Trust and the Terrible Year

2017 was a hard year. It felt like a year of near weekly calamities, large and small. We had a flight-for-life with our second daughter hours after birth. We’ve been in Children’s Hospital’s ICU three times; we’ve worried about our baby’s health through surgery, scans, scopes, suctions, blood tests and milestone delays. We laid to rest a dying church, moved out of our home (a parsonage), and moved in with family. I applied for well over 100 jobs nationwide, but landed—and still currently work—in retail pharmacy (my high school job). Two cars died. One tooth broke. And our list is significantly longer than this paragraph. (Yes, we started a literal list.)

Late in the year, I began interviewing for a dream job at a phenomenal church. After six weeks and five interviews, somehow I landed it. Our spirits rose with the Christmas tree in our basement “living room.” Our jubilee and fresh optimism were short lived, however, because the next morning I got a devastating phone call: my dream job had been cut from the 2018 budget. The process had broken down somewhere, and everyone involved felt sick about it. And 2017 belly-laughed once again.

That phone call kicked my teeth at 8:30am, and I had to go to work. I floated numbly through a 10-hour shift at the pharmacy, pondering how unfair the world is, and how I would never escape from this soul-crushing job, and how I needed to get in the car and yell at God. But when my shift finally ended, when finally I clocked out and sat down at my steering wheel, I couldn’t muster a yell. Or even tears. I was defeated. The year had won. I could only whisper, “I don’t understand.”

“I don’t understand.”
“I don’t understand.”
Over and over again.

And then I heard a mysterious answer within:
“You don’t have to.”

The response came as gentle and liberating. I’m someone who wants to understand everything, and 2017 was an avalanche of incomprehensibility. But I don’t have to understand. I can remove the back-breaking burden of omniscient comprehension. I’m not created to know or understand everything. I’m not made for omniscience. I’m made to trust. To trust the goodness of my Father. I’m made to be a child. 

Two days ago I felt God’s heart in all of this. We were preparing to take a family trip to the local city swim center. You see, our 23 month-old daughter, Daphne, loves the pool. A shin-deep inflatable pool in the backyard became the crown jewel of the summer. Every day, every hour, Joy and I were relentlessly addressed with deep longing in a one-word question: “Pool?” So we decided that a trip to a new pool—a big pool, an inside pool, a pool with squirting jets and a slide—would be a good way to spend the frozen morning hours of December 30.

We told Daphne where we were going, and she understood immediately. And she wanted to put on her swimsuit. (“Pool! Suit!”) We tried to explain that we were doing something new. That we couldn’t go in the backyard. That 10 degrees was too cold for what she wanted. That we were going to a better pool. And so… we need to put on our warm clothes so we can get in the car.

Daphne melted down. Tears and crying and protests and screams. Every step to prepare her for the car ride was quite difficult. I found myself telling my child, “I know this makes zero sense, but we need to put on your coat and gloves so we can go swimming.” 

I know what she needs. I know what she wants. And I want to give her good gifts. And I’m going to. Because I love her. She didn’t have to understand any of it, she just needed to trust me, to trust her father.

And so it goes with us.

Maybe most of our lives are spent resisting the Father as he prepares to grace us with good gifts.

“This is not the gift I want. Things don’t look like I expected. What’s happening makes zero sense. Why is God the Father not listening to my screams of protest? I just want to go to the pool!”

May we trust especially when we don’t understand. That’s the only time it’s actually trust.

“Good man as Job was, he had never yet been right near to God; now God has come near to him, has become very real to him; he knows now in very deed that God is he with whom he has to do. He had laid all these troubles upon him that He might through them draw nigh to him, and enable him to know him.”

GEORGE MACDONALD, Unspoken Sermons, “The Voice of Job”