If I’m honest, the list of things that have caught me by surprise in the past 18 months is pretty extensive. While I tend to be an optimist, there were so many moments where I felt frustration, discouragement, and exhaustion creeping in. (That’s a lie. It wasn’t creeping. It was like a full-on blind side tackle.)
When that happened, I would pause and tell myself, “God is not surprised.” He wasn’t caught off-guard, not even a little bit. Not by any of it. He wasn’t surprised by a pandemic or tornado, flood, and hurricane. He wasn’t surprised by the car accident that took a mother to heaven and left a young daughter in the hospital or the boating accident that almost claimed the life of a high schooler. He wasn’t surprised by the college student’s anxiety. He wasn’t surprised by the miscarriage or that babies were handed to soldiers over a barbed-wire fence.
While list of things that surprised him is, literally, zero, the list of things that he cares about is, literally, endless. So what do we do with this apparent dichotomy? Well, here’s what I’ve learned: Wrestle and Rest.
- Wrestle with it
Too often Christians take hard things and immediately try to smooth it over. I don’t blame us. Our faith rests in the certain hope that ultimately things will not only get better, they will be perfect—in heaven. However, the truth is that inexplicably horrible things happen and we have no idea why.
I’m currently reading Lamentations, which is in a serious competition for most depressing book in the Bible. Here’s a quick summary: Thousands of years ago people lived in Jerusalem and for two years Babylon (modern-day Iraq) had laid siege to it. Children who used to run and play were begging in the street, rulers and leaders who used to celebrate with feasts were poor and desolate. When Babylon conquered the city, they burned the temple and all the houses, leaving it a smoldering wasteland. The book of Lamentations is a collection of poems that grieved the whole situation.
If God was against lamenting, grieving, and wrestling with hard and horrible things, I think he would have left this book out of the Bible. But this world is broken, so we can lament that this is not how God created the world to be. So pour out our questions, say hard and honest things to him, tell him that your heart is broken and you don’t know why. And, just so you know, he’s not surprised you’re feeling this way either.
- Rest in it
The fact that the “rest” is in the middle of “wrestle” seems pretty appropriate for this topic, doesn’t it? But that’s easier said than done sometimes. There’s a far-cheerier section in the Bible that tells me how it works: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4:6-7).
This is his promise that while we pray, wrestle, and petition, the God of Armies stands guard over our hearts and minds, shielding us with his inexplicable peace. Resting in him means that even—and especially—in the middle of hard things, we know he is still here, working for his glory and our good.
We also rest because we know that if God allowed these hard moments in our lives, he already planned how to support us through them. Because he sets the times and places where we should live, that means he has pre-positioned the people who would surround us. Because he prepared—before the world was even formed!—all the good things we can do for each other, he has given us the time, money, resources, and ability to serve and bless and support each other.
How do you rest and wrestle? I’d love to hear!
Linda Buxa is a writer and editor who never realized until writing this that the word rest was in in the middle of the word wrestle. Old dog. New trick.