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The Question on the Playground

The sunshine felt like warm chocolate being poured over my head. Like a bear emerging from hibernation, I was emerging from what meteorologists labeled the 100-year winter. For months I had been sequestered away in a land known for its deep dark winters. Today I savored the wonder of being outdoors in a city where freedom was the norm.  

Along with the frigid temperatures, my soul had experienced its own winter. I was pregnant with our third baby and the pregnancy was extremely difficult. Twice I had spent two weeks bed ridden in a communist hospital, where creature comforts were painfully absent. Morning sickness gave way to a threatening miscarriage; I ached for a healthy baby. The pages of the calendar turned, ever…so… slowly; and just as slowly, I made incremental, wobbly steps toward my second trimester. 

Now I stood in this public playground absorbed in watching my two little children play, and enjoying the simple peace that comes from simply feeling better. The long-awaited break from the intensity of living a double, covert life had arrived. We were out from under the grip of the Iron Curtain for a few days of respite. 

Then it happened. Like a missile, I was hit with The Question from my colleague. Initially, the stinging question just hung in the air, and then it made its menacing way to lodge in my fragile psyche. 

“So what do you think the Lord is teaching you?”

These 35 years later, I can assure you the real problem was mine, not hers. Yet, in my vulnerable state, I was starving for encouragement. I did not need a sermon, a seminar, a suggestion or even sympathy. And I definitely did not need this question. I needed solace in the form of understanding. 

My situation was serious. I was not doing well physically, spiritually, or emotionally. I had no idea what The Lord was teaching me, and I was too afraid to ask Him. That left me not knowing how to answer her. Somehow, I felt an answer was expected, even required. I failed the test, but made a note, going forward, never to ask a hurting person in the midst of their suffering to articulate what God is teaching them.

Decades hence, from this side of the question, I suggest four realities:

1. In difficult circumstances, it is difficult to ascertain what God is teaching us. 

2. In difficult circumstances, it is does not matter what God is teaching us.

3. In difficult circumstances, it only matters Who God is. 

4. In difficult circumstances, a shoulder, not a question is needed.

“Lord, I shudder to think of the times I have made the hurtful mistake of asking this hurtful question. Please keep my mouth closed when I am tempted to ask rather than listen.”

Question: Have you ever been asked this painful question in the midst of a difficult season? How did you respond?