This morning I am thankful to be living in the calm that comes after the storm. Because October was a very stormy month. Not the kind that brings needed rain, the kind that brings relentless turmoil.
In early October we tore up our patio for an outdoor renovation project.
And then two days later my 14-year-old son severely broke his leg in a soccer collision, resulting in a 2 day hospital stay and extensive casting and rehabilitation.
Ten days after Jordan’s injury, one of my closest friend’s had a single mastectomy. Holly is a single mom of an amazing daughter with special needs who I absolutely adore. They are not just our friends, they are our family. So I stayed with them for several days following Holly’s surgery to help take care of her and Annie, went back and forth from my house to check on Jordan, and took everyone to doctor appointments. My in-laws were thankfully able to stay at our house, so it all worked. But it was exhausting. I honestly have not been that tired since my boys were newborns.
At the end of one particularly challenging day, a dear friend said, “You know Wendy, God doesn’t give you more than you can handle, but the world sure does.” Exactly.
The world gives us more than we can handle all. the. time. And the phrase “God doesn’t give you more that you can handle” offers very little comfort to people who are buried under the weight of their burdens.
It turns out that over-used phrase doesn’t even actually exist in scripture. I google-ed it. It’s a quote from Mother Theresa. As much as I admire Mother Theresa, it’s bad theology to apply that sentiment to our problems.
Even Paul writes that he reached a point in his life and ministry that he “was under great pressure far beyond his ability to endure” (2 Corinthians 1: 8b).
What scripture teaches us is that as followers of Jesus Christ, we are like fragile jars of clay that hold the all-surpassing power of God within us (2 Corinthians 4:7). “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not is despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8).
So how do we hold on to hope? To joy? To peace? How do we not just survive, but thrive in spite of difficult times?
We “persevere in the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12: 1) by “fixing our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4: 18).
God has taught me through this season of trial is that while the burdens are overwhelming, I find relief and strength when I look away from the gigantic problems before me and look instead at what is unseen. The God who is Comfort when I am afraid. The God who is Clarity when I am confused. The God who is Hope when everything is broken. The God who is Peace when I feel angry. The God who is Courage when everything is uncertain. The God who is Strength when I don’t have any left.
And the most powerful thing about this crazy truth is that while God instructs me to look away from my burdens and towards Him – He doesn’t leave me staring into nothingness. In His mighty love, grace, and compassion – my God shows up through His people. His intercessors.
Throughout the difficult month of October:
God showed up in the people who came to our home and brought cards and goody baskets and get-well wishes to Jordan.
He showed up in the people who brought meals to my family when I was exhausted.
He showed up in the friends who came over to take Jordan trick-or-treating around our neighborhood in his rented wheel-chair.
He showed up in our extended families who came to our home and stayed with us to help however needed.
He showed up in the doctor who looked over his shoulder to see if anyone was watching and then prayed aloud over Holly right before she went into surgery.
He showed up in the numerous people who provided around-the-clock help to Holly and Annie during a three week “no lifting restriction” for Holly following her surgery.
He showed up when my prayer partner – knowing how saddened I felt about not being able to cook for our Monday or Thursday night community dinners – brought a homemade meal on a Thursday for 12 people.
God showed up in a moment of great discouragement when I pulled up in front of my house after being at Holly’s, feeling defeated that I was too tired to cook dinner on an evening that I had asked everyone in my family to be home for dinner and game night. Just as I turned off my car I received a text from a friend at church saying that she’d been thinking of me and had already made a homemade meal for my family that she was bringing over. No one but God knew how I was feeling in that moment, and I believe that the Holy Spirit – who is unseen – moved in the heart of my Christian sister to minister to me. She show me God’s care when I needed it most.
God showed up when I was feeling particularly stretched, and also frustrated at myself for having a distraught moment even though I’m not the one who actually has cancer or broken bones. Again, no one but God knew how I was feeling, and yet my college roommate texted me right then just to tell me that she understands how physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining this season of my life is for me and that she’s praying for me. I cried because reading her text I knew that the God who is unseen sees me. And I’m not left to manage any of my burdens apart from His presence and help.
The world gives us far more that we can handle. But we are never asked or expected to bear it alone.
And so, together, with our friends and family and community – we run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Considering Him who endured relentless opposition. So that we do not grow (or stay) weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12: 1-3).
Because God never promised us that the world will not give us more than we can handle alone. He promised that we don’t have to go through hard things alone. Life gives us more than we can carry all the time. But when we are surrounded by community, other people will be there to help carry the weight.