Day 22 of 31 Things to Teach Your Kids: Teach them that God is in control.
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For eighteen days I have been in my house, fighting off multiple illnesses in my three children. It has been an unprecedented experience, unequaled in all of my years of motherhood, and I’m ready for its end. It’s been a crazy flu year in Texas. Otherwise healthy, strong, young people have died due to complications, and I have spent all of February watching my kids carefully, waking up multiple times a night to check on whichever one I felt was most likely to be dying. It has been exhausting and stressful and has brought me to my knees more than once.
As I write this I still have one here with me, the second one to get the dreaded flu, which was followed by a sinus infection, which was followed by what the doctor believes is another round of a different strain of the flu. It’s been so rampant here that the clinic and hospital are out of flu screens, so we can only guess as to which virus has struck her down again. It all sounds very dramatic, but in truth this entire month has been spent playing a million rounds of Uno, watching a zillion movies that star preteens, and scrounging for food in a nearly bare refrigerator. In short, the month of February has completely passed me by.
The fact is that I had big plans for my month. I was going to get a lot of writing accomplished. I was going to keep regular work hours and really dig into some projects and enter March feeling like I had done some good thinking, some good writing, making good progress on the things I feel like God is calling me to do. I didn’t do any of that.
But it isn’t because I haven’t been fulfilling my calling.
Proverbs 16:9 tell us that in her heart a woman may plan her course, but the Lord determines her steps. I thought my big work for the month of February would be related to my writing, but God reminded me in the past 18 days that I have been blessed with the privilege of being Adelade, Sawyer, and Emerald’s only mother. And, that is the ultimate calling in this phase of my life. It is a job that will chew you up and spit you out, that will leave you weeping from exhaustion, that will cause you to wring your hands when the coughing won’t stop, that will find you sneaking into rooms just to count the number of breaths that a child is taking. February has been long and trying and has caused me to lean heavily on my Savior, has forced me to pray for my children with a passion that I sometimes lack, has helped me to see that sometimes big work is little: drinks of water in a special princess cup, lists of medicine schedules, letting snuggly children cough in your face.
The Lord determines our steps, and this month they went a whole bunch of nowhere. Yet, somehow I found my Jesus there, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the mess, in the middle of the great honor and blessing of motherhood. The hardest days are the ones that drive me straight into His arms. And that is never a bad thing. I’m thankful that’s where He’s led me in the month of February. Maybe in March He’ll let me go to the grocery store.
He is so good to show Himself to me during flu season and during every season. His love never changes, never stops reaching for us, never gives up on us in our busy-ness. I am so grateful for the calling of being a mother, for the calling of being a wife, for the calling of being a writer. I trust His timing and His plan for all the seasons, flu or otherwise. He is good, and I love Him more at February’s end than I did at its beginning. He is love, He is healing, and He is peace.
They found her today, drifting there in the middle of the chaos of flood and hurricane, clinging to her mother’s lifeless body. She is only three. She has probably learned all kinds of words and phrases and ideas in the past year of her life. I remember when Emerald was three, and she handed me her cup. Here ya go, precious lady! she said, and I giggled and watched her big blue eyes and promised myself I would never forget it–such a grown up thing to come out of that tiny, heart-shaped three year old mouth.
I wonder where the little girl in the flood will find the vocabulary to express what she has been through today. I wonder where she will find the heart to survive the tragedy of watching her only mama, that precious lady, drown before her eyes. Her mother was trying to save her. And she did. The dear little girl was rescued from the swirling, teeming water by nameless men–heroes who keep going back into the turmoil of a world washed away by Hurricane Harvey.
So many stories are emerging from the wreckage of south Texas. But, this is the one that wrecks me. One tiny girl, clinging to the body that brought her into this world, holding tight to the mama who gave of herself in every possible way. Plucked from the choppy water. Kept by God. Sheltered by her sweet mother and a multitude of angels.
I’ve read of another mother who sheltered her baby in the water. She made a basket of reeds and placed her chubby son inside, shoving him out into the unknown, just grasping at the chance to save his life. He, too, was kept by God and guarded by angels until he was plucked from the treacherous waters of the Nile river.
Maybe one day someone will tell the little rescued Texan about baby Moses. Maybe eventually, when she begins to wrestle with the truth that God’s ways are higher than ours, when she wonders with heartbreak what hurricanes have to do with the glory of God, when she looks toward Heaven and cries out to her maker, Why?–maybe the church will be there with answers from God’s word. Maybe she will find a local body of believers who will take her in, who will nurture her with the good and true words of the Bible. Maybe she will find comfort in the greatness of a God who always has a plan, who wastes no storm, no heartache, no tragedy.
We need churches who will be there for her and for millions like her. Churches who refuse to bow at the altars that this world erects. Churches who unapologetically proclaim that God is sovereign and He is trustworthy–yes, even here, in rushing flood waters in Beaumont, Texas, in August of 2017. He is good, even here, in the death of one heroic mother and in the life of her cherished three year old daughter. He is powerful, even here, when the why is easy to ask and hard to answer. One thing we know for sure: He is righteous.
The God who directs the wind and the waves does what He will. But, we must never forget, when we look at this sweet three year old miracle, that the God of the hurricane is also the God of the rescue. His ways are high. His purposes are good. And, His church should always be a light on a hill for those who wonder why. I pray that my church will be that. I pray that yours will, too. And, I pray that this sweet baby will one day run into the arms of a church that will teach her the truth that God had a good purpose in all of it.
The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the
winds and the waves obey him!” Matthew 8:27
The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him.
I have been seeing an article floating around the internet called “Not Everything Happens for a Reason.” In the article, Christine Suhan makes some pretty bold claims about God’s will and sovereignty. I kept seeing it pop up on my newsfeed, and each time I thought of different ways that I’d like to respond to what the writer is saying. But, wouldn’t you know it? Chad beat me to it. And, what he says about it is so good that I decided to use his response instead!
So, please welcome my husband, Pastor Chad Edgington.
I read this article last night and found it to be very disappointing. I think the author makes a good point. Saying “everything happens for a reason” is probably not a good thing to say to someone who is grieving. I think she is also right in pointing out that much of our suffering is a consequence of living in a fallen (sinful) world. However, I think her understanding of God’s will is not consistent with the biblical revelation.
She writes, “God’s will is not an event that happens to us, it’s how we respond to what happens.” She says that she spent years trying to understand the reasons behind her hurts, and what finally she “found through years of searching, experiencing, and living is that often there is no reason for why tragedy has occurred.”
But, this is contrary to what scripture teaches. God’s thoughts, plans, and purposes are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). He is in unquestionable control and is sovereign over everything that happens in this universe (Psalm 135:6; Dan 4:35). Even the most seemingly insignificant things are matters of His concern (Proverbs 16:33). Not even one sparrow falls from a tree apart from the Father (Matt 10:29). Col. 1:17 says that Christ holds all things together; every particle of every atom moves at His direction. We understand from the Apostle Paul that in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). His will encompasses every moment of our life from beginning to end, and even the exact length of our life is determined (Psalm 139:16).
However, God’s ways and purposes are consistent with man’s ability to make decisions and our own purposes (Proverbs 16:9), even when those decisions are wrong and sinful (Genesis 50:20). In other words, even our moral free-agency and our willful decisions are woven into His accomplishment of His own purposes, without compromising our own purposes and intentions. God’s will is extremely complex in that regard, and thus we struggle to comprehend how He could cause natural disasters (Joel 1) or use sinful aggression against children to accomplish his purposes (Isaiah 13:18), or why He bears with patience, and even gives good things, to those who deserve His wrath and destruction (Romans 9:22-23). These are hard teachings, and they challenge us, but one thing they don’t do is paint a picture of a God who is only concerned with our response to things that happen.
We can confidently trust that a good God has a purpose and is in control, in some sense, of everything that happens (at the very least, He permits things to occur that He could stop), even the most severe calamity and horrible human behavior (Amos 3:6). At the same time, He is not responsible for evil nor is He in any way sinful because God, according to His character, can do no wrong. He is blameless (Psalm 145:17, Job 34:12, Psalm 18:30). As disconcerting and baffling as that may seem at first glance, I find it to be ultimately more comforting (and biblical) to recognize His control and power over all things, than to assert that things happen outside of God’s purposes and control, or at least His permission. Do you think the Bible teaches that you live in a universe where things happen apart from His control or purposes? If you do, you aren’t reading your Bible. Would you honestly desire to live in a Universe where God is not in control? Who is in control? Nobody? Why would you even pray to a God who is not powerful over all things?
Just because we cannot think of a good purpose for something happening, that does not mean there is no good purpose. It’s arrogant to assume that God can’t have a reason because our little human brains can’t think of one. It also seems like we forget that God ultimately and rightly vindicates on our behalf all of the unrighteousness and suffering we endure- is this not, after all, what we see happening on the cross?
I appreciate the heart behind what this writer is trying to do, but she is making an appeal based on an idea of God that is foreign to scripture.
My recommendation would also be to avoid the phrase “everything happens for a reason” and instead aid suffering people with things that are more comforting, such as, “We serve a good and righteous Father. We can trust Him, even when we don’t understand what is happening.”
This is an interesting time in America. We’ve got a presidential election that appears to be flying off the rails at unprecedented speeds. We’ve got racial tension, moral confusion, and ethical chaos. It’s enough to make Christians wonder what this world is coming to.
The answer is that the world isn’t coming to anything new. It is and always has been lost, confused, chaotic, and disturbed. We have been living under the delusion in the U.S. that the world basically loves God, that the world basically believes the Bible. We have felt far removed from all of the terror and tragedy and loss that has been going on in the world (and down the street) for all these years.
But, here we are. America suddenly feels foreign. Christianity is being pushed to the fringes of society. Morality doesn’t seem important anymore. Everyone is truly doing whatever seems right in their own eyes, and saying that something isn’t right is committing the ultimate of all evils: judging. From transgender locker rooms in Washington to masturbation booths in New York City to sex trafficking in our own backyard to aborted baby parts to the highest bidder, Jesus seems less and less a part of the American equation. Christians are either angry or sheepish or terrified or all of the above.
The thing is that God has never, not for one single second, lost control of this place. He has never been caught off guard. He has never been confused or worried. And, somehow we Christians, His own children, we who should know His goodness, mercy, loving-kindness, gentleness, might, power, sovereignty more than anyone else, we fret about where this world is headed. We wring our hands and pace the floor, while almighty God sits firmly on His throne, Jesus ruling perfectly at His right hand. This world is held tight in the hands of the Savior.
So, the reality is that everything is really going to be okay.
No matter who is elected president. No matter how bad things get in this broken, fallen world. No matter how many heartaches we face or how many betrayals we endure. In the end of all things, we will see with our own eyes just how good He has been through it all. He hasn’t missed anything. He isn’t overwhelmed. One day He will set every little thing right again.
We are here to glorify His name. To make Him famous. To take the bad news of sin and the good news of a Savior to the very ends of this Earth. The mission doesn’t end even if America goes down in flames. We can shout His name from rooftops or whisper it in secret rooms, but let our concern be for His glory and not our comfort. He blesses in mansions on free American hilltops, and He blesses in slums in the most oppressed places on the planet. Our trust in God cannot be intertwined with our trust in this country. Man-made endeavors always disappoint. But, God never breaks His promises. He is freedom. Let His freedom ring.
The Great I Am still is. Let’s live like we really believe it.
Around this time each year, I see blog posts about the foolishness of Mother’s Day, about the lack of fairness in it all, about the gloating mothers and the grieving mothers and the women who wish they are mothers. And, I completely get it. I really do. Mother’s Day, in some ways, is a hard day.
I myself sat in a pew shortly after I learned that, once again, the child in my womb no longer had a heartbeat. I occupied my regular seat that morning while the Mother’s Day video played, thinking of little else except when the all-too-familiar bleeding would begin. And wondering what God’s plan was for me, as a woman. As a mother.
And, many of you will sit in a pew or choose to stay home this Mother’s Day, and you will come face to face (as you do every day) with the grief of an empty womb. Or a mother gone to Heaven. Or a child who is in trouble. Or a broken marriage. Or the memory of standing next to your baby’s grave.
Grief is an overwhelming sensation on any day, but on a special day that’s set aside to celebrate motherhood, it can be downright crushing. We feel robbed. We feel angry. We feel helpless and sometimes just plain hopeless.
And, I don’t blame any woman in the world for feeling those feelings. We feel how we feel.
But, please allow me to gently remind us all, friends, that Christianity is not a faith about feelings. No, it is a faith of pure, uncut, unadulterated reality. And, it calls us to something higher than our feelings. The reality is that God is sovereign. The reality is that He knows infinitely more than we do. The reality is that He is good and trustworthy. The reality is that because of Jesus Christ, one day everything in the universe will be set right again. The reality is that there is great hope in Christ.
Grief can sometimes cloud our reliance on these truths, but they remain true just the same. Feelings come and go, but His word is always true, and He never changes.
Now, as Christians we live together in community, and we live out our faith not only toward Christ, but toward each other. We give Him our worship and our obedience and our love, and we give each other loyalty, support, and encouragement. We aren’t called just to love God, but to love each other–the kind of love that says, I rejoice when you rejoice, and I grieve when you grieve.
So, what does this mean for Mother’s Day? It means that, with the strength of Jesus within us, we can turn to our friends and weep with them over their miscarriages. We can grieve with them over the loss of their mothers. We can offer our shoulder when they need to fall apart over the death of a child. We can cry and call out to God on their behalf, and we can acknowledge their pain.
We can also turn to our friends and pinch the chubby cheeks of their newborn babies. We can give them a pat on the back and tell them what an amazing job they’re doing. We can honor our mothers or we can honor the memory of our mothers. We can be genuinely happy about all of the little children scampering around our friends’ feet.
And, we can praise God that He is present through it all.
You see, the problem isn’t that Mother’s Day is an evil thing that Hallmark created in order to make women feel less-than. It’s wonderful to recognize the incredible role that mothers play in the kingdom of God. The problem is that our self-centered culture has taught us that what matters is how we feel.
But, the Bible tells a completely different story.
According to God’s word, what matters is how well we love Christ and how well we love others. Shouting about how unfair things are does nothing for a grieving mother. It does nothing for a woman who is desperate to conceive. It does nothing for a mama struggling to keep her head above water with four little children underfoot. And, it does nothing to build a community of faith that grieves together and rejoices together.
So, don’t let the loud voices out there who are supposedly advocating for hurting women convince you that Mother’s Day is a sham. It’s an opportunity to love like Christ loves. Sacrificially. And it’s a chance to remind ourselves that our feelings are not the be all and end all. In fact, they are very often deceptive and filled with lies that mar the truth. Don’t forget the reality of your situation on Mother’s Day, whatever it may be: God is sovereign. He is good. And, we can trust Him.
Tonight when I put Emerald in bed, she said, in a convincing tone, Mama, there’s nothing to worry about, is there?
This is how her bedtime questions about animals and monsters in her room have evolved. Now instead of asking about the specifics, she just puts on a slightly false confidence and tries to remind herself that there’s no reason to be nervous. That her room should be a worry-free zone. Yet, each night she seems just a little bit concerned about being left in there all alone. I feel like she’s really saying, I am worried about so many things right now, but you’ve told me I shouldn’t be worried, so I’ll try to act like I’m okay.
I totally get it, don’t you? As Christians, we know that the Bible clearly tells us not to worry. But, we look around at this scary world. We look down at our precious children. We look across the table at a struggling spouse. We drive across town to care for aging parents. It seems like there are so many things to fret over. It’s so hard to tell ourselves, There are TONS of things to worry about, but I shouldn’t worry about those things because I’m a Christian.
Then we feel guilty when we do worry, even though we tried not to.
I just want to say this to all of us right now: Whoa. Breathe.
I don’t believe that worry is always about not trusting God enough. I believe we can completely trust God to handle a situation or to just generally guide our lives, while still hoping that there are certain things we won’t have to endure. Jesus prayed in the garden before His crucifixion. He wasn’t trying to usurp God’s control of the situation, but He was definitely not looking forward to enduring what He would soon face.
So, don’t worry about worrying. Believe God’s promises, trust in His goodness, pray against what you fear, and know that if the worst of your fears comes true, God will somehow, someway bring you through it. Cling to the One who already knows how your story turns out.
He is trustworthy.
I was supposed to be cleaning. I was supposed to be doing laundry, scrubbing toilets, and vacuuming under couch cushions. But, instead, I was just settling down to color with Sawyer in his brand new coloring book. All that was really on my mind was which color that I would start with first, when I felt a terrible stinging pain in my arm. I looked down and realized that I had put my left arm right on top of a weirdly out of place wasp on the carpet.
After I beat the wasp to death with the biggest shoe I could find (Chad’s size twelves do come in handy), I sat holding my arm, wondering how I survived wasp stings when I was a kid. Sawyer stood next to me with concern on his face. He reached out and placed his hand over mine. Then, as if great wisdom and clarity suddenly descended on his seven year old little spirit, he said, Mama, generations before you were born, God knew this was going to happen to you.
The stinging continued. And, I nodded, looking into his precious freckled face, agreeing with the truth that he had spoken over me. The God who clothes every flower and knows if even one little bird drops to the ground. Yes, He knew. He knows. He will always know.
And, since that day Sawyer’s words keep coming back to me. I think of the beautiful Kara Tippetts, who lived and died with this truth echoing inside of her. And, despite the fact that there are more questions than answers, and we grieve for her young life and for her dear little children, we can be sure of this one thing. God knows.
I think of my friend Dawn, whose little girl’s seizures just keep coming, and the best doctors can’t figure out why. God knows.
The future spreads out like an undiscovered playground, and it looms like a terrifying storm, and in both things I see it is true. God knows.
He knew what joys this day would hold and He knows what sorrows tomorrow may hold, and whatever comes we know that we little unknowing ones are held close.
We are intimately known and exquisitely cared for.
The questions remain. The mourning. The various hurts that come with being human. The paralyzing fear. The brokenness. The exhaustion.
Take heart. God knows. He knows how this is all going to work out. How all of the pieces fit together. He knows which questions we haven’t thought of asking yet, and He knows the answer to every single one. God knows what He is doing in your life.
And, He knew generations before you were born.
Having babies is quite a journey.
Ours started way back in 2004 when I finally saw that little plus sign on the pregnancy test. So many tests, so many hopeful moments, and finally, our dream was coming true. We would become parents. Chad was just days away from beginning finals during his last year of law school, so I drove to Target and bought a little pink bib that said “I love my daddy.” I remember my excitement was about to bubble over, walking around that Lubbock Target, holding my secret inside me, my secret living being like a tiny time bomb just waiting to explode into our lives.
I wrapped up the bib and gave it to him as motivation to power through his finals. He was so excited he picked me up in a bear hug and we giggled while we stared at those tiny pink lines that mattered so much.
Life went on. We moved. I grew huge. Adelade fought her way into this world on January 2nd, and she looked it. We recovered. Life was hard and wonderful and more fun than ever.
A few years later we started hoping for another baby. I got pregnant right away. We took the test while staying with Chad’s parents one weekend. We were so excited to be able to tell them in person–I think we even videotaped it so we could capture his mom’s happy tears. But, weeks later problems surfaced. We lost the baby. Reading those little pink lines was never really fun after that, just scary and nerve-wracking and tiring. Every pregnancy afterward started with sighs, hopeful little smiles exchanged, and months of waiting before telling anyone anything.
That’s how my third pregnancy began. Complications set in and we were fairly certain another miscarriage was beginning. We went for an early ultrasound, and there was Sawyer, a little peanut of a person, heart flickering brightly on the black screen that just months earlier had confirmed that our second child was gone. His little flashing pulse was like a beacon of hope for me.
A thousand prayers went up.
Sawyer showed up in January, easy-going from the start, his personality like a billboard that said, “Why worry?” It was hard for us to even remember the panic we felt in the beginning when he seemed so fragile.
Years passed. Two more miscarriages. The first was an agonizing, months-long process of ultrasounds, hope, hope lost, and hope renewed. We prayed, cried, and it was finally all over twelve weeks in. The second was early, and not even surprising. We had become so accustomed to the fear, it almost seemed better to expect the worst. The ultrasound tech’s demeanor at each appointment was slumped, uncomfortable. She would ask us again, “Now, HOW far along do you think you are?” No heartbeat. Life come and gone so quickly, we didn’t even get a chance to witness it.
Finally, I became pregnant for the sixth time. We waited in agony for the eight week ultrasound that would show us whether the baby had a heartbeat. As soon as I saw that beautiful flicker, I knew she would be okay. Emerald entered our world in May, our little miracle baby that I thought might never be. Three children. Six children. I feel blessed to have experienced all of them.
I learned so much about God during the agonizing times. Ever-present. Life-giving. Faithful. Sovereign. Patient.
And I learned that I really can say of a God so good and so caring that when He chooses to give me what I feel I can’t live without and when He chooses to take what I desperately prayed to keep, I can trust Him.
I have no doubt at all that one day when I leave this world, three children I never met will be waiting to greet me, their only mama, and I can’t wait to see if at least one of them has red hair. 🙂
He gives and takes away. I choose to bless His name.