I recently read a book in which the author asked me to write down the answers to these four questions (you should do it too):
1. What is the worst thing that could happen?
2. So what if that comes true?
3. So what happens because of that?
4. So what happens because of that?
Take a minute. Write them down or make a note in your phone. It’s very telling.
When you reach the end of the ‘so what happens,’ there lies your greatest fear, the one that keeps you in bondage. When you can name that, consider this:
5. Would God be enough for your greatest fear?
It’s not hard for me to come up with the answers to those questions.
1. We lose our daughter
2. My heart would be broken
3. I would miss her and I’m not sure I can handle the pain
4. I would be sad for the rest of my life, and it would be hard for me to be anything but sad.
So there’s my biggest fear. I am afraid of being sad and being unable to be anything but sad.
I know every parent fears losing a child. It’s the worst thing we can imagine. And I know that at any moment I could lose any of my children. It’s different, though, when doctors tell you that you will lose this child because of a terminal diagnosis. It’s not a matter of if, but when. It’s a different kind of fear. It’s a day-to-day dealing with the fact that I love this child with every part of me, but there is a very real possibility that I may have to let go.
I held her a little longer last night. Sometimes I hold her and smell her and think I never want to forget this moment. My husband asked why I was crying and laughing with her at the same time. It’s because I know that I love her so much that it actually hurts. Joy and pain intermingling. Sometimes it’s an excruciating place to live—-between loving so deeply and knowing that it could end. But the beautiful part of it is that I know I’ve experienced a deep love. And I can be grateful for that. The kind that I think can only be found in brokenness, in mourning, in fighting for every little thing.
You probably are not in the same situation, but I am sure there is something that you deeply fear losing.
I spent yesterday asking God, “Will you be enough? Will I be OK if my worst fear is realized?”
And the agonizing answer was yes. God reminded me how he has been enough for me, living with my daughter’s terminal diagnosis, and He will be enough for me every day, no matter what comes. If I let Him. That’s been the key for me. He is enough for me when I allow him to be. When I ask Him to be.
If I try to carry my pain on my own, it’s messy and ugly. But I have to believe that no matter what comes my way, He will be enough and He can be trusted. I have to believe that. Our lives roll along and sometimes we get thrown a curve ball. That curve ball doesn’t define us. But what we do next can. In my experience, I’ve realized that I choose whether I trust God in each situation. I choose trust or fear. I also get to choose my perspective–to look for the goodness, or to stay worried and angry.
But the even cooler part is that it is God who makes our hardest things good. Not just OK and smoothed over, but He promised us that he would cause all things to work together for our good if we love him and we are called according to his purpose. He makes all those curve balls good for us. If we allow it. I think that’s why he added the qualifier “to those who love him and are called according to his purpose.” Because we all know that we can choose bitterness and anger and worry, which are places where it’s really hard for beautiful things to grow.
I’ve noticed something different about people who truly trust God. Their core identity is different from everyone else in the world. They are free to live and love and be in a way that makes people pay attention. When you meet someone like that, you just know. I remember when I was a teenager, I was flying with my parents. The plane was dropping and shifting and bouncing all over the sky. I was white-knuckling the arm rests and reminding myself to breathe. My mom was reading a book, unfazed. I asked her, “How can you not be scared, Mom?” She answered me, “I trust God.”
I asked, “But what if we die?!?”
She responded, “I trust God with that too.”
She didn’t give me stats about plane safety or weather conditions or probabilities. It was just that she trusted God with our lives. I will never forget that. Her life is defined by trusting God. It is the core of who she is, so she doesn’t worry about life and death. What a revolutionary way to live.
No more fear
And you know what the truth is? Just because some doctors say my child will have a short life does not make it so. The power of life and death is in God’s hands. She could grow up to be an old woman, and I don’t want to look back on my life and say, “Well, I sure wasted a lot of good days fearing death.” That would be a waste of a gift. That would be a stain on a miracle. I don’t want to do that. What does life look like, then, when we remove even our biggest fears from the equation? If fear is no longer holding us in bondage, then how would our lives look different? It seems to me, it is then that God sets us totally free. I know it’s possible, but it has to be a lifelong journey toward fully trusting God to be enough. Day by day, moment by moment, thought by thought. No more fear.
I took the oxygen tubing out of my daughter’s nose and carefully lifted the medical tape, which had held it in place through the night, from her cheek. I lifted it as slowly as I could, the way I removed a bandaid from my own arm when I was little. I can remember that clearly—every tug on every hair hurt, and I’d lift it as slowly as humanly possible. And even though my dad would recommend ripping it off fast, I couldn’t help but lift it slowly, carefully. Because the thought of “ripping off the bandaid” just sounded like it would hurt a whole lot more.
I was careful, too, with my daughter’s cheek. Slowly, careful not to hurt her skin or get any of her long, blonde hair caught in the tape, I pulled it, watching her expression to make sure she didn’t wince.
I have a choice every morning—to rip off the medical tape quickly and move on with our routine, or to do lift it slowly, with lovingkindness and extra care.
This morning in particular, she looked at me with especially trusting eyes. And I saw something there.
She lives in a posture of complete and total trust toward me.
She trusts me to take care of every one of her needs. Because the fact is that she cannot feed herself or dress herself. She cannot stand up. She cannot speak. She trusts me to do all of those things for her.
And she also trusts me to not hurt her.
To be gentle with her when I lift tape off of her cheek. To care for her with lovingkindness. To watch her expressions and to be aware of how she is feeling. To do my best to minimize the pain in whatever way I can.
She trusts me to gently pull her shirt over her head. To brush her hair with care.
She trusts me to do that because she knows I love her.
She depends on me to take care of her basic needs. But she also trusts me to do it carefully. Why does she trust me to do that? Because she is confident that I love her. We have a relationship. And in that relationship, I have proven to her that I care about her well-being and I am most careful with her. So when it comes to my interaction with her, what does she have to fear?
God is also careful with us
There’s a difference between someone who cares for you because it’s their job and someone who cares for you because they love you. And you can feel the difference, can’t you? There’s also a big difference between someone who helps you out of obligation and duty and someone who helps you because they care about your well being. You know it when you see it. You know it when you feel it.
That look in her eyes moved me. That look of complete trust and total dependence… that is also what God has also planned for me in relation to him.
I’m reminded of this verse from the Bible that says,
“Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.”
The Amplified version of the same verse says,
“Cast all your cares [all your anxieties, all you worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection and watches over you carefully].” (I Peter 5:7)
Have you ever felt cared for in that way? Is someone in your life careful with their words toward you? Are they careful with you physically? Do they pay careful attention to your feelings, expressions and emotions, and adjust as necessary? It feels good to be treated carefully.
How does it feel to know that God, the creator of the universe, the creator of your body and soul, is also careful with you?
I hope it makes you feel loved.
What about when it hurts?
Let’s talk, also, about another side of this care. Because we do hurt and that can be confusing in this context. Let me offer an example.
Sometimes I have to do things that my daughter doesn’t like. I know they are painful for her, but they are necessary for her very life. I have to change her feeding tube button every three months. It is a piece of rubber that goes directly into her stomach. I have to remove the old one and insert the new one. At home! The first time I did it, my hands shook visibly. I hate doing it. I’m certain she hates it too. But without it, she would not be able to eat. This is a painful necessity that ultimately causes goodness in her life. The important point here is that I would not do it to her and for her unless it was totally necessary for her well being. Frankly, it is painful for both of us.
Sometimes a good parent has to do things that might cause pain in the short term because they know they are necessary for the child’s very life, or at least for their well-being in the long run. And so it is with our heavenly Father. I know that he allows pain in our lives because he knows that it is necessary for our well-being and for goodness to develop in us. And I believe it is often painful for him to watch. Did you know that the Bible says that He collects our tears in a bottle? He cares about your pain. Every single tear, even. That is tender care. That is lovingkindness.
How about you?
What pain are you going through right now? Could it be necessary to create goodness for you? To soften you? To redirect you? To lead you to a real relationship with God? Your Heavenly Father is a good father. He does not leave you alone in your pain. He does not allow your pain to be wasted. There is purpose in it. I know it may be hard, even impossible to see right now, but is it possible for you to make a shift in the way you see God and see yourself in relation to him?
I believe there is a shift that occurs in a human when they truly see themselves as loved. Do you know that that is your identity?
If you are nothing else, you are one who is fully loved.
In my experience, most people do not fully believe this, or they do not live from this place. I know this because they hustle around, looking for validation from other people. Demanding respect. Proving their worth. Creating ways to derive love from people around them because they don’t believe or accept that they are already fully and completely loved by God.
If you truly believe that you are loved, and that God is most careful with you, how would that change they way you live?
If you truly believe that God is love, and that He can cause every single thing that has happened to you to turn into something good, how would that change the way you respond?
If you truly believe that God is chasing after you with goodness and mercy every day of your life, how would it change the degree to which you trust Him?
If you live as one who is loved, how would your life change today?
God is careful with you, and you can depend on Him
In the same way that my daughter trusts me, we can live in full dependence on God. For all of our needs. For all of our hurts. To take care of our emotions. To take care of the big things and the small things. And to be careful with us.
He is a careful caregiver because of his profound love for us.
Our part involves trusting Him and believing He is good. If we can master that, we can live a life free of fear and worry. A truly carefree life. A life of joy and freedom.
The next time it feels like the proverbial tape is being removed from your cheek, remember this: God’s strong hand is on you…He is most careful with you. You are in good hands because you are loved.
You can get in touch with Kerry at firstname.lastname@example.org