When We Don’t Understand

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And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Ph 4:7

Last weekend a wise friend said to me, “You can’t have the peace that surpasses understanding until you stop trying to understand.”

That is right where I am. I’m still trying to understand the car accident and our loss of Kalkidan, but it simply isn’t possible. We can’t make sense of something that doesn’t make sense to our minds and hearts. I’m tempted to think that I could have changed the outcome of our accident.

If we hadn’t stopped at the bottom of the driveway to mail Christmas cards…

If I hadn’t let her switch seats just before we left…

If we hadn’t gone into town to get gas just before we headed north…

If we had kept the original dates and traveled the next day…

If…

If…

If…

This is what I need to embrace and breathe into my soul.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

If I want the peace that passes understanding, I need to stop trying to understand.

I can’t tell you how hard that is for me.

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

23 Comments

  1. Laine
    March 3, 2015

    Beautifully said. Continued prayers for your family for peace and comfort.

    Reply
  2. Nicole
    March 3, 2015

    Lisa, I started reading your blog just before you adopted honey bee. I use to love reading your entries… I always thought your family was like my dream family. It's been years since I've read, unfortunately for me. Yesterday your family came to mind out of the blue and I looked up your blog and read about Dimples. Just want you to know I'm praying for you and I still think your family is my dream family! Would have been a dream come true to have a family like yours and kalkidan was so blessed to actually have it!
    I've read the blog of pastor Levi Lusko of Montana who lost their little girl. He and his wife said once they she is "more apart of their future than their past" and that thought brings me a lot of peace and hope after the loss of my own dearest loved one.
    My prayers are with you.

    Reply
  3. Lori
    March 3, 2015

    As someone who is over eight years beyond the death of my son, I will tell you that you can find peace and still have thoughts of not understanding. I believe that we can trust God and believe that He is sovereign and that His purposes and plans are for our good and His glory – and still not understand. Think of all the psalms that pour out their frustration and questioning? They weren't lacking faith. They were pleading for it!

    For awhile after our son died I would tell people that my head believed, trusted, even understood, but my heart was not there. That made some people really uncomfortable, but I was not having a crisis of faith. The Lord was using a crucible of fire to refine me and make my faith even stronger.

    I read a book by Elisabeth Elliot called, "On Asking God Why". I liked the book because it doesn't tell you not to ask "Why?". In asking questions of God we are actually declaring our faith. We believe He is there, we believe He wants to hear our heart, and we believe He has answers for us. There are many psalms that ask "Why?" or "How long?".

    I do know what you mean about the wondering. My husband and I had some of the same trouble when our son died. Why did we do this? Why didn't we do that? Was it our fault? It will just take time to let go of that. Just keep preaching the truth to yourself that God is in control of everything and that we are not able – by any action or inaction – to thwart His perfect sovereign will.

    People, in their care and concern, would tell me that "joy comes in the morning". That really annoyed me for some reason. Not that I didn't believe that comforting sentiment, but I felt like they were telling me that there was a specific timetable for my grief and there was possibly something wrong with me that I wasn't miraculously waking up one morning with inexpressible joy. I noticed that expressing grief makes a lot of people very uncomfortable. I suppose they aren't sure what to say. The Lord gave me grace to not be offended by any of the comments that weren't especially helpful, but to see them as coming from a place of love and caring.

    I guess I am saying that your grief is yours. Your grief process won't be like mine or anyone else, it won't last a certain amount of time, and it cannot be predicted. Keep clinging to Jesus and what you know to be true about God and give yourself permission to be sad, angry, disappointed, frustrated, peaceful, joyful, trusting – whatever you feel. And take it to the Father, Who loves you and will carry you through this.

    Reply
    1. Penny
      March 6, 2015

      Beautifully written and expressed!

      Reply
  4. Bev
    March 3, 2015

    I'm in a completely different situation, but your words apply directly to me as well. I'm working with something I can't understand and the more I try to understand, the less peace I have. I'm having so little peace that it has moved into the territory of anxiety.

    I know for me, I will feel like I have more control over what is happening if I can understand it. But in truth, there is little I have control over besides my own attitude.

    Thanks so much for sharing out of the depths of your pain.

    My devotions for today included Psalm 42, Psalm 63, and Isaiah 55, which totally met the hurting parts of me this morning. I'm sharing them in hope that they will also meet something in you in ways that are beyond understanding.

    Reply
  5. Deborah
    March 3, 2015

    It would be for me too – I just cannot fathom it. My thoughts and prayers are with your family always.

    Reply
  6. Jennifer Healy
    March 3, 2015

    I am right there with you sister. I think about you all the time. Jenn Healy

    Reply
  7. charity
    March 3, 2015

    I don't think as mortals we ever stop trying to understand, seems woven into our very fabric…but when we understand that God loves us, even when He doesn't stop things from happening to us, and that He still walks with us through them, it is easier to get back to a place where we can breathe again. I don't try to understand why I ended up in the hospital for months last year, leaving my darling husband with 7 kids, the youngest was 2, to stumble through life and taking care of each other alone. I don't understand the need for so much pain and suffering in this mortal experience…but none of that prevented me from seeing the Hand of God over and over as others reached out to help us, as I didn't feel alone, as our prayers were answered, in ways we hoped and also ways we wouldn't have asked for…I understand He is constant and He knows my needs. I understand He loves me, even when that doesn't mean He saves me from the pain and tragedy that sometimes is this life…I can't waste much energy on trying to understand the rest, I need that to face today, to love my children, to stand. I have other things to do:) praying for your continued healing and sending love.

    Reply
  8. Joelle
    March 3, 2015

    Praying for you as you struggle to find that place. I pray that you are able to be gracious to yourself on those days that it is harder to not seek to understand.

    Reply
  9. lucylou99
    March 3, 2015

    Praying, praying, praying my Sweet Friend. Praying for peace, for quiet. for comfort.
    Love you, Cindy Mc

    Reply
  10. MommaFoster
    March 3, 2015

    Praying for peace today.

    Reply
  11. Lori McCary
    March 3, 2015

    Your friend is right, Lisa! Thanks for the reminder that sometimes our finite minds will simply not understand. We are facing a very unknown future with our critically ill daughter as our wait for a heart transplant becomes 3 very long years. I read your words and pray for you, knowing that I too could be walking in your shoes far too soon. In searching for that sweet peace while we have waited, I have discovered the Bible verse preceding that promise of peace. It says that we are to take every thought captive…. to think only on what is good and praise-worthy and THEN the peace that passes understanding will be ours. So, just as your friend said… when you seek to understand what can not be understood, you are focusing on the "What if" questions that have no answer and the enemy wants to use those to destroy you! I pray that God will replace those questions with sweet reminders of His Truth and that you will find overwhelming peace. Praying too that you will know the immeasurable grace only He can give! Hugs from Florida. Lori McCary

    Reply
  12. Laurel
    March 3, 2015

    You have been on my heart and in my prayers throughout this past week since I heard of your loss. I prayed often for you throughout the weekend, that you and Russ would be able to be refreshed and drawn closer to each other and to the Lord. I will continue to lift you up to the Father.

    I went through a time of deep grief a few years ago, and the Lord continually told me that it was okay for me to sit in my grief (my mud puddle, as I called it) for awhile . . . I didn't have to "pull myself up by my bootstraps" . . . He was sitting with me in my grief, and He would lift me up in His time. It's okay to cry. It's okay to wonder "why?". Just cry on His shoulder; He will wipe away your tears in His timing.

    Love & Hugs!

    Reply
  13. Emily
    March 3, 2015

    What a blessing to have a friend with such wise words to share.

    Reply
  14. lisa
    March 4, 2015

    love and prayers and tears for you, Lisa

    Reply
  15. Cristi Boyle Barrett
    March 4, 2015

    Lisa you are in my prayers all the time. You have some very wise friends who have left some wonderful comments for you. I will keep praying for some inner peace for you. It is such an in credibly difficult loss. My sister has buried two children. It has taken many years to see sunshine most days. There have been many why and what if day's but faith continues to carry her and her husband each day. Take care and much love. Cristi Boyle Barrett

    Reply
  16. Ann Hodgman
    March 5, 2015

    I wouldn't be so hard on yourself. I agree with Charity that trying to understand events is woven into us. The universality of the "If only I had…" feeling–and its incredible tenacity–suggest that our brains are hard-wired to feel that way after tragedies. Our nonstop "if only" and "but why" must be useful to our brains in some way, though I can't imagine how. But I don't see it as resisting the peace of God–it's more like a tic that will fade over time.

    It seems to me that the Buddhist tradition of identifying and acknowledging an intrusive feeling without judging it ("Yes, there's that feeling again"), and then bringing ourselves back to the present, might make for a more peaceful state than worrying that we "should" be working harder to accept God's will. If God made uus, then He also had a reason for fashioning our brains to function the way they do….More practically, fighting a persistent feeling rarely makes it go away! / xox

    Reply
  17. winterpromise31
    March 7, 2015

    Lisa, I just have to say that Kalkidan is so beautiful! Every time you post a new photo, I am struck by her beauty. 🙂 🙂 I love her smile in this photo.

    Reply
  18. Shonni
    March 7, 2015

    I think of you often and pray for you and your family.

    Reply
  19. penny1766
    March 8, 2015

    I am so very sorry for your loss. I have read your blog from time to time and was so happy when you posted that she had been able to return home to you. I was stunned to read of the accident. How terrible to be without her vibrant presence. May G-d comfort you and your family.

    Reply
  20. Kathy Cissna
    March 11, 2015

    Lisa, you and your family have been in my thoughts and prayers so much over the past couple months. At church our pastors have been preaching on the book of Lamentations, and I have thought of you so much as I've listened. If you'd like to listen to or watch the sermons, here's a link: http://www.onelifeseattle.org/#/see-hear
    I've also been listening to Dave Crowder's Neon Steeples CD in which there are many songs of comfort and leaning into Jesus. May I give you some iTunes tracks from the CD? I think I need an email address to do that.
    Much love, Kathy Cissna

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 11, 2015

      Kathy, thank you for your prayers and thoughts toward us. I will listen to the sermons and would love to hear the music. I need the Word and good music around me more than ever.

      Reply
  21. Kristi
    March 19, 2015

    Your blog posts are very calming to my spirit. God whispers peace. Be still. I too have been praying for your family.. in particularly Kalkidans siblings. Theres not alot said in this world about the loss of siblings. But it's a challenging road to walk nonetheless.
    Love to you all.

    Reply

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