I stood by the fence, glad for the mask covering my face as I stared into the sunny schoolyard, hoping the brightness would hide any emotion that my eyes might betray to other nearby parents.
A few days before, my son had lost his favorite hoodie while on a day trip with a friend, and as I sought it in vain, that hoodie began to represent the many losses I’ve suffered this year, both tangible and intangible: things I had, things I needed, things no longer within my reach.
Most people would respond rationally and give up, accepting that it was lost. But to me, it wasn’t just about the hoodie (though it was definitely about the hoodie, too). I didn’t want to give up, to surrender to anything, to admit even momentary defeat—although I was feeling defeated. With all the power of my own determination, I remained stubbornly hopeful. What I didn’t yet realize is that it was a misplaced hope based on my own competency and control, not looking to the Lord and giving my burdens to Him.
I am notorious for keeping track of things; the rare times in my life that I’ve lost something for good, it has haunted me. I’ve wondered if my sentimentality is incompatible with the realities of cross-cultural life—though I’m trying to grow in this area, it’s a weakness, as my response to loss always seems disproportionate. The intangible losses are tricky, because I can’t just persist longer or look harder. I have no choice but to acknowledge the loss and accept that what I once had is no more.
Unsurprisingly, Jesus’ parables of lost things have always resonated with me, particularly the Parable of the Lost Coin. It’s reassuring that God taps into the familiar emotions of losing something and finding it again to describe the value of even one person repenting and finding life in Christ. How often have I been that woman, moving furniture, cleaning everything, not giving up until I have found what has been lost? And such rejoicing, telling everyone who will listen when it has been found!
It is so remarkable and beautiful to consider that God’s heart for people encompasses that same painstaking diligence, persistence, and determination as He pursues someone, intently drawing that person to Himself. It’s an honor to see God’s particular care in the lives of others even now, and to join Him in valuing each person the way He does.
But in those minutes of silent reflection as I was waiting for my kids on the sidewalk after school, I was thinking about how I’ve been feeling lately, like I cannot possibly handle any more difficulty, or any new layer of loss, even one that’s seemingly insignificant. In all the ways God shows that He cares, I was feeling like He had forgotten to care about me. I began pleading to the Lord for help and even arguing with Him a little. Bearing everything suddenly felt like too much.
Later I remembered Hagar, the mistreated servant of Sarai, who ran away in misery and desperation, undoubtedly feeling helpless and alone. The angel of the Lord found her, though, and in her distress God made a promise to her—the Lord knew what she was going through. Hagar’s response was to say, “You are the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:13).
This reminder brought such relief. In the same way God saw Hagar, God sees ME. He sees my difficulty, He sees my weakness, He sees my sorrow. He knows my heart when I am devastated by one more loss, and He finds me there.
Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” I had been incapable of managing my losses on my own—I didn’t realize it, but my stubbornness had me unknowingly resisting God’s grace, afraid to give up, afraid to surrender, afraid of defeat. It turns out, when the various things in my life were feeling like too much, I was actually afraid that God’s help wouldn’t be enough.
What if a surrender of ourselves is not a kind of giving up, or admitting defeat? What if a surrender is actually an embrace, turning to the fullness of God’s grace and resting in it? I had spent so much energy on my own stubborn determination that I had forgotten to look to the Lord. My God is the God who sees, He is close to me when I am brokenhearted. God’s care gloriously released me from the impossible pressures and illusions of my own competency and control into His gracious freedom.
Though my wrestling with God had already helped me know that He was close to me, the next day my husband got an email. The office at the park had written to say they found our son’s hoodie, and I sunk to the floor in amazement. My kids surrounded me, seizing the opportunity to tackle me with hugs, and I told them, “You guys! I prayed, and God heard me! He didn’t have to answer this way, but He DID!” I had been overwhelmed by my losses, but as I later drove home from retrieving the hoodie, I was overwhelmed with thankfulness to the Lord for the special kindness of his care.
How has God shown His care for you in ways that might seem insignificant to others?