The Monkey bars taught me a lesson one day. My 6-year-old son beckoned me over to help him with them. He had played on the monkey bars many times, so I was surprised he asked for help. Maybe he realized these bars were higher and more challenging than others, but all three of my kids were masters of this playground apparatus.
The game is to travel around the circle of the playground equipment without touching the ground. This requires swinging across the monkey-bar section with your hands. I stood under my son with my arms up like a safety net, not wanting to support his weight so he could learn this new challenge. And then it struck me: that’s what God does with us.
I was talking with a dear friend about the struggles I was going through when my son called me over. The day before had rated low on my “good parent” scale. I was, shall we say, less than patient with my kids that day. The stress of balancing school and my new life as a single parent was overwhelming. Added to that was the challenge of a birthday party the night before and the strain of financial difficulties. This single-parent life was not the life I wanted or had chosen. Yet here it was, a bleak reality.
After I lost my patience with my kids, I cried out to God. I got mad and blamed God too. One of the many things I like about God is that he does not holler or blame in return. He quietly listens, at least for a time.
I have been down this road of loss and suffering before through my parents’ divorce, the loss of my mother to cancer, difficult and depressing pregnancies, and more. Now I was adding marital trouble and single parenting. The number one lesson: trust in the midst of loss and suffering should be ingrained by now.
I recently studied the book of Job. The lesson from the story of Job is not so much about loss and suffering as it is about trusting God when life does not make sense. Job got mad at God too. He shook his fist at him! Have you ever shaken your fist at God? I have.
Finally, at the end of the story, Job got it. Even though he had no answer from God about his suffering, Job accepted that God was in control. This is the gift of repeated suffering: learned trust when life does not make sense.
As I stood under my son, ready to catch him if he should fall, I was reminded of God’s loving arms: ready to catch me but distant enough so I will learn from this new chapter of my life. In this new chapter, I’ll try to lean on the trust I have learned, to trust God is there whether I feel his presence or not.