True confession: I used to be an easy answer person. I used to think that I could handle things on my own.
I used to believe things like “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” I used to think that life’s most difficult questions had simple answers. “Well, we live in a broken world.” “It must be God’s will.” I am ashamed to admit that these and other cliche responses used to flow freely from my lips. I used to buy into all of those easy answers.
And then, my baby died in the one place that my body was designed to protect him from all harm. Before he ever got to take a breath on this side of heaven, my child was taken from me.
In the moment of hearing those terrible words, “I’m sorry, there is no heartbeat,” I learned very quickly one important truth to trump them all: There are no easy answers.
In that terrifying moment, I learned that we were never meant to walk through this life alone. We were never meant to bear our burdens alone. We are wired for community, and there are no easy answers to life’s most messy and complicated situations. God gives us each other.
Over the course of the past two weekends, I have been blessed in countless ways through the work that I get to do in youth ministry. Last weekend, my friend SC and I took seven high schoolers to McArthur, Ohio for a one-night retreat themed around the song The Serious Kind. We dove deep into the troubles and fears that we all face and searched scripture to find ways that love is greater than ______ and hope is greater than ________. In the midst of our conversation, one of the students said something along the lines of “Well, God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” Honestly, it’s totally possible that this student heard me say those words at some point. However, in the past six months, I have learned and come to really understand how harmful this simple sentence can be in the midst of life’s most devastating circumstances. We were able to unpack that a little bit more and spent some time working to get to the heart of that. God has wired us for community. God does not give us troubles in order to test us, or to see how much more we can handle. God doesn’t cause babies to die. God doesn’t cause our parents to get cancer. God doesn’t cause or our friends to hurt. What God does do, is give us community so that we don’t face any of those things alone. There are no easy answers. God gives us each other.
This Saturday, I spent the day with high school leaders from across the Southern Ohio Synod of the ELCA at a leadership equipping event where we dove into personality temperaments, conflict resolution, love languages, and God’s design and call for us as different leaders in the body of Christ. There was a lot of exploration about self-awareness, and it seemed to me that the overarching theme for the day is that there simply are no easy answers for how people are wired. We are all unique. There are no easy answers. God gives us each other.
Yesterday afternoon, I spent time with our middle school confirmation students, who have been working through a series on Peer Ministry Leadership–learning how to welcome, walk alongside, and help friends who are hurting. I truly believe that this is one of the most important skills that we can teach our middle school youth, and so we are spending almost half our year on it this year. The reality is that our young people are hurting. Their friends are hurting. There are no easy answers. God gives us each other.
Last night, I wrapped up a full weekend with our monthly high school ministry dinner night. Every time we gather with young people, we spend time sharing highs and lows. Often times, the things that are shared seem to stay on the surface–no school this week, a lot of homework, losing a sports game, etc. But we continue to share highs and lows, and take them seriously, in order to build a culture where students know that we care about each other. We care deeply about knowing what is really going on in each other’s lives. Well, lately there is some really heavy stuff going on among our young people. And some of that was shared last night. Just like I needed to learn this past year, our young people need to hear over and over again these simple truths: There are no easy answers. God gives us each other.
When the storms come. When the cancer takes over. When the baby you are carrying no longer has a heartbeat. When you receive the fatal diagnosis. When your parents tell you your family will be moving again. When the girl you like tells you she just wants to be friends. When marriages fall apart. When life gets messy. When we want easy answers and pray for easy answers. God reminds us of this truth: There are no easy answers. God gives us each other.
We are wired for community. We are wired for Christ. We are wired for being the “light of Christ” in the darkness around us.