I was never more aware of the possibility of bad things happening than when I had my daughter, Heidi. Before her, I always knew I was at risk. We all are. Car accidents, illnesses, people hurting us…some days we’re more aware of it than others. Other days we find ourselves in the thick of it. But something in me was ok with the idea that I personally would eventually have to deal with one or more of those things. Or at least the threat of it didn’t seem so great.
Not so with Heidi. I still check on her in the middle of the night to make sure she is ok. I will probably do that until she turns 18.
In the past few months, I’ve seen friends wrestle with things no one in their worst nightmare would want to deal with. Abuse. Cancer. Death. There have been days I’ve cried to God in my prayers, “Why? Don’t you even care? Are we just here until we die while you watch us suffer?” It seemed He was indifferent, and I was offended He had the audacity to plop us here on this planet and watch us walk amongst its beauty and ruins, blindly trying to avoid injury and pain. It makes me painfully aware that I could someday find myself or my daughter or my husband walking through similar painful circumstances.
I’ll be the first to admit I have so much to be thankful for. Especially lately, when I’ve taken steps to make sure I’m thankful every single day, even for something as simple as warm coffee in my cup. I used to think listing everything I was thankful for was prideful, maybe even bragging. How dare I thank God, with reverence, for something as simple as coffee when life holds so much heartache? But the more I thank, the more I realize it is actually humbling. To thank God for things as huge and tiny and simple as a healthy family, soft carpets on the floor, a warm bath and twinkling lights on the tree is to acknowledge that I am surrounded by His gifts. None of it is in my life of my own accord. And to acknowledge that is to also acknowledge that each and every one could be taken away at any time. This adds so much depth to our gratitude. It’s not simply saying thanks. It’s saying, “Thank you for this in this very moment, for I realize it means You have placed it there and that it may not be here tomorrow.” It’s creating an appreciation in our hearts for the life and space we inhibit. It squelches the regret of our past and the anxiety for our future. It builds God’s goodness into us.
So why, with all these blessings surrounding me, do I sometimes still demand an explanation from God for the bad things? Why do I terrify myself with thoughts of “what if?” and questioning whether He will be there to help me in my time of need? Do I really expect Him, in this world of free will, to keep me in a bubble until my death? Do I expect things to be black and white and so simple in order that I might feel better about having more kids in this messed up world?
The Type A part of my brain cringes at the idea that I may forever have to wrestle with God to answer the question “why?” Because why would I so gladly (and sometimes too quickly and greedily) snatch up His blessings, but balk at Him when something awful happens? The first is a reaction of trust (“of COURSE He wants me to have this!!” and the second is an attitude of complete distrust (certainly God you don’t want me to walk through this dark valley? Are you aware of what is happening? Are you shirking your duty of protecting me?”).
I read something today that made me realize God is not the One I should be wrestling with. It’s the world. God isn’t messed up. The world is. God isn’t broken. We are. God is not fickle or shady or untrustworthy. I should not choose to fight with God. I should choose to fight for love…for gratitude and humbleness and teaching my daughter values and insisting we honor God in our home. I should fight to know Jesus more, fight to live a good life, fight to trust His promises when the “earth gives way and falls into the heart of the sea,” fight to keep my feet on God’s narrow path of goodness and peace. I’m glad God uses the word “fight” in the bible. It emphasizes He knew it would be just that: a struggle requiring strength only He can give us.
I struggle to trust God loves my daughter more than I do. I struggle to trust He will work out His plan in the bad things that happen to us or to those I love. And sometimes I even struggle to see the good, the beautiful, and the amazing in our sometimes mundane life.
But it’s a worthy struggle, one that bears the fruit of peace. And in this messed up world, peace is often hard to come by.
Christ, He doesn’t reveal the outcome of what we face, but He reveals to us the face we face. This is the gift of Christmas that flickers in the pitch black. -Ann Voskamp