I’ve heard parents say it’s harder to trust God with their children than to trust Him with themselves. I don’t have children, but I do know it’s often harder for me to trust God with other people than with myself.
When I know He has been faithful to meet me in my own hard places, why do I worry when others go through theirs? Why do I want to rescue those I love from their own challenges?
Part of this is healthy and good. God cares. God rescues. God does what he can to help. And as his image-bearers in whom he dwells, we are meant to do likewise.
But lately I’ve found myself shifting from a healthy caring to an anxious, compulsive stance which doesn’t help either me or the people for whom I care. It doesn’t get Dad into a specialist’s clinic more quickly, nor help the teenage boy and his three younger sisters so frightened by the recent bomb in their Kabul neighborhood.
I know my anxiety is neither necessary nor helpful. But in the hours when it hits, I don’t always remember how to let the anxiety go. So I’ve been going back to basics, reminding myself of these time-tested helps again:
1. Breathe. We’re bodies and souls intertwined. And our gracious and creative God has equipped us with some built-in physical ways to help us calm ourselves. I find it most helpful to breathe out first, as slowly and deeply as I can, and then slowly breathe in. Breathe out, letting cares slip into the hands of God, and breathe in, receiving his grace and his peace.
2. Look up. Walk in nature and soak in the goodness of the One who created and sustains it. I am (thankfully!) not God. And I don’t have to pretend to be, because the loving, powerful, kind God—the God who creates such beauty out of emptiness and chaos—is with us.
3. Sing. My current favorite is “Be still and know that I am God” with its echoing response, “In thee, O Lord, I put my trust.” The music is calming, the words bring my attention back where it belongs, and singing keeps me breathing deeply without thinking about it.
4. Sit quietly with the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, bringing all your fears and grief and unknowing into the presence of the One who knows and loves you, knows and loves those you love, and welcomes you to come as you are and find rest. Honestly? Sometimes it takes me a while to come. As often as I’ve come anxious or sad and experienced God’s grace, when I feel the emotions again it’s easy for me to slip back into feeling like I should be able to “fix” them, to feel differently, rather than to bring them again to God. But those critical thoughts are mine, not God’s. He welcomes us to come, again and again—come as children, come tired, come hungry and thirsty, come any time we need grace. Come just as we are. He wants my honesty, the real me, not the me I think I should be.
5. Remember: As hard as some of my own hard places have been, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss them, because it has been in those places that I’ve encountered God most deeply and learned by heart his gentle care. I can trust that this same God will meet and care for those I love in their own hard places. When those I love are on my mind, I can bring them back to the One who so loves that He entered our suffering to carry us through into His life. He is with me. He is with those I love. Right in the middle of whatever is going on.
6. Review the verses you’ve heard more than a few times if you’ve hung around here for any length of time, verses that have usually comforted me with the promise of God carrying me, but now remind me that God also carries those I love, and will keep carrying them. Forever.
“Listen to me, family of Jacob,
everyone that’s left of the family of Israel1.
I’ve been carrying you on my back
from the day you were born,
And I’ll keep on carrying you when you’re old.
I’ll be there, bearing you when you’re old and gray.
I’ve done it and will keep on doing it,
carrying you on my back, saving you.” (Is 46:3-4, The Message)
We are safe, friends, even when life isn’t smooth. We are held. Carried. Tended. As are those we love.
1. All of us who are in Christ are now also part of the family of Israel. (eg. Gal 3:29, Rom 11:17-18 and 24, Eph 2:12-13)