I feel big feelings. I don’t mind the intensity of my feelings when they are pleasant, but when the storms of life swirl in, fear and pain can overwhelm me. It is hard to know what to do with deep emotions. But I believe in owning them. I believe in being honest about what’s going on inside.
So, common sayings used to write off real and deep emotion rub me the wrong way. Often biblical truths are employed in unbiblical ways to minimize or even negate deep work going on in the heart. You probably know what I’m talking about:
“God is in control.”
“At least they are in a better place.”
“Just pray about it.”
Trite sayings drive me nuts.
But when my Grandma acknowledges something difficult and says, “this too shall pass,” she doesn’t sound like a woman afraid of her feelings. Rather, her words are wisdom – honey dripping from trembling lips.
My Grandma is no stranger to fear and pain. She grew up during the depression, sent her high school sweetheart to World War II, buried a young daughter, sent a son off to Vietnam, and lost many friends and family members along the way – including her life-long love. But with six children, twelve grandchildren, eighteen great-grandchildren and an extensive network of family and friends, she also knows the precious joy of a tight-knit community.
For a month we knew Grandma’s days on earth were numbered. As her weary heart worked harder to beat, she told us she was ready for heaven. “I have been blessed in this life. I am tired of being blessed.”
The day I kissed my Grandma goodbye was not her last. Two weeks later I went back, concerned for her emotional wellbeing. This emotionally sensitive girl wondered: how does one lie fully conscious for weeks, praying to die? When I arrived, I realized that though she was not happy, she was not depressed. She was simply waiting for this to pass, knowing that her pain was temporary, placing her hope in what was to come.
A few days later she kissed the world goodbye.
Now I look around me. I see my mom laughing with our children and feel my dad’s embrace. I cuddle with my husband and look forward to summer days running and splashing and laughing and growing our young family, and I think…
I don’t want this to pass.
But it will. These moments – the sweet, the celebratory, the innocent, the intimate – these pleasant moments are just as fleeting as the difficult ones. What am I to do with this weighty reality? How do I cope with the fact that despite how tightly I cling to the things I love, they will not endure and the storms will come?
“This too shall pass” anchored my Grandma’s emotions in faith. She was an imperfect woman who put her hope in God instead of her present circumstances. We plan to have the phrase engraved in her handwriting on necklaces. As it rests on my heart, my heart will rest knowing that my deep emotion does not depend on my circumstances. I can anchor my real and deep emotions in that which will not pass away. Just like Grandma.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.