This morning, I sat on the front porch drinking coffee and watching the rain fall with Alastor the Monster Mutt after the kids boarded the bus for school. The rain tricked through the downspout and into the rain barrel, and softly plodded onto the leaves in the flowerbed. The air was cool, but not too cool; the coffee warm in my hands.
“What wonder it is,” I thought, “that God grants us such sweet moments of peace in the midst of difficult times…”
The trick is learning how to receive those moments.
Twenty years ago, I had my introductory lesson in this. I sat in a group of other first time mothers, our bellies swollen with the children we were bearing, and listened to the natural childbirth instructor give her introductory lesson in how to weather the most grueling physical pain most of us would ever endure.
“You must learn to breathe through the pain,” she told us. “This is the key. Our natural response to pain is to tense up in resistance, to fight it, but you can’t fight this. You have to learn to do the opposite of what comes naturally. When the pain is at its worst, it is the very moment you will need to relax the most.”
Through her class, I learned how to endure physical pain. I gave birth naturally three times. I became a natural birth rock star.
Then, God called me to adoption and a whole other kind of pain, and when I faced that rending of the heart, I found I had to learn to breathe all over again.
Psalms 1- 72, the Psalms of Lament, tell the story of real human beings struggling to learn to breathe through the pain. They question God; Sometimes, they accuse Him of terrible things- injustice, indifference, negligence... They beg for mercy and scream at heaven.
Then, they collapse into the Father’s arms.The pain is rarely resolved, but because they have risked baring their tortured souls to God in utter honesty, they find rest in the hope of God’s goodness and faithfulness.
This is the promise to which the whole of scripture attests: This world is full of trouble, but God is with us in the midst of it.
We see it as Jesus walks the sands of Israel. He is with the disciples in the storm (Matthew 8). He is with Mary and Martha in their grief over Lazarus’ death (John 11). He is with the widow of Nain as she steps through the city gate to go to the cemetery to bury her only son (Luke 7).
The stories of Jesus, Emmanuel, God is with us, fill the Gospels.
This, suffering soul, is where we find rest, not in the absence of suffering, but in joining with the saints throughout history as we lay it at The Father’s feet.
“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.”