It seems like we’re always coming out of a rough stretch. For the past year, what Brigid Schulte calls “the Overwhelm” has hovered thick and fog-like. I felt the daily, dreaded mix of chaos and boredom, overwhelm and aimlessness. The fog is just now beginning to clear, and I am nearing the end of a long weekend with my husband–a weekend spent defining our family values and wrestling with their implications in our daily lives. We are tired of being tired; we are tired of the weight of constant failure. Yet we are aware of our reality: we are in the season of life with little people demanding all available time and attention. Our ambitions outweigh our current capabilities and we are sick of doing everything halfway. So we spent our time away pondering changes to implement and what it looks like to embrace a life marked by rest instead of chaos, presence instead of distraction.
A few months ago, we moved out of our 100-year old farmhouse back into civilization and away from 8-foot snow drifts and dying cats, and we thought this change would begin the slow and steady process to reclaiming our sanity. Instead, it marked a new level of Overwhelm. In what was one of the most difficult decisions we’ve ever made, we closed our foster care license and said goodbye to our foster daughter of 10 months. In the midst of that grief, and as we began home renovations and transitioned to homeschooling, we learned that my mother-in-law has untreatable, stage 4 breast cancer. Suddenly the stress of the last year paled in comparison to what stood before us.
Praise God for a community of people who rallied around us, bringing encouragement in the form of meals and paint brushes and table saws. Praise God that what felt like it might kill us has instead profoundly revealed to us (again) that He is good and faithful and wise and loving.
As I reflect on the last year, I’m not impressed by how I’ve handled our constantly-changing circumstances. I found myself responding poorly at the smallest trigger. With four children underfoot, there was never a shortage of needs or laundry. I couldn’t figure out why I felt so angry, so stressed, so exhausted. I struggled to sleep well, was always rushing, never felt like I was doing enough.
Anger, discontentment, stress–all of these point to my control issues. Somewhere along the way (all along the way?) I started to believe the lie that it was up to me to hold it all together. I would strategize and make plans and then become furious when things did not go my way. I wanted to be in charge and pretended it was actually possible for me to assert this level of control. After all, what if I don’t like what God comes up with? What if His plans are not my plans, His ways not my ways?
The reality is, of course, my expectations of control are unfounded. My control is like that of the farmer–I do what I can, but ultimately I do not control the weather.
So I am reminded once again of this: God is God; I am not.
Living with a settled conviction that God is in control suddenly changes my perspective on interruptions. Believing that He is working all things for my good and his glory doesn’t keep me from analyzing failures and disappointments for areas of learning and growth, but it does stop me from beating myself up or raging against whoever “got in the way,” because I can rest knowing that even this failure–even this disappointment–is accomplishing something in and around me that I do not see.
My inability to live this way betrays something worse–I am clinging to control because, deep down, I wonder if God is really good. Is he really for me? Does he really care?
I’ve written before about the importance of believing in God’s sovereignty and goodness. As I went back and re-read that post, I was struck by its date: March 17th, 2014. What I didn’t know then is that the next day, we would accept our foster care placement. The next day, our lives changed. The. next. day. How sweet the Lord is, that he would remind me of the truth I would need to cling to in order to survive the next year.
How forgetful I am.
One day in January, I was drowning. Grieving our foster daughter, my mother-in-law, and a house in shambles, I couldn’t get through the question, “How are you?” without bursting into tears. It was one of those rough stretches where you wonder if you’ll ever just feel “okay” again–one of those days where, instead of embracing the rain, you curse the clouds.
That day, we sang Amazing Grace at Bible study. I couldn’t sing through sobs but these words settled in and became a comfort through the months that have followed:
The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.
The fog does clear. Not because circumstances are guaranteed to change, or because we will suddenly get everything we’ve been hoping for. Not because we can suddenly anticipate and control everything that will come–what we fear the most may actually come to pass. Our house is still unfinished. Homeschooling is still way over my head. I’m still sad that our foster care story didn’t end as I’d hoped. My mother-in-law is still very sick.
But the fog clears as I remember that I am not in charge. And the One who is? He is good. So good that He saw me like this–doubting him, questioning him, forgetting his goodness, desperately fighting for control–and he sent his Son to die for me anyway.
The fog clears because it descended upon Jesus as he hung on that cross.
And even though I know I’ll probably forget it time and time again, I will head home, back to the Overwhelm, preaching this truth to my failing heart once more: God is God. He is good. And he is everything I need.