When I first moved away from home, one of the things my Mama would do close to my birthday was to call me the night before my birthday and say, “22 years ago right now we were on our way to the hospital!” Or “25 years ago about right now, that mean old nurse was yelling at me to breathe.” And then one year, Mama said, “When you were born, you didn’t cry. I looked at your Daddy and the doctor and said, ‘WHY ISN’T MY BABY CRYING?!’ Then suddenly, you started screaming and YOU’VE NEVER STOPPED!”
We laughed that night, and I’ve laughed every time I’ve thought of it since. And while we laugh, it’s really true. I’ve always been nervous, fretful, and uptight. I’ve never handled challenges or change gracefully. And while I rarely publically vocalize my distress, I’m told that I don’t hide it very well. Basically, if I’m stressed, it shows in everything from my face to my voice to how hard I kick the copier when it doesn’t behave according to my wishes. (Thankfully, I usually only manhandle inanimate objects…) When I’m upset, people may pretend not to notice, but it’s pretty obvious.
God sent Susan into my life – well, He allowed our paths to cross. Now, I know that Susan isn’t perfect. But truly, I thank God for the example she’s been to me. You see, one crisp evening last October, while Susan’s six and 11-year-old daughters were playing in a pile of leaves in front of their house, they were struck by a car and went to live with Jesus in Heaven. I didn’t know Susan at that time, and I can’t imagine the rollercoaster that she, her husband, and the rest of their family went through during that time. But in the weeks afterward, when I met Susan and began to get to know her family, though I’ve seen sadness, it has been sadness with hope. Though I’ve seen tears, they have been joy-filled tears. And though I see how much Susan and Tom miss their daughters, they are wrapped in an unfathomable peace. I’ve known people who have lost one child in an accident, who twenty-five years later were still angry at God. But Susan and Tom have taken this immense tragedy in their lives and allowed God to make it into an incredible testimony. The analogy comes to mind of stained glass – that there was breaking, but God put the pieces back together and shines through it so beautifully.
That’s a peace I want. Joy. Hope.
The Bible says that with the Holy Spirit’s help, we have peace, joy, and healthy relationships with Him and others. (That’s Romans 14:17, my paraphrase)
And that’s where we come back to our discussion of Francis Chan’s “Forgotten God.” Chan says, “When we exhibit the peace that surpasses the world’s understanding, that’s when the world notices. That’s when people say, ‘Your Lord – He is God!’”
I’ve been a lot like Naomi. Remember her? She was a supporting character in the book of Ruth. She was Ruth’s bitter mother-in-law who, after her husband and sons had died, decided that God had forgotten her and took off wandering to find home. Naomi didn’t have peace. But God was faithful to her anyway, and over time, He restored to her a family with all of the love and provision she could ever need.
I identify with Naomi. When I’ve gone through challenges in my life, I’ve often seen those challenges not as character-building opportunities, but as evidence that God doesn’t love me as well as He loves people whom I perceive to be less challenged than I. But the truth is that we’re all challenged. We don’t get to choose the challenges. We just get to choose how we handle the challenges. We don’t get to choose whether there is breaking in our lives – just whether we will let His light shine through us.
And lest I forget that, God has sent Susan and Tom to remind me.
This post is part of a weekly discussion on Francis Chan’s book, “Forgotten God.” You do NOT have to be reading the book to participate in the discussion! If you have written a response to today’s chapter, feel free to link it up at the widget below. And make sure to go visit my co-facilitator, Jason Stasyszen, at Connecting to Impact, to see what he has to say.