“If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.” Psalm 34:18 (The Message)
My parents have had a bad week. They’ve had worse in their almost 50 years of marriage, but this week ranks up there. While the reasons behind why their week has been bad are theirs to tell, I’m here to talk about a different angle of “bad weeks.”
Bad news doesn’t just affect one individual – there is definitely a ripple effect to bad news. When married, it trickles from the person receiving the news to the spouse, their children, and so on.
I have a dear friend whom has traveled a very difficult journey this past year. In fact, she’s coming up on the one year anniversary of the “end” of the journey but really, it was the beginning of her new normal. There were quite a few times when she voiced her frustration about the situation God was allowing their family to walk… and I have to say, this week, I finally get it. Not just sympathetically, but empathetically. I get her raw emotions and I get her pain. Not to the same degree, but I get it.
When my parents texted yesterday with news that piggybacked other disappointing news two days prior, I knew it wasn’t the right time for us to come together. Maybe for other families that would be the very time to connect and draw close, but we are the type of people who need to process. I tend to pull back, pull into myself when hit hard. I don’t turn away from God, but when my emotions are raw and fresh, it’s a more sitting silently in His presence, letting the Holy Spirit speak for me until I catch my breath.
God’s timing is perfect. We were prepared enough to know that we would get either great news or disappointing news sometime this week. So, yesterday morning, I asked God to give my parents an extra special hug… to let them know He was right there with them, even before we knew today would be the day we found out. After I received their text, I knew He was who they needed to hear from so I prayed again, asking God to comfort them, give them wisdom, peace and hope. I responded through texts throughout the evening to check on them, but it wasn’t the time for actual conversation… not yet.
It just so happened my Bible study group was meeting that afternoon. God’s timing… not mine because I’m not the type of person who reaches out for others when hit with whammies. So… my friends rallied around me and let me talk. I shared my fears, I shared my unwavering trust in God and I shared my raw emotions. I cried, I laughed and I received valuable insight and advice. And I felt reassured.
You see… God provides community for a reason. I hope I was able to be that community to my friend during her difficult journey just like my Bible study was able to be that community for me during the disappointment my parents’ received this week. Because let’s face it, while they are walking the actual journey, as their child, I’m on their journey, too, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I don’t want them to walk alone anymore than they would want me to walk alone if it was my news instead. God has given them a wonderful community of believers, a small group from their church, who has committed to doing life together. And, God has built up a community of friends for me, too.
Today, after time to let God speak to me individually and reassure me of His promises, I called them. They have hope. God gave them that hug I asked for Him to give. Reassurance and encouragement I couldn’t give yesterday, but He could and He did. Guess what source God used? Someone in their circle of friends. Someone who has walked this journey already and is a little farther ahead. Someone who can empathize because he knows. And sometimes, as much as we wish we could, the one who can encourage and help the most is not family. Instead, it’s someone in our bigger family – the family of believers.
I wrote this today to encourage those of you going through journeys of your own or with friends or family members. A person’s journey does not just affect them. It affects the whole family. Always, your first and most important job is to ask God to give those you love a hug… because while our hugs are well intentioned, they are imperfect. God’s hugs, though, hit the mark every time. As my friend reassured me yesterday, I’m not God. While my role is to support and encourage and most of all, pray, God is the One who supplies exactly what is needed, when it’s needed. His answers may not immediately take the journey away, but He always lets us know He’s right there, carrying us through the journey as long as we ask to see Him.
© Cheri Swalwell 2016