How Does He Hold Us?
I snuggled on the bed next to my son. He was struggling through pain, and I stroked his back and tried to comfort him. I reminded him God cared about his hurt—that God loved him and he too grieved along with him in his pain. “But it doesn’t really make a difference,” he replied in his matter-of-fact way.
It wasn’t a statement born of anger or spite, but the simple honesty of a child trying to process the words of hope his mother offered with the reality of the pain that still lay before him. He asked an honest and raw question that I’d been scared to whisper during the deepest of suffering. In the deepest of darkness, I, too, have wondered, What’s the difference?
As Christians we often gird ourselves with truths like God is with us, he cares for us, or he holds us. They are wonderful and true sentiments, but that evening I realized how much the concrete manifestations of those realities matter right along with the abstract. When the dire circumstances don’t change, what does God offer by being with us? What is different when we know he holds us? How does he care for us when the sickness/evil/trial persists?
The Lord doesn’t actually grab us by the hand. We actually can’t feel his embrace. So what do we have? Children can’t quite put legs to these ideas, because they haven’t had a lifetime of experiences of seeing God care for them in a multitude of ways. Yet I believe that even adults need the same reminders of God’s particular care. We’re just so forgetful.
Like the Israelites in the wilderness, we forget the specific ways the Lord has shown his love and are too tempted to focus on the pain of the situation. We feel hunger and forget the manna (Num. 11:1-25). We feel anxious and forget the sandals on our feet that are still going strong (Deut. 29:5-6). We all need reminders not only of truth, but of the particular outworkings of that truth. Especially those moments in the darkest of grief, we need to touch the tangible. Like so many of the Psalms of lament, we need to grab hold to the meaning behind the promises of the Lord and grip them with all our might.
When I was sick after my daughter was born, I clung to the hope that the Lord held me. More specifically, this meant that the Lord quieted my soul and allowed me not to succumb to anger or bitterness with my doctors. It meant I had the strength of spirit to continue each new medical attempt to curb my ailment. God’s arms weren’t felt physically, but as I rocked my newborn in the chair at 2 AM and cried, I knew my tears and pleas fell on a God who listened and who loved me.
I felt his particular care by the many cards and prayers said for me, by the babysitting and help from my parents and in-laws, by the song of hope that happened to come on the radio, or the verse that jumped off the pages of the Bible as if my gracious Father had left it right there for me. I felt his care in a morning of hope, in a prescription medication that was available faster, or in the meal brought by a friend. I gripped the evidence of his care even though the situation stayed as bleak as ever.
These are just some of the ways the Lord has practically shown me his care, presence, and love in grief. I have others, and so do you. The body of Christ is filled with many members, all with different lives and experiences, and this means that our kinds of suffering are equally as varied and vast (1 Cor. 12:14). The ways the Lord has worked in our lives are infinite, and I believe that’s another reason why we need to recite them: to build each other up. We need each other’s stories—not only the generic, but the specific. We not only need the over-the-top miraculous stories, but even the tiny ways that he orchestrated a friend to send a text or a bird to land on our feeder in order to lift our spirits. The Lord shows his care for us in a myriad of ways.
A week or so after my conversation with my son, I awoke in the morning to some difficult news. I sat at the kitchen table processing it all, trying to steady my racing heart. In the still of the morning, I prayed to the Lord while music from my children’s room traveled through the hallway into the kitchen. Yet very quickly a new sound emerged. Wafting throughout my home was the sound of that same son’s voice, singing along with his music with all of his might:
Is anyone worthy? Is anyone whole? Is anyone able to break the seal, and open the scroll? The Lion of Judah, who conquered the grave. He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave. Is he worthy? Is he worthy? He is.
For a good ten minutes, my son laid in bed and belted out the words of multiple songs that spoke of God’s goodness, power, might, and love. I wiped tears from my eyes, and simply told my Father, “Thank you.” In the song of my son, I felt the sweet nearness of my Lord. I felt his care and his hold over me. And it made all the difference.
How has the Lord shown his care and love to you when the sorrow doesn’t cease? Tell someone. We all need to hear it.
Join My Newsletter!
Each month I send out a newsletter that highlights some of the small graces I’ve been drinking from that month. They might be music we've been listening to in our home, a story of God's kindness, or a new-favorite recipe.
When you sign up, you'll also receive a free download of a collection of writings about the way God uses memorials in our lives. I hope you'll join!