I once had answers for every situation. It felt good to evaluate people’s dumb decisions and check a box on my mental list as to why they ended up in a bad place. I knew what they should’ve done differently.
I recalled my former naïveté in a chat with my husband, Tom. I recognized how much I’ve changed and what the Lord has taught me through life experiences. Tom speculated about a lifelong friend as to why his life had taken the turn it had. “Why hasn’t his life turned out the way we hoped it would?” Tom faced me with a quizzical look. “We can’t figure it all out. There are so many variables—life is uncertain.” I was a little surprised by my answer.
I used to know everything, or at least thought I did. Of course, I would never have said that, but when I look back I realize I acted as if I had all the answers. I thought most outcomes could be determined by choices; that things would work out if we behaved and worked hard. Choices and actions are important and they make a big difference. But we have to acknowledge that we live in a fallen world. Everything does not make sense. We live in a universe that we can’t control.
I’ve had a lot to learn in the compassion and humility departments.
Years ago, I probably would’ve had answers as to why our friend hasn’t achieved the things we expected. I’d have known what he should’ve done to be successful.
Before I had children, I’d hear screaming mamas and kids in the grocery store. I’d roll my eyes in judgement. I could tell that mama what to do to make her kids behave. A parenting expert without children—that’s what I was.
I had suggestions when a friend suffered from depression. I truly cared for her, but I didn’t understand her inability to stay in a good mood. She needed to get involved with other people and get her mind off herself. I wanted her to snap out of it.
Somewhere along the way, the teacher called Life came into play. Bad things happened to me. My husband decided to leave. The baby I was carrying when he left had serious disabilities.
When my daughter was three I dragged her to a revival, several hours away, with a well known speaker who was known for faith healing. The only thing needed from me was to really believe Dawn would be healed. Believe, I did! In my mind, I could see her to talk and engage with people around her. Sadly, the miracle I wanted didn’t happen. It still hasn’t happened all these years later.
My daughter wasn’t healed and I was painfully disappointed. Then, other troubles came upon my family. There were some very hard seasons.
As I look back, I have a different perspective than I did when I knew it all. I see all of the troubles and heartaches I’ve experienced, as a gift of sorts. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t wish that gift on other people, and I don’t want to re-do those experiences. But they’ve begun to mold me into what I wanted from the very beginning. Christlikeness. I’ve seen the process over and over in other people. I honestly wonder if Christians ever change and grow without the trials that beat up against us. I tend to think they are a necessary part of life.
These days, I say, “I don’t know” often. I’ve experienced visceral pain for friends who are in hard situations. Desperately praying, I carry them close to my heart. I remind them of my thoughts and prayers. What else can I do?
Why did I need to have answers for everyone? Frankly, it was probably fear. If I could figure out how to create positive outcomes then I’d be able to avoid my own pain, which seemed like a good idea. I’m a chicken when it comes to pain.
A favorite phrase reminds me of God’s sovereignty and my devotion to Him.
The certainty that I do not know—that is the secret of going with Jesus.
I’m closer to God and trust in His miraculous power more than ever. The way He’s blessed my life and answered so many desires—especially my Tom—has humbled me. I pray each day for impossible things to happen in the lives of people I care about, and some people I don’t even know. I continue to pray for a miracle for my daughter, Dawn.
I try my best to focus on Him and allow His Presence to overshadow the bad things that happen in this earthly life. Horrible things like young people dying and parents of small children taking their own lives.
I’m a more grateful person now. I’m looking for beauty in the moments; things I overlooked or minimized for so long.
I see folks now through a lens of compassion. Especially the ones I would have labeled weird or scary in earlier decades. They’re the ones who I imagine have suffered the most. Because they’re still standing on their own two feet, they’re special kinds of heroes.
I know far less than I used to know, but I’ve relinquished my life (a little) more freely to the One Who Knows Everything. And He is Wholly Good.
“Faith must be tested, because it can be turned into a personal possession only through conflict. … Faith is unutterable trust in God, trust which never dreams that He will not stand by us.”