Homeschooling, like all worthwhile endeavors, poses its share of revolving challenges. Lately, the most perplexing challenge in our school days comes in the form of a discrepancy between Charleston’s stated/perceived needs, and what he truly wants from me as his teacher. A typical school time
battle conversation goes something like this:
Charleston, in a whiney voice just shy of screaming: “Moooom! I don’t get this math problem! I need you to help me!”
Me, trying to remain calm: “Okay, let me explain this to you in a way you might understand.”
Charleston (voice elevated): “No! I don’t want you to explain it! I don’t want your help!”
Me, still calm: “Alright, I’m going to go check on your brother and sister and I’ll be right back to see how you are doing.”
Charleston (even more agitated): “Mom, don’t go! I need your help! I can’t do this, I don’t get it!”
Me, patience dwindling: “Let’s take a look at how we can solve this.”
Charleston, now crying, slamming his fists on his desk: “But I don’t waaaaant your help!”
In these instances, Charleston thinks that he wants me to help him solve his math problems. But when I begin to offer help, he realizes it isn’t my help that he wants or even needs; he’s capable of solving the problem on his own. What he is asking when he asks for help is just for me to sit with him, quietly observing, while he does his work. He thinks he desires answers, but what he really requires is my presence.
I’m reading through the book of Job, that most maddening of Biblical stories in which our protagonist endures the worst life could offer and his three “friends” join him in his suffering—not to grieve alongside him, but to attempt to solve the problem of his pain. They offer (flawed) advice and dish out (unwarranted) accusations and present every kind of supposed solution, while failing to give Job what he REALLY needs: companionship and solidarity.
How often do we do this with one another? A friend comes to us in her pain, and we proceed to tell her what to do; what she needed was just a listening ear. Our children run to us in tears, and we offer bandages when kisses were what was truly required. Practical solutions and straight-forward answers seem like what is needed in these situations that have us wanting to DO something. Our intentions are in the right place, but our responses just aren’t the right fit.
In expounding upon the book of Job on his daily Bible podcast, Father Mike pointed out the similarities between Job’s needs and our own. Job’s friends (and maybe Job himself) thought that answers were needed, but it was their presence he craved the most. So it is with us and God: we think we want answers from Him. We come before the Lord asking “why” or sometimes “please.” Often, He does not respond with the answers we seek or the solutions we desire. But He DOES provide His presence, bypassing what we think we need from Him while giving us what our souls truly crave.
The Lord, who created us, understands our needs more intimately than we know them ourselves. He is the very originator of those needs! When we misdiagnose our own requirements, He does not abide by our faulty diagnoses. He does not provide bandaids when stitches are needed, or send us off with a prescription for pills when we require hospital admittance. He is not a God of quick fixes or or haphazard solutions. He is a God who tends to our souls’ deepest wounds—wounds that can only be healed through His nurturing presence.
A lie I’ve believed is that I need immediate solutions to my problems or, at the very least, an ability to understand my problems. I crave answers that I think will restore my sanity or, at a minimum, my semblance of control. The truth is that the Lord will give me answers and solutions when I need them; but an absence of God-given answers does not mean God Himself is absent. The moments when clarity is elusive are the instances when I am most compelled to turn my gaze towards the illuminating face of God; it is there in my murky haze that He meets me with the enlightening presence I need over all else. Our Lord, in His wisdom, is indeed a God of answers—but beyond this, He is a God who craves intimacy with us and knows this intimacy is what we need most from Him.
As the story of Job unfolds, we see that even as Job’s friends failed him, God was not absent from Job in his suffering. He knew the entirety of Job’s situation and could have revealed this to him. But instead of wrapping up Job’s story with a tidy bow, God simply shows up—not with answers, but with a revelation of His very glory. God does not explain, defend, or even condemn; instead, He shows Job and His friends how He is with them, always has been, and always will be.
I don’t think it is wrong to come to God for answers, and the Bible promises He will provide wisdom when we need it. But I want to hold these petitions loosely, acknowledging that even the most satisfying answers aren’t a panacea for my problems and questions. Only the Lord can claim that title. And He does! He will always be there—always present, always recognizing the needs beneath my stated desires, and always providing the truest answer to my questions: Himself.