I've always been a bit of a worrier.
When I was little I would get stomach aches and a bad feeling in my chest when my parents left the house—worried they'd get into an accident and wouldn't come back. Now, I worry about money, about relationships, about the future. And lately, I've been worried that the rubber band is going to snap.
You see, I've led a pretty easy life up to this point—I've never been hungry, never had to mourn the loss of a friend taken too early, never been the victim of a crime. I've had battles, but nothing seems as difficult as what could come down the road. While some of my worries are entirely unfounded, some of them aren't. Recently I've heard story after story of people being diagnosed with cancer too young, a perfectly fit Dad having a heart attack out of no where, a student dying in a car accident. And so I worry. But, I don't just worry about terrible things happening, I worry about how I'll react to God in the midst of the terrible. I worry I'll become bitter.
Kara Tippets was a friend I never actually met that passed away from cancer a few weeks ago. She touched so many lives with her words of grace and truth and living in the hard. Ann Voskamp, wrote an amazing post after her death. In it she said,
"Kara sang with her babies and loved them large and relentlessly beyond the limits of herself, and was present and insisted that suffering didn’t mean the absence of goodness but rather the presence of God, and she fought to stay tender and keep a soft heart and let the echo of her laughter live long in all their souls…."
There it was, in that last sentence. "She fought to stay tender and keep a soft heart." I've found myself rolling it over and over in my mind the past few weeks.
Difficulties will come, but when they do, we can choose to become bitter or we can fight to keep tender hearts.
This Easter I heard a sermon reminding me of how the disciples must have felt right after Jesus' crucifixion. After His death they had locked themselves in an upper room. They were worried, they were sad, and their hearts were growing hard. And then Jesus appeared to them and told them,
"'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.' And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'" -John 20:21-22
He sent them out into the world—into a world that was not fair and was not easy. Jesus is deeply aware of the suffering and the hurt in the world—in my world. He died a humiliating death on the cross, a punishment that was unjust. Yet, He rose again. He forgave the sins of the very men that killed Him. He overcame.
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." -John 16:33
And He breathed on His disciples. There are only two places in the Bible where God breathes on someone—in Genesis to give life to Adam and here in this passage, to give life (the Holy Spirit) to the disciples. In the middle of our worry and our suffering, when we'd rather be locked in a room hiding from the world, He does the same for us as he did for the disciples. He gives us life and sends us out, because in the midst of suffering His heart toward us is soft. Even though the worst happened to Him, there is no speck of bitterness in Him.
Which means this—I don't have to worry. He knows all the bad (and the good) that's going to happen in my life. He is not surprised. He will remain with me even when I don't understand, even when life isn't fair, even when I fear. He will come when my door is locked and worry is closing in, and He will fight alongside me to keep my heart soft. He will give me life and He will send me back out.
How do you fight for a soft heart?