I'm Being Squeezed

by Kristi Bothur © 2012

"For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." Matthew 12:34

It was a clear, sunny day, and our neighborhood spring fling was going strong. Everyone was in a festive mood, including my 15-month-old daughter who was excited to play on the inflatable slide and bounce house. I was in no mood to celebrate, however. Less than two months before, we had lost a baby girl in a second trimester miscarriage. I resented the sun for shining and my neighbors for smiling when my world had ended. My mood was dark, and my emotions
were raw and close to the surface. Watching my husband and daughter tumble down the slide, I was gripped with a sudden fear for her safety as well. When some older kids rough-housed their way down after them, I marched over and loudly declared to my husband that I didn't want our daughter playing where other kids were being stupid and dangerous.

I was shocked at the harshness of my own words – and doubly so when a neighbor near me muttered something to her friend about my rudeness. I blushed and retreated to our car in tears. I was a mother and a teacher. I'd never spoken about children in that way before – what had come over me? I didn't recognize the person I was becoming, and it scared me.

Maybe you can relate, having said or done something in the midst of grief or pain that you wouldn't normally do. Hard times have a way of bringing out the best in us – but they also have a way of bringing out the worst. In my case, our loss made me feel out of control and fearful for the safety of the rest of my family, and it came out in anger and impatience with others around me, even those I am closest to. Even now, it is something I struggle with.

It's easy, when this happens, to lay the blame on our circumstances. I'm sorry, we say. I was having a bad day…I'm really feeling scared…I'm feeling overwhelmed. The implication is that if my circumstances were different, I would never behave in such a way. I'm a better person than what I just showed you.

There is some truth to that. When we go through a trial, whether personal or physical or emotional, we often don't realize the stress that lays on us and how the emotions of fear and anger in particular can affect our behavior. But the words of Jesus suggest another diagnosis that we must also keep in mind. "For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of" (see Luke 6:45). I once heard a speaker ask his audience what happens when you squeeze a tube of toothpaste. The answer, of course, is that toothpaste comes out. Then he asked, why? Most people respond, "Because you squeezed it." But the answer he gave was different – "Because there was toothpaste inside." His point – if there was no toothpaste inside, you could squeeze it all you wanted and no toothpaste would come out.

Our reactions to our circumstances are like that. Certainly, difficult circumstances have a way of squeezing us and bringing out reactions and words and behaviors that we wouldn't normally display – but not because we are better people than that. Rather, the tendency to do so was in our heart all along, but when our circumstances are good, it is much easier to keep those things stuffed inside than when we are being squeezed. The loss of our daughter, and the months of illness and recovery that followed, squeezed me in a way that revealed my intense desire to control my own life, and my lack of trust in God's love and goodness – issues that had been in my heart all along, but had never been tested before. Now, they were staring me in the face, and I had to deal with them.

Our prayers in times of trouble tend to focus on our circumstances – praying for healing or provision, or peace of mind and heart. But may I suggest another prayer as well? Let's also pray for wisdom to clearly see those parts of our character that need to be brought under the transforming work of Christ, so that on the other side of our trials we can come forth refined and more like our Savior.

Father, this difficult time in my life is bringing out all kinds of emotions – fear, anger, impatience, discouragement. At the root of those are heart issues I believe you want to deal with in me. Help me to submit to that, and to not just survive this difficult time but to come out of this more like you in the end. Amen.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kristi Bothur is a pastor's wife, teacher, and mother of five - two on earth and three in heaven. She has a heart for other women who have experienced the loss of children during pregnancy or in early infancy, and she has a passion for sharing the truth of God's word in a way that makes sense in everyday life. She and her husband are the founders of "Naomi's Circle", a ministry for parents of babies in heaven (www.naomiscircle.weebly.com). You are welcome to contact her at naomiscircle@gmail.com. Kristi lives in Columbia, South Carolina, with her husband and daughter.

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