Trouble Will Come. Why Am I Surprised?

“In the world you’ll have trouble.” John 16:33

Many people draw closer to God when trouble comes. I tend to step back, surprised by it. As if I should somehow be immune. I am a passionate prayer partner for others, but struggle when it’s personal. While I lean into God for the big stuff, I can seriously fuss and step back over the smallest of “troubles”.

“…do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” 1 Peter 4:12

My teenager lied. Big time. But about something ridiculous. It hurt no one, nor involved anyone. The extension of a lie from months ago when we knew it, but couldn’t prove it; then unexpectedly, I caught him mid-sentence lying. I was stunned. Did I not just five minutes earlier finish reading seven glowing, all incredibly-l o n g letters of recommendation, with more on their way, for college applications later this year? Weren’t the words still in bubble comments floating through my head including “gentleman” “the finest student I’ve ever had” “respectful” “sincere” “nice to all fellow students”…and more?

All of those things are true. This 17 year old boy stands out from other kids his age because he is sensitive, smart, athletic, and thoughtful.

He is also human. But I forget that and immediately launch into crazy woman in my personal pain, feeling like a failure of a mother, wondering what I did wrong to have this child lie, hiding it for months – nonetheless about something completely inconsequential.

I wonder: do I give him room to be human? Or was I too quick with, “be sure your sin will find you out!”? I sure didn’t take two seconds to consider that I too am a liar, having been a lying teenager back in the dark ages when I was one. But! I protest silently, I’m raising them better, pray more… why, God?

It got worse. Another issue came up just as I was calming down. Nothing to do with drugs or alcohol or the usual teen nonsense. It hurt no one. Still, it wasn’t good and I was sad, and mad, and surprised – again. I considered how many days while he was at school I prayed specifically for him. And, now? His mistake – I take it personally.

“Children will lie at one time or another. The question is not if they will, but whether or not lying will become something they believe they can get away with.” Stormie Omartian

We deliver the consequence, days pass, and all I can think of is the prayer that went into this boy. I am mad at God for not responding as I had planned. I do not spend a second focusing on my son’s good or God’s good. No time thinking about the volunteering my boy does, the love he shows…that this wasn’t earth-shattering. I take no time to consider that this is part of teenage life and I am acting completely irrational. My husband tries to talk me down from the cliff, but I don’t listen. I do not consider that my daughters and my son are observing how I handle these two disappointments. I blame God silently. He could have prevented my son from lying by giving him a more truthful heart. Hadn’t I directly prayed for that?

Just then, I remember that 48 hours prior to the lie being discovered, I asked God – literally asked Him out loud – to reveal to me if my son was lying. I was tipped off by a sister in the house that there may be a lie lurking…

Okay, so maybe that prayer was answered. Directly. Prompter than most.

I settle, but continue to berate myself for subconsciously holding them to an unrealistic standard that I don’t even live up to. I berate myself for being so foolish to think that somehow my kids would be “good” 100% of the time. But oh, there is so much good. I refuse to see it. I focus on the two bad things revealed within two days.

My husband grows increasingly weary with the looming, likely job loss. We will be fine, but it’s still hard. He’s tired. So much change at work. Then, he comes home to the lunatic wife freaking out about her teenager lying. Not letting it go. He bows his head and rubs his temples and I see that I’m no Proverbs 31 woman lately.

“You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!“ Acts 7:51

Then, a 5-year old boy dies a horrible death and godly parents are in pain and we attend the memorial and my 15-year old is in mourning. She only held him at church a few times on Sunday mornings. But she knows her God and she knows He is bigger than childhood cancer and she believed Him to heal on this side of heaven. And, He didn’t. And the girl grieves like nothing I’ve seen from her. She shies away from her daily devotion and prayer time. She questions deeper than most adults. Because she cares and loves Him. She’s hurt – for herself, for the family. I watch her break down on and off and see her wrestling with God, questioning the value of intercessory prayer. I spout out the usual Christian-ease statements like, “we pray because Jesus did”. Ugh. I can’t even stand my hypocrisy as I’m mad again – mad that my baby girl is struggling with her faith. Mad at God that He still lets Satan prowl. I refuse to see that this could possibly strengthen her faith.

My friend learns that her cancer is at stage 4. I weep. He can heal this.

Another friend with a threatening ex-husband must fearfully attend court. Again. He could put this man in jail once and for all.

“The question is not: “Will you and I have these moments of loss and dizzying confusion?” The real issue is: How will we respond to these inevitable and unavoidable moments?” Ann Voskamp

I reach for my gratitude journal (see my last post) and the numbers name the “hard eucharisteo”. The tip of the pen pierces the page as my jaw clenches. No sweet sentiments about the Mama bird and her eggs that I’ve been watching and photographing daily…

My anger melts into a silent protest. I do not pick up my bible or pray formally at the morning table. I am talking to Him throughout the day, but mostly firing out questions at Him, simultaneously sorrowful over my blasphemy. He pulls at me.

“I will never leave you…” Hebrews 13:5
Ugh, but why? I’m awful right now and You’re still pulling at me?

I tire of the anger stretch, of the two-days of sobs for the grieving family, the teenage mistakes, the friends in pain, that leave the forehead ache that no aspirin can remedy. I am indifferent to prayer. What for? He pulls at me still. I scour the bookshelf and revisit, “Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference?” by Philip Yancey.

I read, then skim, knowing that He is Him and I am not and I am feeling sorrowful. Much sin is our own fault. We live in a fallen world, disease entered with the first bite of the fruit and so on… Above all, some of the gut-wrenching sadness and tragedy is undeniably inexplicable on this side of heaven.

The next morning I can’t help myself. I reach for the Word, sit at the kitchen table after lunches are made and kids are finishing up their grooming for school. I don’t ask them to sit and get a blessing like I usually do.

They leave and I squirm in the seat like my own son did three weeks ago. I know better, practicing faith and living it throughout the days, but not in my personal disappointments. I believed that the prayer prevented (and still do), but free will and God’s will are very much alive. Good can, and often does, arise from the ashes. Is 61:3

And I quiet enough to learn lessons that really, I already know…

ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I am CHIEF among sinners.

Open the fist of control! There is free will and teenagers need to exercise it.

Surrender the near-adults to His care. For heaven’s sake: TRUST ME ALREADY.

Mistakes are a part of living. They are not all-encompassing of my parenting, my family, nor my teen.

Stop over-reacting. Oh Lord, forgive me! May the fruits of the spirit show up in the unwanted “surprising” moments.

Stop being surprised. Trouble will come.