I thought I’d handle dropping my son off at college with aplomb, ready to pass the baton on to his Christian college professors and mentors, relieved that he’d made it. I was sure that I’d sail on into the sunset--perhaps with a tinge of sadness when we said goodbye--but then energetic to move on to the next phase. Instead, what I’m feeling these first days and nights home without him is something like death.
I had no idea that the sight of the front porch as we pulled into the drive—the porch where my son and I spent many hours together over the years talking—would send the tears flowing. Then there was the first walk past the open door of his bedroom…more tears. The movie reel of 18 years of memories runs in my head and there is nothing I can do to stop it. I think to myself, “I want life to feel good again, with the surety, strength and stability that we’ve experienced for the last several years. Life was in a great groove, and more than anything, I want that again!” My younger son is feeling the same way. He misses his brother terribly, and that is hard to see.
But I know that as good and wonderful and spectacular as each and every day can be, situations change. Toddlers grow up. People die. Living arrangements transform. And as confident as I am that God walks with me and blesses me in the good times, I need to be just as confident that God walks with me and blesses me in the sad times. As much as He carries the warm, fuzzy and stable moments in His hand, He carries the turbulence, sorrow and melancholy. As much as He imparts Hope for the future, He imparts comfort for when we miss the days gone by.
“This is life,” I keep telling myself. Yet as my nostalgia works its way out through tears, it pales in comparison to what my friend on the other side of town is going through. In the last two weeks, her mother underwent breast cancer surgery and her brother died of cancer. The 73-year old mother, while recovering from her surgery, had to say goodbye to her own 47-year old son. And my friend had to be there for both of them. Saved Christians all, feeling the pain nevertheless.
This is life. We can’t orchestrate all parts of it or dictate how to run time. We often can’t even prepare for events that we know are coming and have known are coming for most of our lives: like our children leaving and our parents dying and our bodies aging. Even though we can see it in the distance, we can’t know pain until we are in it.
Yes, this is life as God allows it. We’re tempted to ask Him, “Why?” and “How could You?” and to just come right out and say “Nobody in their right mind would design things this way!” And I imagine no human ever would. So thank God that God is God. When all is right with the world, thank Him. And when all is not right with the world, thank Him all the same: for His Holy Spirit Counselor, His Word that meets every season, His Son who wipes away our tears now and forever in Heaven, and His Sovereignty. Though our circumstances change, God doesn’t. Though our hearts break, His promises to us never do.
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 43:5
“God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” Psalm 46:1-2
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7