Life is hard. We live in a fallen world and people suffer.
“God’s in control,” says the resolute Christian.
Yes. He is. As Christ followers, we know that there’s nothing outside the realm of God’s all-knowing, all-powerful dominion. But when the dark days come and things are closing in around us, our humanity—our fearful weakness—causes us to crave control.
Here’s the thing. There lies a uniquely ripe opportunity for pebble throwing right smack dab in the middle of ugly suffering. I’d even say that the potential to throw especially powerful and effective pebbles is at an all time high because of suffering. Let’s break this down some more.
I’d like you to meet Jane, Alice, and Rhonda. Three kind, thoughtful, Jesus-loving women.
Jane and Alice are catching up after their Bible study one evening. Jane, who lives a perfectly ordered, peaceful, and pious life, pats the back of Alice, who has just miscarried late in the second trimester of her first pregnancy. Jane quotes Romans 8:28 and assures Alice that God will use this horrible experience for good so there’s hope. “Just fix your eyes on Jesus,” she quips. “This too shall pass.” Alice isn’t sure why, but Jane’s words crash against her heart. They feel heavy and burdensome instead of light and hopeful.
Later that same week, Alice bumps into her friend Rhonda at the grocery store.
photo credit: Anthony Albright
Several years ago, Rhonda lost three babies, each little life ended during the second trimester of pregnancy. As the grieving moms bond in the produce aisle, Rhonda leans into hear Alice’s quiet pain and remembers the hurt. With tears in her eyes, she hugs her tightly. “I know. It hurts. Go ahead and cry. Jesus has your baby. I know because I’ve lost three. I still miss those babies but we will see them one day. You’re going to make it to the other side of this, and it will get better. Just hold onto Jesus and He will walk you through it. One step at a time. One day at a time.”
Consider the impact of scripture-spouting Jane versus how things went with Rhonda. Both women were attempting to throw a pebble of kindness to ripple healing and comfort into Alice’s life. And Jane is right. God takes horrible things and uses them in the lives of those He loves, His children, to bring about His purposes. He does it all the time and it’s an astoundingly beautiful thing.
But Rhonda’s words carried more weight. Not the kind of weight that leaves another feeling heavy and burdened. Her pebbles made deeper ripples in Alice’s heart with greater effect. Rhonda has walked the tightrope of miscarriage and through that nightmare she has earned the right to speak weighty words of hope and significance into Alice’s life.
These are fictional scenarios but the reality is, I miscarried our third child many years ago. Our daughter’s heart stopped beating very late in my second trimester. There were well-meaning, kind people who spoke good words—Biblical words even—that had very little impact on me. Little impact other than making me feel like I wasn’t being hopeful enough. And then there was the call from my friend, Lynn, who had walked the wilderness of multiple miscarriages.
I will never forget my conversation with Lynn. She listened well and we spoke about things no one else understood. I can’t remember her exact words, but that one pebble-throwing phone call carried weight and its ripple effects were significant—so significant that her words prompted this blog post several years later.
My friend, Art, has an adult daughter who’s in a fierce battle with ALS. It has been a long, hard, and at times very frightening rollercoaster ride. But Jesus Christ has been their rock. I do my best to encourage Art, his wife, and daughter on their journey, with prayer, words of hope, and hugs. But recently, he shared an e-mail with some powerful pebble-throwing words. They came from a family friend whose high school son has a brain tumor. The family had just received inconclusive scan results. The mother wrote:
“We are a bit discouraged with the results . . . because in our humanness we want a sense of control. We want to know exactly what is going on and what to expect. I want to be able to walk down a big, broad path that is well lit and there is visibility down the road. I want to be able to run and skip and be carefree down the path, but that is not the case. Instead, God has called us to walk on a tight rope in the dark. It feels scary and the road is uncertain. But the best part of this path is that I am tightly holding onto my Savior’s hand. When He walks with me, He gives me, not only guidance, direction, and security, but He lavishes His peace because I am held by Him. There is no better place to be.”
That last line bears repeating. A mom of a high school senior with brain cancer, who has no idea of her son’s outcome, says “There is no better place to be.”
Not because she likes the tightrope God’s chosen for her to walk, but because she’s held by the One who holds both ends of the rope. These weighty words lifted Art’s faith at a time when my encouragement most likely falls a bit short.
It’s hard to know the right thing to say. Sometimes just listening is better, unless your experience compels you to share a nugget of wisdom packaged up with a large dose of compassion. Shared experience uniquely qualifies you to be a pebble thrower whose words carry wisdom. I pray that your weighty words will ripple encouragement and hope into the lives of those who need them most.
What tightrope has God called you to walk in the dark? How might you toss a pebble by allowing your experience to ripple some light into another’s dark pain? please share below…