A difficult conversation

What can one say to a fellow believer whose heart no longer trusts in the Lord? Whether through a disappointment or crushing blow or unseen event causes them bereavement. Friends may rally around with cards or phone calls, both earmarked with kind offers of encouragement and support:  “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:4-6) or “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9:10). “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13).

Yet I wonder sometimes if people have really put their trust in God. Is the Holy Spirit pushing through the dredge and mire we wallow in when we lick our wounds, or have our ears been seared through the trials themselves?

Most people I know in the faith heed God’s word. They struggle while taking their lumps and then turn them over to God, casting their cares upon him, knowing that he can be trusted with healing their hearts. But all too frustratingly, sometimes people go the other way. It seems like they can’t hear the Lord calling to them. They remain deaf to his word.

This past year, I’ve gotten to know a woman from my church, along with her granddaughter. The child has been living in her home for the past two years in what is called a “foster kinship” program as, sadly, both of the child’s parents are addicted to drugs, and their lives are spent mostly in prison.

As she, along with her husband, walked along the quiet tree-lined street where they live while holding hands with their granddaughter on the way to church together, their adoration of the child is evident to everyone in their sphere. Her physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being have been their highest priorities, and to even a casual observer, the little girl thrived in her environment with swim lessons, ballet class, t-ball, etc.

At some point, I noticed their absence from church. During a call to my friend one day, I learned her granddaughter was no longer living with them. She’d been taken away by the county court system. I tried to put myself in her shoes, to understand the situation—the frustration of dealing with an apparently blind social welfare system. Their plans to rear the child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord now thwarted by an overzealous case worker, who abruptly placed her with a professional foster family without any apparent reason. Now with their granddaughter gone from their custody, they feel God has abandoned them and no longer put their trust in him.

The bitterness they feel toward God for this situation has left them hollowed out and miserable. In my feeble conversations with my friend, I try to let the Holy Spirit do the talking, lest my own words come up dry—words that admonish her to have more faith, more trust and to not focus on the problem but instead trust that God is in control.

As much as I want to shake the upset feeling from her and beg her to be joyful, convict her that she is wrong to leave God behind or to blame Him, I know that all I can do is pray. While I want to persuade her to come back to church… to guilt her into coming (isn’t God worthy?), there is one question I leave with her: Does your granddaughter belong to you or does she belong to God? While you’ve trusted God for salvation, have you trusted Him for everything else in your life including the welfare of your granddaughter?

In answering this, we must realize that everything belongs to God. We are just the stewards of what we’ve been given:  children, grandchildren, spouses, material things. In subsequent conversations, as much as I long for her bitterness to fade while accepting this trial as the Lord sees fit, I realize that is His job, not mine, and the lesson turns around on me.  I, too, need to trust that  they also belong to the Lord, and I need to let him convict them in his timing.

When I hang up the phone, it’s always my prayer that the family is reconciled one day as the Lord wills. Certainly the Lord knows what’s best for us as we entrust our hearts to him. And most certainly, if he  owns the “cattle on a thousand hills,” how much more our lives?