Her eyes filled with tears as she gripped my left-hand.
“Oh, I wish we were already on the ground!” she wept.
The take-off was a little bumpy, but not unusual. In the same manner as always, we lifted from the ground and immediately hit minor turbulence. The plane rocked and bumped a little left, then a little right as if finding its balance. My little girl silently whispered prayers for safety as she squeezed my left hand tighter.
A 7 year old should not be able to cause severe pain to a 35 year old man. Yet, my affliction is evident in my left hand. You see, I have scleroderma in my left foot and my left hand/arm. (pictured above) As a result, I only have about 75% mobility in my hand and it pretty much hurts all the time. Occasionally it will flair-up, turn a brighter color red, and my nerve endings will feel like they’re on fire if someone touches my hand or foot. This particular flight happened to be one of those times.
I know the anxiety my little girl deals with, she got it from me. Plane flights tend to heighten my already anxious state. While other people are able to sleep or think about plans for when they land, I find my mind drifting in and out of a state of panic thinking: “we’re all gonna die, God help!” and a state of extreme cynicism thinking: “If God intended me to fly through the air, I’d be a bird!” So when I see the tears in my daughters eyes and hear her pleas to be on the ground, it is not without sympathy. This anxiety can be crippling. Rational thought escapes us when we deal with anxiety. We must force ourselves to reason when we are anxious. No one can do it for us… no amount of information can stem the anxious feelings… when someone suffers anxiety, they must decide to reason through it. Sometimes that’s not possible.
So here I sit. My nerves on fire, in a state of internal panic, wishing I could comfort my little girl.
We hit more turbulence. She squeezes tighter. I lean down and say, “it’s alright baby, just squeeze daddy’s hand.”
Pain floods my arm… I wince, and tears begin to form in my eyes. I could not take away the anxious feeling my daughter struggled with. I couldn’t ease her fears with rational logic or profound thoughts of God. All I could do was let her squeeze my hand. This is what God does with me. In my own painful circumstances… He takes the pain on Himself, urging me to trust Him.
More turbulence… more squeezing.
In that moment I saw again the way Christ walks with us. Jesus does not merely walk next to you while you feel the pain. He has actually taken the pain on Himself. In His kindness, He has taken our pain upon Himself. Every pain and anxiety you suffer, He has walked through and is walking through with you. In those dark moments of the soul, feeling your every pain He urges you, “it’s alright… squeeze My hand.” No amount of pain is too great for Him.
You see, I held my daughter’s hand because I love her. The pain didn’t matter in that moment. In that moment all that mattered was her pain. Pain cannot trump the love I have for my child. Likewise, pain cannot overcome the love Christ has for you. Jesus went to the cross, bearing your every affliction and failure so that you could squeeze his hand, and now He walks through your pain with you! Pain in this world is bound to come, but you don’t have to walk through it alone. The Holy Spirit will comfort. Squeeze His hand.
It is when we recognize this reality as a community that we will start to see past our own pain to love others. You see, my pain in that flight was second to her anxiousness. She needed to squeeze my hand, unconsciously causing me pain. This is how we should love one another. In the church, we personify the love of Christ to one another. We squeeze each other’s hands, ignoring our own inconveniences. We offer up our time and resources to provide for each other in spite of our inability to bring resolution. We wade through the troubles and pains of life together no matter how painful our own suffering. So… learn to be squeezed by your community. In doing so, you will live a full life in the church.
I’m not always good at this. I still complain when someone else needs to squeeze my hand. I fail to love people well. But I have a group around me who let me squeeze their hands. (Romans 12:9-13) Our church strives to embody the ideal of grace extended. If you do not have a community like this, we are working hard to build one where I live. Come join us at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Brazoria at 10:30 Sunday mornings. We meet in the Brazoria Civic Center Conference room (the old elementary school.) There is a map on the important documents tab at the top of this page. We all have struggles, let’s walk through them together.