My alarm sounded.
I reached for my phone groggily, hurrying to silence the noise before it woke David. Burrowed underneath the covers, my eyes adjusted to the screen’s glow. I awoke to all manner of emails and messages that had come my way throughout the night. I don’t make a habit of sorting through my notifications before I get out of bed, but one message in particular caught my eye. It was only one sentence long, but I stared at the screen for what felt like forever trying to process what I had read.
Someone I care about was in a painful situation.
I was rattled for the rest of the day, my mind racing to make sense of it all. This instance and others like it have exposed a similar struggle – personally it is as difficult, if not more difficult, to watch people I love suffer than to walk through the trials myself. Sure, there is a unique pain when the struggle is my own, but it seems preferable to bear it myself than to have a front-row seat to watch those I care about hurt.
Difficulties have a way of stripping away our sense of control. We can’t overturn the diagnosis or mend the relationship or undo the past. But when we watch others walk through difficult seasons, our lack of control is even more evident. Unlike in our own challenges, we can’t decide how he or she will respond to the struggle. Will he run to Jesus in desperation? Will this be the event that causes her to realize her need for God?
Recent circumstances have served as a reminder that God loves my loved ones much more than I do, and He is far more concerned with their ultimate good than I am. My love for my family and friends is real, but it is no match for God’s love for them. I am not more invested in their lives than He is, nor am I more committed to their growth in godliness. As I often run to Scripture to shed light on my own life, I must do the same to gain a sense of perspective concerning the lives of those around me.
God’s faithfulness toward my loved ones is great (Lamentations 3:23). He hears their cries (Psalm 34:17). He can bear the weight of their burdens, and He cares for them (1 Peter 5:7). He is working for the ultimate good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28-29).
If God only gave my loved ones what I prayed for them, they would have easier circumstances, fuller bank accounts, more carefree days, and significantly fewer struggles. If that were the case, though, I’m afraid they would miss out on the privilege of experiencing God as more than enough in the difficult seasons. They wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn that His goodness isn’t contingent on their circumstances. And they wouldn’t enjoy the intimacy with Him that is borne out of hardship.
Ironically, the very thing that has most deepened and enriched my relationship with God – difficulty – is exactly what I try to prevent others from experiencing. But if He is willing and able to work through unlikely circumstances to accomplish His purposes in my life for my good and His glory, can I not trust Him to do the same for my loved ones?
On those days when we wake up to unexpected text messages or get the dreaded phone call, we have a choice to make. Will we fret and fear under the illusion that no one is more concerned for others than we are? Or will we entrust our loved ones to the One who loves them far more than we do? We can cast our cares for those we love on our good Father because He cares for them just like He cares for us.
To that end, it seems fitting to conclude by echoing one of Scotty Smith’s prayers: “[Lord,] thank You for being so honest with us about life this side of the new heaven and new earth. You’re not an on-demand panacea – promising the elimination hardships and heartaches. But You’re a very-present-help – pledging Your presence in every circumstance and trial. Troubling news doesn’t have to cripple our hearts. Indeed, may it carry our hearts to You today, for You are ever-so-trustworthy, Jesus…Jesus, we can trust in You as we trust in God, for You are God – the Son of God and God the Son. We can ‘take heart,’ because You have already overcome the world for us. In the world we will have tribulation, but in You, all the peace we need. So very Amen, we pray, in Your kind and overcoming name.”