Lately, many people I love have been going through difficult situations in their lives.
I have two friends who are walking through a process of finding out why their children are struggling socially and developmentally. Is it a degree of autism? They don't know yet. But the possibility is frightening. They are going through a time of grief. They feel so alone.
I have another friend who recently lost a father, who was an anchor in her and her family's lives. And another which is remembering her baby on what would have been his second birthday.
My mother-in-law had shoulder surgery yesterday and is in a lot of pain. She is in another state, and I wish I could have been there to help take her back to the emergency room last night. And an uncle's dog, who is so dear to him, is going through cancer treatment. A couple of friends, no three, are battling cancer.
Some of my friends are going through marriage difficulties. Others are making difficult choices in their lives concerning their relationships with extended family members.
A neighbor lost his job two days before his wife had a baby last week. And a couple of other neighbors are struggling with unemployment also, which is pretty difficult in a place where everything is so expensive.
And though my heart is going out to all of these people, I am struggling with my own family's difficulties. I really want to support those around me, but it's hard to do when I'm already feeling overwhelmed. But I can pray for them. I can give them an encouraging word. I can be sensitive to help, when I can and how I can. But I can't do as much as I'd like.
My tendency as a mother is to keep people, especially my family, from pain. I want people to be happy. I want to keep them from difficulty. I want my kids to live a life that is perfect, pleasant, and nice. But is that right? If I look at my own life, the most difficult times produced the most growth. Pain and suffering drew me to God in a way that ease and plenty did not. Of course, I like good times more, and they certainly point me to the goodness of God. But there's something about struggle that orders the priorities in my life. When I've lost someone I loved, I've understood the value of life and the importance of working on relationships while I can. When I've struggled financially, I've learned that there are more important things than a fat bank account, and that God will supply all my needs. When my children have difficult times emotionally, I've learned grace and unconditional love. When I feel alone, I reach out to the only One who is always there with me.
I can't do all I want to do to help my family and friends. I can't take away all suffering in this world. I'll do what I can to be there for people, but I need to learn that the rest is God's responsibility. He knows what is best because he knows the beginning and the end. He knows us better than we know ourselves. And I need to trust that He will show me what is my responsibility, what is others', and what is His. I'm still learning. But He's a pretty good teacher, even if I don't always appreciate being taught in the School of Hard Knocks.