“E” is for ENCOUNTERING GOD – The Suffering Parent

E“Forgive me!” I cried out to God, “I can’t do it!”

Like any mom, I worry about my kids, and having six of them, there’s plenty of things to worry about. I pray about them all, but a couple of my kids seem to struggle longer and harder than others and their afflictions can emotionally drain me.

God knows we do this – weigh ourselves down with worry for others. That’s why He invites us to cast our cares onto His shoulders … but that’s not always easy to do.

On this particular day, I was heavy with anguish over my son, who I’ll call JR.

I’d watched JR being kicked around by life for years. A lot of his wounds were the results of his own poor choices, and many others were simply because luck seemed to frown upon him.

If you’re a parent, you know that when your child is hurting, you feel like you’ve been kicked in the gut. My body ached from being vicariously kicked through witnessing my son’s pain.

I’d been trying to place JR into the capable hands of the Almighty for years. Really, I had! But, for some reason, I just couldn’t fully do it. I’d give God a portion, but I’d hold tightly to the rest, convinced that I could control my son’s life and fix the problems from my end.

But this time, I was forced to confess the truth. There was no way around it.

“Help me, God.” I pleaded. “Help me to give him up to you, because I can’t seem to do it on my own.”

Admitting, after so many years, that I still couldn’t – or didn’t – trust my Creator enough to give my child to Him was shameful. God had known it all along, but I wasn’t ready to surrender to it until that morning.

After my teary confession, I sat crying, waiting for God to answer me.

Silence.

I waited.

Nothing.

“Please God,” I whispered through my tears, “Take this burden from me.”

My chest remained heavy. Even though I was asking the Lord to forgive my unwillingness to trust Him and to take what I was not able to freely give, He ignored me.

Finally, I stood, deciding to wipe my tears, blow my nose, and get on with my workday. Maybe in time, God would respond. Maybe He wanted me to carry the load a bit longer, now that I’ve finally (and genuinely) confessed.

When I stood, it was as if I left the weight of my shame in the chair behind me. I felt lighter because of my confession, yet still heavy burdened with grief over my suffering son.

I took three steps and, BAM!

I hit an invisible wall.

In truth, I encountered God, head-on.

It was like the Creator Himself, stood before me, refusing to let me pass.

He poured a shower of emotion throughout my body. I’m not sure how to describe it, but I’ll do my best.

The grief that sank into me was heavier than I’ve ever felt. I might compare it to a pair of invisible hands, pushing mightily on my shoulders, trying to stuff me into the floor. The pressure was indescribable.

But, strangely, that dense heaviness was intermingled with a sense of ethereal comfort. If I were to paint the experience on a canvas, you’d see heavy lines of thick blackness, lightened by swirls of glowing orange and yellow.

If I could put into words, the words God spoke to me that day might go something like this …

“I’m a suffering parent too. I understand your sorrow. My only Son suffered.”

God didn’t downplay the struggles of JR, but he continued, “My Son suffered years of ridicule and hate and, although every choice he made was perfect, he suffered a torturous death because of the imperfect choices of others.”

I couldn’t move. Literally. My feet felt like they were stuck in tar.

God went on, “I wept. I had to turn my face away because I couldn’t bear to watch.”

Yes, God, the almighty, all-powerful, and all-knowing, had to look away because the sorrow of watching his broken son caused Him such anguish.

The message continued, “But, I knew there was a bigger purpose for my Son’s pain. If I rescued him, my plan – which nobody else could see at the time – would not be accomplished and every soul in this world would perish.”

God reminded me that His Son was healed and redeemed. God knew, after the suffering had ended, that healing and redemption would follow, just like He knows JR will be healed and redeemed.

Ultimately, the timing of when that occurs is between God and JR, and I finally understand that.

After that encounter with my Heavenly Father, my burden for JR has lifted. For the first time in fifteen years, I’m not crying over his hurts and I’m not charging the cavalry, yielding my “motherly sword” and trying to solve all of JR’s problems.

I’ve stepped back, comfortable that God is keeping watch over my son. I know that God never wastes a hurt. Every tear I’ve shed over JR, and every wound that JR himself is experiencing, has a purpose.

The question is, will JR step out of God’s way? Will he pray for wisdom and guidance, stop and listen, and have the courage to follow the path the Lord puts before him?

I pray that will happen – and I believe it will (God’s plan is perfect). gods hands

Until then, I know my son’s struggles will continue. I will continue to love him and be there for him when he asks for my help, and I will rest well, knowing that God cups JR safely in His capable palms.

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