Wednesday, May 17

When you think your heart might burst

The ups and downs of life don't follow a calendar.

Joys and sorrows, triumphs and disasters keep their own timetable, don't they? Just when you think your heart can't handle anything else, something else comes along.

In the past few days, I've experienced more joys than anyone deserves. My youngest son just finished his second year of college, where he made the Dean's List last semester. My middle son just learned that he was accepted to a highly competitive graduate program.

On Mother's Day, my middle son prepared the most delicious brunch I've ever eaten. Here's a photo he posted on Instagram:
Later that day, my beloved Uncle Richard (my mother's younger brother, for whom I was named) and Aunt Laura came to visit me. It had been years since I'd seen them, so I was overjoyed to have them here.

Today is my oldest son's 26th birthday, and he is at home today to celebrate. He's about to start Advanced Flight Training with the U.S.Navy, so his being here for his birthday is a big deal.

It's hard to contain all the happiness this May!

Yet there have been other times when I've wondered if my heart could contain all the sadness or stress instead of happiness.

Like that year when my mother died two days before Thanksgiving.

Or when my husband had major open-heart surgery just a few months after our son had major open-heart surgery.

Or the time that I posted this photo on Instagram:

Exactly one week later, my 21-year-old son had a stroke.

The truth is that the happiness and the sadness are sometimes too much to handle.

In those stressful times, I've often heard people say, "Don't worry; God will never give you more than you can handle." And while I appreciate their intentions, that's simply not true. They may think they're quoting scripture, but the passage (I Corinthians 10:13)  actually says this:

"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 
And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. 
But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."

So there is a promise that you will not face more temptation than you can bear. But hardship, difficulty, adversity? No. There is no promise that you will not face more hardship than you can bear. 

Whether from happiness or sadness, there's no guarantee that your heart will be able to take what comes your way in this life. The good news, of course, is that you'll never face more hardship than God can bear. God's grace is sufficient to our needs, whatever they are.

And God has arranged a way for you to handle things. The beautiful triune God created us to live in relationship with one another.  So when Romans 12:15 says "Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep," it's not just good advice. It's imperative.

Even as I was counting my blessings and enjoying an amazing Mother's Day this week, there were many women and men—my sisters and brothers—who were barely hanging on.

As I celebrate my son's birthday today, there are many women and men—my sisters and brothers—who are reeling from the death of a child.

God help us, we can't do this alone. 

We shouldn't try. We were not made to do it alone. We were made to live in real relationship. Jesus made that life available to us, and the Holy Spirit provides the power to do it.

Is your heart so full it feels as though it will burst? Are you experiencing more happiness or sadness than you can hold? Please share your story. Let's do this together.


  1. Such a beautiful and true post and also such a Blessing for all of us to hear. Yes, we have all had our share of "more than we can bare", but God is faithful. The death of loved ones and car wrecks that result in near death and brain damage seem like they will totally crush us. Then we see the miracle God had in store and how Barrows Institute and all their wonderful doctors and therapists can make a person whole again beyond our dreams and hopes. Watching my grandson gradulate ASU with his degree in Electrical Engineering after such a horrific accident was one of the times my heart was so full of joy I thought I would burst. I guess we each get a measure of both, Grief and Joy. It's wonderful to know that the Lord is there to help us with both.

  2. There is so much truth in this post, Richella. I think many of us experience the highest end of the spectrum of both joys and sorrows. Just when we think we can never get through some hardship we find a moment of joy and peace and know that it will be all right.

    I am so glad you had a nice Mother's Day. You are such a dear woman and I always feel that you are a person that is surrounded by love...and that comes through in the words you write.

    Love to you- xo Diana

  3. So well said, Richella. We have so misused that scripture! When my daughter's first husband was dying a long and difficult death as her sons were becoming teenagers and she was forced to go to grad school for a special credential in special ed so that they would all have health insurance -- even really good friends of hers made the mistake of saying that verse in the WRONG way. All of it was way beyond what she could bear, and it is only by the gracious arms of God made real in the arms of our community that we get through those seasons. I'm delighted that you've had such a rich month! Enjoy, enjoy. As you know, the seasons change quickly . . . and regularly!

  4. I love this post, Richella! First, congratulations on all the wonderful things happening in your family. I rejoice that you were honored by your son in such a tangible way; the fruit of a Proverb 31 woman. We are so glad to share in your joy and give thanks to the Lord. I also praise the Lord that your joy is used as ballast as you consider that all of life is not those facebook images or instagram feeds. We do experience the hard times. I think that if all my life were good times I would not be nearly as close to the Lord, perhaps I would not feel I needed him since things were so wonderful. But, when they are hard and unbearable I have nowhere else to go but to the One who is sovereign over every minute of pain. I am reminded that the trials are not only meant for our good but that each trial has a lasting lesson- "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."2 Cor. 1:3-4 Clearly, our great God has done that through you in this post.

  5. Richella, This was absolutely beautiful. Thank you for this wisdom and insight and for the encouragement to keep walking through the difficult times.

  6. Such "food for thought"....the ups and downs do give us strength in faith and life! You have such wonderful sons and they are all so successful - how proud you must be! As I read this I thought of the movie "the Shack" - have you seen it? Very good movie!


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