As any stranger on the street can attest, my hands are pretty full these days juggling OB appointments with Jr. High soccer and teaching kids to read. I love writing this blog, but being busy at home and in my church, I find it falling farther down the list (as it should). It dawned on me recently, that since this blog reflects bits of what I’m learning along the way, it could reflect that I am never learning these things alone. I am surrounded in Godly counsel and wise friends. I’ve cajoled a few into letting me share them with you. They feel inadequate and vulnerable, but their love for testifying about our great God has overcome. I hope you’ll enjoy my new category, “And Friends” from time to time.
Guest Blogger: Jenny Vanderwey. She is wife to Evan and mother of 10, and one who loves her God and her people with tenacity and courage.
Peace, Be Still
When Jesus was on the boat with his men, a storm came that terrified the disciples. When he finally woke up from his nap, the Lord calmed the storm with his mouth, “Peace, be still!” The men marveled, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:35-41)
These past two or three years have been a doozy of a storm – in the Friendship Department. Lately the Lord has seen fit to inflict a few friends of mine with very hard providences. And while weighty trials are obviously very difficult and overwhelming for the ones doing the intense suffering, they can also be a heavy burden for those who love them. I’m not sure what I thought it would be like when I set out to be a loyal, gospel friend. I thought: you stick with someone, you love her like David loved Jonathan, you encourage when the person is faint, you show up when you think she needs you. You laugh, you pray, you love her kids, you give stuff, you speak scripture. You sometimes rebuke a little, you work to ask for forgiveness. I know one thing I thought for sure, going in, I thought, “I can do it.”
I’m one of those strong personalities. I have big plans, big opinions, lots of energy and confidence. I’m full of optimism and capacity to relate to people. I’ve spent my adult life eating massive amounts of crow because of all the stuff I said with surety that ended up being – wait for it – mistaken. So when suffering started to encroach on my dear friends, per the usual, I started in with my plans to make stuff better. And much of it was good: making meals, giving rides, giving advice (I’m very, very good at that), sitting at the hospital, arranging play times, cleaning. I’d give ideas about what to do, write notes, offer to make phone calls, try to make her laugh, and try to run interference too. I’d share how Evan and I are praying and thinking about our friends and the scriptures that come to mind about their life and their pain. I’d search the internet looking for solutions and I’d try to learn all I could about the enemies she was facing. All of it I did with love, deep love. But I found it lacking. I found it lacking because it was so obvious that my suffering friends did too.
And these trials were not short-lived. They persisted on and on. They didn’t let up much at all. It felt like we could barely catch our breath. On the way to the hospital one evening, I remember crying out to the Lord in the car, “LORD! How long?” 2 Corinthians 4 comes to mind, we were “hard-pressed on every side.” My “massive” capacity to keep-on-keeping-on relationally was waning. My husband and kids were fatigued with the pace at times and I was often exhausted, especially emotionally. Some weird health issues cropped up. I was sad a lot. And I sinned a lot-saying and doing wrong things with terrible timing.
The lesson I learned is a foundational one, and yet, despite its profoundness, I constantly need reminded. My own strength does not cut it. My own strength and wisdom even mess things up and can make them worse. I have had to learn that ultimately I can’t fix it. I have had to be quiet, and still, and know that I am not God. My God is God.
He is at work, lovingly afflicting and pruning. I cannot thwart him- not for my friend, not even for my child. The grizzly bear in me wants to protect so intensely. How silly! I wish to protect my people from my God! It is true, He is after something, and he will get it. There is no thwarting him. He is after his glory and he is after making his saints lovely like their King. He will cause what is best – for all of us. As my friend always says, “he is incredibly efficient.”
Now days, I still do all that stuff I mentioned. I just try super hard to ask the Lord to help me be still in it all. I ask him to help me trust and be mature and to join him in His work. I ask him to somehow use my weak efforts to help a little and to somehow please him. And I have added an item to my list of “stuff I do for my friends.” Nothing. It feels really weird and out of control for me, but it’s my recognition that I am finite, a little creature– a sheep, actually.
All this time, I have not considered that my loved one often needs me to do absolutely nothing-sometimes nothing with her and sometimes nothing away from her, because there isn’t anything I can do, ultimately. I think I have actually believed (functionally) that I have what it takes to say to the storm, “Peace, be still!” The arrogance! Instead, I am slowly beginning to get that He is making peace and calm not only in this fiery trial for my friend, but in my own stormy soul. The Lord Himself must work. He must rescue. He must make us beautiful in his time. He will have his way, and if we belong to him, that is very calming news.
“The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.” Isaiah 32:17