I'm Grateful God, But What About Her?
I watched my sister-in-law’s face fall when she heard that someone else was pregnant before her. I saw my best friend’s smile tremble when she learned that another friend was engaged while she had been anxiously waiting for her boyfriend to propose for years. I’ve felt my own heart drop as I’ve watched someone younger than me graduate college and begin her career while life circumstances delayed my pursuit of my goals.
In these situations it wasn’t that we weren’t happy for the people around us, we genuinely were. But it was also another strike to the stakes in our hearts to remind us of what we didn’t have. We were happy for our friends and we were also heartbroken, filled with questions…why not me? when will it be my turn?
Now, years later, my sister-in-law has a sweet baby boy. My friend is happily married. I’m in school, pursuing my dream. Our prayers have been answered at times and in ways much different than we asked, and we’re so grateful. But we also know what it is like for the other girl. We know the pain of longing for something we can’t force into being and watching someone else seem to get it accidentally. Knowing what we know now, knowing the pain of longing from the sidelines, it can make it difficult to publicly celebrate our answered prayers. I know we aren’t the only ones. I know that you know one or both sides of this.
We’ve been talking about the book of Exodus over the last few months. Because of Pharaoh’s stubbornness and disrespect for God, all of the Egyptian people suffer. Famine, insects, blood, it’s all bad. But the absolute worst is the death of their sons. I’m not educated enough to dive into the meaning of this story. But I do know loss, I have experience with unfulfilled desires, and I have been the one to receive an answer to prayer while others around me were suffering. It’s all hard and confusing. It’s all difficult to understand. And it’s all a part of life.
I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the Israelites, they were being expressly told by God that they were His chosen people and that He was working on freeing them. They were watching God fight for them. They were seeing their Heavenly Father take earthly action. They were watching their prayers be answered right before their eyes and I’m sure there was plenty of praise and celebration. And yet, while the Israelites were having their every prayer for freedom answered, the Egyptians were watching their crops, their livestock, their children die. While the Israelites were being set free because of Moses’ and Aaron’s obedience, the Egyptians were being ruined because of Pharaoh’s pride and anger. The Israelites were seeing hope in their future for the first time in a long time and the Egyptians were watching their future crumble before them.
What must it have been like to be an Israelite woman, holding your baby close as the blood of protection ran down your door, hearing the desperate wails of Egyptian women watching their sons take their last breath? It’s graphic. It’s brutal. It’s unfathomable. But it’s real life. One woman gains as another grieves. Both are women. Both are in circumstances completely out of their control. One rejoices that her son has been spared while another grieves the loss of her son. It doesn’t matter that the Egyptians and Israelites didn’t get along, in that moment I believe that one mother’s heart went out to another. I’m sorry about your son… I’m glad your son is okay. How on earth does one celebrate personal victory while respecting the loss of others?
The story of the Egyptians and Israelites is exaggerated in comparison to what we typically face now, but it is still an example of real life, of victory and loss happening simultaneously. I don’t have the answers for how to handle this tension perfectly; I wish I did. But here is what I’ll say as someone who has been both the girl longing and the girl rejoicing: Be honest. Be Respectful. Be gracious.
Do you know what someone who is hurting doesn’t need? For you to avoid the subject because “you don’t want to remind them.” When someone is in pain, I promise they haven’t forgotten. Do you know what someone who has been given the answer to a long-awaited prayer doesn’t need? To be made to feel guilty because they’re happy. Their prayer being answered doesn’t mean that yours can’t be. If we want to operate in this tension of gain and loss better, we have to just say to one another, “I’m so happy for you and this hurts me,” “I am so grateful for this answer to my prayers and I know that you’re still praying for your miracle.”
If we want to navigate relationships well, we need to be honest and vulnerable. We need to let go of the idea that if one person’s prayers are answered then there aren’t any left for us. We have to remind ourselves that it is pointless to cast blame when someone gets what we desperately want.
We need to trust God, to keep praying, to fight for hope, to cry and be disappointed when we need to, and to have our fellow sister’s backs. I want to learn to love my sisters well so that when I pray for myself, I pray for them too. I want this God, and so does she. I’m hurting God, and she is too. The best way to erase negativity is to put ourselves in our sister’s shoes and bring her desires to God alongside our own. I’m grateful God… but what about her?