When we were little, we lived on the third floor of a triple-decker on Elmer Road in Dorchester. My mother told the story of one day up there with us: a four-year old, three-year old me, and our six-month old baby sister. Mom had gotten the groceries and three children up the three flights of stairs and it was, as mothers might readily imagine, chaos. Sleepless nights and cranky toddlers had taken their toll on our mother, and on this particular day, as the story goes, she put us in playpens and cribs, ran down the stairs and into the street and yelled at God.
“You said You’d never give me more than I can handle, but I can’t handle this. This is too much!”
Did it actually happen? Maybe. Our Mom sometimes told colorful stories tinged with exaggeration. But did she feel those feelings? Oh yes, certainly. I have, too.
We’ve all been there, when the things we are asked to carry are just too much. And we can’t make sense of it sometimes, can’t reconcile why the burdens come tumbling one by one into our arms.
This morning, in a season where I am actively trying to trust more in a loving God, and hand over all of that control I never had in the first place, I came across the same scripture in two very different devotionals. I knew I was supposed to pay attention.
Romans 8:28 New International Version (NIV)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.
As I look back through the day, to that innocent reading of scripture over my morning coffee and smoothie, I now know I should have recognized it as an alert. That scripture might as well have come with blinking lights that read: “Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy day! (but it will be okay eventually).”
What a day. From small annoyances to moderately worrisome medical stuff to some long-term overarching struggles, this day had it all. But God is working for the good in it, for us, because we love Him. That’s what He said, right?
To love Him means to let Him steer, to know and believe that He has us in the palm of His Hand. Even if that test result proves problematic? Yes, even then. Even if that road twists and bends? Yes. Even if it’s a surgery with scary potential complications? Yes. Even if it doesn’t look like what we hoped and thought? Yes, especially then. Loving Him means giving our plans over, over and over, because we believe He is capable, loving, and working in it for our good.
If we can manage this, and it might just be the hardest thing we ever do, truly, then God can make some really great stuff happen even from the hardest things we’re asked to carry. We can gain strength, empathy, perspective, and purpose from our trials that will bring us to places a straight road never could. We can experience the peace that passes understanding. As a dear friend used to say, we can learn to dance in the rain. We can learn real gratitude for the joys and blessings that are poured into us, day after day. We can gain wisdom, and become teachers and people who help others cross over. We can live simply, with full hearts, in moments as they come. And doors can open, and windows too, and people can cross our paths, and there is just no telling what God can do with a jumbled up mess for those who love Him. As I think of it, most people I really admire today have a winding road behind them some way or another. In retrospect, it’s often easy to see how God worked in it for their good, and for the good of us who get to be around them.
He’s working in it right now, in all things, even when I can’t see how. Tonight, that’s where I’m hanging my hat. The sun will rise again tomorrow. Maybe then I’ll see.