out the door. It was hard, sending my kids out into the world when neither of them wanted to go. It was one of those mornings when as their Mom, I wanted to allow them to stay home and snuggle on the couch all day; however, as their loving Mother, I needed to push them a little bit. The cold was near its end and the anxiety was unwarranted; but they had to figure that out on their own. As much as I wanted to protect them; like a mother bird pushing her littles out of the nest, I bid them farewell and told them I loved them as they got out of the car and went to school.
It was hard. I felt guilty. Would my son feel okay as the day progressed? Would my daughter stop worrying long enough to enjoy her day? Part of me wanted to go back and get them but I knew that wouldn’t have helped them. My son was fine. He had no fever and his cold was almost gone, just a lingering stuffy nose; but nothing he couldn’t work through. He was starting a new quarter and he needed to be in school. He also needed to learn that sometimes, you have to do things you don’t want to do, when you don’t feel like doing them. My daughter was going to be fine as well. She was worried about a few activities going on at school that day. She was nervous about doing something in front of her peers. I felt bad for her. I related to her feelings. Still, she had to learn that she was strong enough to get through it and that it wasn’t going to be as bad as she thought. She might even be proud of herself when it was over. The only way the two of them were going to learn those lessons was if they went out there and experienced it. They would both come home tonight, lessons learned, and be stronger for it. At least that was what I told myself as I choked back that Mom guilt.
It was hard to watch my children go through their struggles, even through the small ones. As much as I wanted to jump in and fix it for them and to smooth out their paths; I had to allow them to experience it. They had to walk through it and be sharpened by it; for it was the only way they would learn the lesson buried within it. Sometimes, my children were probably angry with me or felt like I abandoned them; but, really, I was doing what was best for them. They just didn’t see it. I never wished my kids any harm. I didn’t want them to have difficulties. But, these difficulties they faced paled in comparison to the difficulties they would face as they grew older. If they couldn’t handle working through a cold or stepping out of their comfort zones now, they would have a much harder time later when they grew up and had to navigate the real world.
I thought about how my children must have questioned my actions this morning.
Isn’t this how we questioned God sometimes too?
We fell on hard times and wondered why? We felt like God had forgotten about us, like God was being cruel; and we often got angry at Him too. We didn’t want to “go to school on our sick days” or “step out of our comfort zones” either. We wanted God to fix it for us or rescue us from it. When Our Father ‘forced us to go to school’, we were miserable and fearful and angry.
We thought He didn’t care.
We thought He was punishing us.
We thought He couldn’t possibly love us.
When really, as we complained and cried and whined…
He, too, was making us “get out of the car and go to school”.
We had to walk that walk. We had to push through the pain, the fear, the sadness,…whatever it was…because there was a lesson in it. Through our suffering, we grew more confident, more adaptable, and more faithful.
We bent…but we never broke.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)
God didn’t set us up to fail so that we would feel badly about ourselves. Maybe He wanted us to push harder so we realized our potential. Maybe He wanted us to be humbled so that we wouldn’t become too prideful. Maybe He wanted us to succeed in something else and failing was the only way we would change course.
God didn’t set us up to suffer in vain. Maybe He wanted us to learn perseverance. Maybe He needed us to learn to rely on His strength and not our own. Maybe He wanted us to learn compassion and empathy for others. Maybe our greatest blessings would come through our greatest sufferings.
God didn’t want us to fear. Maybe He wanted us to learn to prepare. Maybe He wanted us to think through decisions more carefully. Maybe He wanted us to learn to put our trust in Him and not the world. Maybe He wanted us to learn to take risks because a future risk would lead us to something wonderful later in life.
God was good, all the time; even, when we didn’t see it.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, I could have turned away from God. I could have felt like God turned away from me. I could have felt like God was punishing me. I could have curled up in a ball on the couch and wallowed in my own misery. Instead, I clung to my faith. I relied on God’s love and promises. I asked God to give me strength to fight this disease. Yes, I was terrified. I was scared of chemo. I was scared of losing my hair. I was scared of surgery. I was scared of radiation…but I knew I could get through it with His strength … I did, and I continued to do so. I learned that God was so much more faithful than I realized. I learned that I am much stronger than I thought I was. I learned that I had more support from my loved ones than I could have imagined. I would have never known any of that had I not gone through it. Cancer was evil and although I wished I never had to deal with it, I didn’t regret learning the lessons God taught me through this walk. Cancer didn’t define me, that’s for sure; but, having cancer had brought me even closer to God and cancer made me stronger and braver than I ever thought possible. Having cancer was so very dark sometimes; but, God’s love has cut through that darkness and warmed my heart with those glorious rays I saw this morning.
My son couldn’t see past his runny nose. He grabbed tissues and cough drops on his way out the door. He imagined himself feeling yucky all day and grumbled about having to go to school. He didn’t realize that once he got there and was able to focus on other things, he would feel better. He would learn that he was more able than he thought and that he was capable of ‘toughing it out’. My daughter couldn’t see past the one event at school that day that had her so worried. She didn’t realize that it was just a small part of her day and that it wasn’t quite the big deal she had built it up to be. She would learn that those butterflies in her stomach would make her do better. She would learn that her confidence would increase and that she would feel pride in her work when it was over. She would learn that she was stronger than she thought and that she was capable of ‘fighting through her fears’.
But they wouldn’t have learned any of those things if they hadn’t experienced them.
They wouldn’t have learned any of those things if I had let them stay home.
As their Mom, I always had their best intentions at heart.
…even when they didn’t see it…
and Our Father does too.
Sometimes, God brought us things we didn’t want. Sometimes, God asked of us things we didn’t like. Some weren’t so bad and some were seemingly insurmountable. In those times of pain and suffering, we needed to remember that none of our suffering was ever in vain. God had a plan and although we may have suffered greatly in this world, it was all for good, in the end, according to His plan. It didn’t mean He didn’t love us. It didn’t mean He didn’t care.
He pushed us sometimes.
He forced us out of our comfort zones.
It wasn’t always easy.
Sometimes, it was near impossible.
But if you stopped complaining…
and you stopped worrying …
just long enough to get out of the car and go to school…
God’s light would cut right through the darkest of your days …
and you just might learn something.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you or forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)