I’ve lost count of the heartbreaking stories I’ve heard from women and children in my years of working and doing ministry with them. As much as it hurts, the day they stop breaking my heart is the day I quit doing ministry. In these stories the question inevitably comes up, “How could a good God allow this to happen?”
It’s an ancient question with an even older answer that began in a garden. The truth is, the pain of some of these stories is just so overwhelming that goodness and love have become completely foreign. Scriptures like, “So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6) feel like a knife to the heart.
Man can do a lot.
I admit I’ve thought, on more than one occasion, that God is a terrible helper. Where was the help when I was a little girl crying out for Him to do something while I was being abused? What kind of help did He give when I begged Him to save my marriage only to have my (now ex) husband admit he tricked me into marrying him? Where was the help when I prayed for guidance about where to invest money, received what I believed was a clear answer, only to have it all lost when I followed what seemed to be clear guidance?
Life can be heartbreaking. Life has a way of sweeping you off of your feet and leaving you flat on your back without any breath in your lungs. Sometimes scriptures feel more like salt than a salve on the wounds and we’re left wondering, what now?
I’m learning that my lack of understanding must not, and cannot, dictate the truth of who God is. What happens in my life, no matter how heartbreaking, does not and cannot change the character of the God who created me. No amount of failure from others around me can change the promises God has made me... and you.
The Lord is my helper, and I’m learning that He helps me in the whispers, the subtle shifts of light in the midst of darkness, and the song in an ever expanding choking silence. An unsuspecting visit from a friend I miss dearly who whispers in my ear in the midst of a hug, “God’s got you sweetheart.” The quiet wind chime as I read a book on the porch on a warm afternoon. The sound of someone’s voice reading a scripture aloud about how nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:31-39).
Even a good smelling flower, or the surprise of honeysuckle in the middle of the woods, or the lapping of the lake on the shore as the sun sets on the horizon. He helps me to breathe when life is squeezing breath out of me. He helps me to be still and settle when I start to panic. He reminds me that just as he tells the water to go no farther, He has control over how much pain and suffering can come at me. And what does come today has purpose for tomorrow.
I will not fear because I know the one who is in control is good. Very good. I know that He is love. I’m learning to understand what this means on a heart level, but I can stand on the truth of what I know today - He’s sovereign. He lets a lot of things happen that cause Him pain, but for those willing to trust Him and walk it out with Him He’ll also make good come out of every ounce of suffering.
There are a lot of painful things I’ve been through that God still has me waiting for the good outcome, but a lifetime of waiting is worth the eternity I’ll have for being faithful He’ll come through - even if most of that faith is shaky at best. Faith the size of a mustard seed moves mountains. I can do that. On moments I can’t, I’ll borrow Jesus’ faith and the faith of the faithful around me.
What can man do to me? In the temporal - the things that will end with my final breath - there’s quite a lot man can do. In the eternal, and in the internal, man can only do what I give him permission to do. He can only effect my internal and my eternity if I decide to believe the lies he tells me. If I choose to believe what God says, and who God says He is and I am to Him, man’s words and deeds are but pebbles against a brick wall.
The difficult part is learning how to do this. It’s possible, and I know this because His Word says it’s possible. While I believe I’m far from grasping it entirely myself, I know I’m closer today than I was six months ago. Closer to the truth, closer to the pain, and closer to the joy in the midst of the heartache.
It’s true that heartache is a part of life, but it’s also true that our Lord is a helper in the midst of that pain. He wants to be there. It’s up to us to come to Him, hands up in surrender and hearts laid bare before Him. We have to look for Him, look for the help and be willing to see Him even when the hurt remains when we've seen Him.