“As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!” Psalm 40:17
My daughter is a college freshman. The university she attends is four and a half hours away from home. I miss her. A lot. A few weeks into her second semester I got a phone call and her quivering voice told me something was wrong. Soon she couldn’t hold back the tears and I listened as the dam burst and a flood of anguish poured out. Her young, inexperienced heart was breaking. The few hundred miles between us felt immense. I asked the King, as I had many times before, if He was sure He couldn’t just suspend the laws of physics and teleport me to her side. My girl was hurting and I was so far away. Even if I could just stretch a shoulder across state lines to squeeze her or just hold her as she sobbed, I’d feel so much better. I would’ve done anything to be at her side at that very moment, but it was impossible. All I could do was cry out to the King on her behalf.
This semester has been tough for my girl. Academics are fine. Books are constant and reliable. It’s learning how to love people when they aren’t so lovable that’s tough. And learning how to love ourselves as the Lord reveals all our pride and weakness is an even greater challenge. As Christians, we’re supposed to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, right? So if we don’t understand God’s extravagant, ridiculous, unconditional love; how in the world can we love others well? How do we dwell in God’s love? In our flesh, we can’t. Learning to see ourselves as God sees us is impossible. Even in the best of circumstances it’s impossible to love others the way Christ asks us to love them.
So how do we love well? How do we love genuinely and sacrificially when our heart is broken? How do we give of ourselves when we’ve been rejected? How do we serve when we’ve been cast aside? How do we forgive when we feel forgotten? How do we offer others strength when we’re so fragile? It begins by understanding what is impossible with man is possible with God. He can give us a new heart, He can remind us how much we are loved. But only if we look to Him for our strength. And that starts with admitting how desperately poor and needy we are.
As I’m walking through this heartache with my daughter, I’ve been reading through the Psalms. I’ve always adored the Psalms. Poetic, powerful, and, honest. I used to get annoyed with David for whining so much. But I’m more and more convinced it’s David’s genuineness and humility that made him a man after God’s own heart. He would honestly cry out to the Lord with words like “Why have you forgotten me? Why are you so cast down my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?”, but he would always, always land on truth and speak the truth to himself. “Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.” (Psalm 42)
As I read through the Psalms day after day, over and over, I noticed this repeated pattern. Raw vulnerability followed by reminders of truth about the character of God. So where did David gain his strength to stand firm in his heartache? He was willing to admit, as he did in Psalm 40, that he was poor and needy. He was willing to admit his weakness and frailty, but he didn’t end there. He made sure to focus on God’s strength, on His goodness, on His power, on His faithfulness, on His ability to heal and humble and renew and restore.
As I continued to focus on David’s pattern of humility and honesty, I began to find a refrain. God alone is our strength. He is our song. He is our hope. He is our healer. He is all we need. And isn’t that right where I long for my children to be, where I long to be, desperate and dedicated to seeking more of my heavenly Father? And that begins with confessing my weakness, being honest before God, and there I find there is a certain strength in sorrow. A certain knowing that my Abba is enough and His love and His acceptance are enough. And I found myself saying these words to my hurting, but healing, daughter, “What if your greatest sorrows are God’s greatest gift?”.
And what if they are? What if those sorrows propel you into the loving arms of the King. James 1 tells us our trials are meant to mature us; to grow us up in the truth. If sorrow and heartache are what is required for me, and my family, to become more intimate with the King, to become more accurate reflections of His love, then, though I would not choose it, I am learning to be grateful for it. Because in our greatest sorrow; He will become our source of strength.