A lesson in trust when life falls apart.
by Ann Vande Zande
My son and I play a game in which we pick a color, then list everything we can think of in that hue. It’s surprising what we’ve uncovered. Like spring, for instance.
In April our harsh Minnesota winter retreats, and lush growth supplants the white season. Trees bud, tulips bloom, grass sprouts. Everywhere you look, it’s green. Living in Texas taught me to appreciate winter — not for the subzero temperatures, heaps of snow, or icy roads but for the deep-rooted growth that brings about our intense spring.
Leaning into pain
Recently a harsh season descended on our family. Within months, cancer ended the lives of my mother and mother-in-law. Emotional and spiritual fatigue threatened to send me into hibernation as our young children wrestled with realities not taught in Bible school. In the past I’d have ignored the pain and waited for hurt to disappear before getting back to life.
This time, though, I’m leaning into the pain. I used to seek out activities that validated my existence and made me feel like a doing-machine, hiding my soulful side. It’s uncomfortable owning up to fear, doubt, and loss; but the other options provided only shallow relief — not lasting restoration.
Denying or minimizing the destructive power of pain doesn’t heal any wounds. On the contrary, stuffed suffering tends to mimic Texas cockroaches: they skulk about in unknown places, showing up when the lights go off. Likewise, pain festers and grows, lurking about the soul, seeding apathy or anger. Then when life gets hard, the forgotten suffering can lurch forward, compounding the strain of immediate struggles.
When anguish is concealed behind work, busyness, and activity, we end up subsisting in bleak blandness. The abundant life is traded for an abiding winter-like season, with the relief of spring all but forgotten.
It doesn’t take a trauma as drastic as death or disease to send a person running for cover. Loss can come as strain at work, unmet expectations, or our children’s constant needs. Even daily disappointments can challenge our trust in God. If He’s in control and able to help my family, my church, and me, why is life so hard?
Some believers advocate solution-style Christianity: Pray this prayer for immediate results. In my experience, formulas don’t work. Worse, when the prescription fails, who’s to blame? The hurting person is left deeper in anguish than before and carrying added shame for not having enough faith. In reality, the hindrance rests not with God but with the quick-fix solution itself.
God’s promises remain trustworthy, but that doesn’t mean life never becomes messy or even overwhelming. As destructive as they seem, tough times can be overcome. Releasing my desire for self-sufficiency forces me to face my people-pleasing faith — religion that’s more about me than about God.
That’s when I can express myself honestly to God — a conversation that’s not pretty or pious, but profitable. Prayers wrapped in vulnerable confusion, confrontation, and cries don’t send God away; they strengthen our relationship. In those times I get a glimpse of what God’s grace means: being loved, just as I am.
Then hope arises.
Hope reminds me to hold on because new life will bloom soon — life that’s green, abundant, and rooted deeply. Hope teaches me that my spirit will be renewed, that I’m more than what I accomplish. Hope assures me that God hasn’t forgotten; it coaxes me to believe that my tears matter to God. Clinging to the hope that doesn’t disappoint (Romans 5:5), I find the courage to trust God and, once again, seek green.