By / Sep 30

We have all lost something due to the worldwide pandemic: our health, our sense of safety, the freedom to travel, gathering with family, a job, or a loved one. While we are grieving these losses, we are also trying to maintain a sense of normalcy. As someone who grew up in a family riddled with abuse, addiction, abandonment, and general dysfunction, I am used to dealing with pain and loss. I learned how to grieve what was lost and the importance of moving forward at a young age, and now I help others do the same. 

While I often help women who grew up in a dysfunctional family and want the encouragement and equipping to create a healthy, Christ-centered family of their own, the principle of grieving the past and moving forward into a healthier, more functional future that I share applies to all of us in this present time of uncertainty, tragedy, trauma, and loss. 

Learning to grieve from a movie 

One of my favorite movies when I was growing up was “My Girl,” the coming-of-age story about an 11-year-old girl, Vada Sultenfuss, who is raised in a funeral home by her single dad. Vada is best friends with Thomas J., a bookish boy. Together they ride bikes, climb trees, and try to understand life. Vada also avoids the reality that her widower father is falling in love.

In a tragic accident, Thomas J. dies, leaving Vada to grieve the loss of her only friend. I remember watching the scene where Vada crashes Thomas J.’s funeral. I cried as if I were attending the funeral myself — as if Thomas J. were my own lifelong friend. 

“Come back, Thomas J.! Come back!” Vada cried over the casket. Oh my stars, I can hardly take it, even today. Our deep-feeling heroine turns to poetry to process her feelings, and young Vada writes a poem about the weeping willow she and Thomas J. spent so much time climbing. The funeral, the tears, the poem — all were a part of the grieving process for Vada.

Just as in “My Girl,” there are many reasons to embrace grief and pursue our own journey from denial to acceptance. Pain and loss were never a part of God’s original plan. Just as childhood death was never God’s design, neither was the dysfunction you experienced as a child. God grieves the pain in your past, and he wants you to grieve as well. 

Vada lost her mother and her best friend, and the audience watches a young girl process deep grief. We wonder how God can ever work such grief out for good. Eventually, however, he does. He can take a sad, broken little girl, and teach her that it’s OK to feel. It’s OK to love. It’s OK to open your heart to possibility.

3 things to remember about pain 

It might not seem so in the moment, but just like Vada, we can always look back on our lives and realize that even in the darkest situations, God always works out painful events for our good (Rom. 8:28). If we ever forget this truth, we need only remember Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross as a case in point. 

Another thing to remember as you grieve your past is that pain is a universal experience. You are not alone in your anguish; everyone experiences disappointment, pain, suffering, and loss at some point in their lives — even Jesus felt it. He was despised and forsaken by men, this man of suffering, grief’s patient friend. As if he was a person to avoid, we looked the other way . . . and we took no notice of him (Isa. 53:3). 

Finally, God sanctifies us through our grief. In pain and suffering, we can run from Jesus or we can try to respond like him and in the end look more like him. King Solomon wrote about this principle: “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart” (Eccl. 7:2).

If we accept the truth that our reality will look nothing like the dreams we’ve conjured up, then we can move forward and grieve the pain, suffering, and lost opportunities — all that should have and could have been — even all that might have been ours. But you won’t be alone with your grief — Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to comfort you. 

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you (John 14:16-20).

In these times of social distancing, quarantining, isolation, and being separated from loved ones, it’s important to know that you won’t be alone with your grief — Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to comfort you. Take time to process your grief at your own pace. This process is not linear. Rather, it can often feel like a tangled ball of yarn. As you process and grieve your past, you’ll inch your way toward healing in Christ. Then, one day, you’ll find yourself experiencing a hopeful present you never saw coming.

This article contains an adapted excerpt from Mending Broken Branches: When God Reclaims Your Dysfunctional Family Tree.

By / Jun 9

The pandemic has been difficult, to say the least, and even with reopenings and a sense of normalcy, there is still a fog that hasn’t lifted. These moments can be quite disorienting and discouraging as we try to recognize the reality of our lives without slipping out of hope’s grasp. 

I think a major contribution to this fog is that the grief of the last year goes unrecognized or even minimized. Sometimes this occurs when we compare our grief to another’s or ignore it because it feels too overwhelming to face while still trying to navigate the current life season.

Grief is capable of shocking subtleties. And the reality is that we are actually trapped in grief if we can’t recognize what is worth lamenting. We get stuck when we can’t make sense of what has happened, why, or how it affects and changes our lives.

Grief in our current climate

I recently counseled a couple who worked overseas but had to return to the states for purposes related to COVID-19 restrictions, the death of their unborn child, and the repercussions that a medical threat posed to the wife. Under those circumstances, the marital relationship was quite strained, and it was easy for previous annoyances that had been covered up for years within the marriage to be pointed out. The sudden return to the states also meant a lack of closure with friends and co-workers.

That is a lot to grieve and to begin unpacking and processing. Unfortunately, grief was not a priority to the couple. Instead, one spouse focused on the marital frustrations of family interactions, while the other spouse focused on appeasing the other. Both tried moving around the “annoyances” of grief so they could look into returning to their work. This is avoidance, and it is an unhealthy attempt to deal with reality.

Symptoms of grief

Grief is the sense of loss in one’s life, and it comes in many shapes. We may experience the loss of graduations, celebrations or family gatherings, hugs and kisses with grandkids, a job, a break up, a death, not being able to comfort or communicate with those in the hospital, and being unable to even attend funerals. Although these are all varying degrees of difficult circumstances, the impact is the same: a need to process a sensed loss (i.e., grief). We’ve all experienced losses throughout the pandemic, and many of them often go unnoticed. Our lives of normalcy and predictability have halted, and the byproduct of broken dreams and plans gets mislabeled as unimportant in comparison to the medical tragedies.

Grief can symptomize in many ways, and so can our unhealthy attempts to soothe the pain. There may be a lack of energy or an abundance of activity. We might mask pain through overt use of humor, withdrawing from close friends, or with overcommitted schedules. Perhaps there are angry outbursts that blame loved ones instead of having to deal with the painful emotions within. We may even feel isolated from others or experience guilt.

Honoring what we value through grief

It’s unfortunate that we overlook the necessity to care well for each other and ourselves in the midst of all that we negatively experience in life. Grief doesn’t go away simply by avoiding or being unwilling to admit its existence. It doesn’t even go away by acknowledging there is sorrow. We must come to terms with the new reality. It takes courage to recognize loss because nobody wants grief to be a true experience in life. But the truth is we honor what we value when we can also grieve its loss. Until we can do that, it is just a stuck emotion that is like a lodged cracker in the back of the throat.

The good news is that you’re not the only one who struggles, and it isn’t a sign that you’re going crazy. The psalms show us it’s actually quite normal to experience the human emotions given to us by God. These emotions are necessary for healthy living. You can take ownership of your grief and understand what has happened and how you have been affected. I encourage you to reach out to others whom you trust and know will care for you. As a Christian, you have a compassionate resource built into the local church community. And of course, take your grief to Jesus. He knows your sorrows and cares for you (Rom. 8:16; 1 Pet. 5:7). 

Of course, you may need to process your specific issues with a professional counselor. I have benefitted from this and from talking with good friends and my wife. My encouragement to you is to be courageous and curious enough to deal with the grief that may be stuck and overlooked after the challenges of this pandemic season.

By / Apr 16

He was a professional skier. During a competition he was favored to win, he lost control on the downslope, plunged 30 feet off course, and rolled like tumbleweed down a hill until a tree trunk broke his fall. When paramedics found him, he denied any pain, but repeated over and over, his voice taut with panic, that he couldn’t move his limbs. 

Days later, he lay in an ICU bed with metal screws and rods fixing his spinal column into place. We’d saved his life, but couldn’t save his spinal cord, and he remained paralyzed from the shoulders down. Hour after hour he stared at the ceiling, and when we examined him each morning, he’d answer “yes” or “no,” but said little else. 

Then one day, his nurse motioned for us to talk with her in private. She looked stricken. “I offered to brush his teeth, and he suddenly burst into tears,” she said. “He says everything he cares about is gone, and that he doesn’t know who he is anymore.” 

I am lost 

Although few experiences are as devastating as quadriplegia, outbursts like that of this young man echo in every hospital hallway. When an accident or sudden illness assails us, our first desperate pleas are for our survival, and when we escape with our lives we gush with gratitude. In time, however, the dust settles. We stare dumbfounded at our strange surroundings and realize that the lives through which we once absentmindedly strolled have disintegrated. The images we took for granted have burned up, and the elements of ourselves we most highly prized crumble into ash. 

In such moments we can lose sight of who we are. Severe injuries that leave us disabled not only impair us physically, but also can threaten our understanding of our identity, value, and dignity. 

I remember the lament of a man who survived a stroke, only to sink into despair when he could no longer provide for his family. 

A woman for whom I cared would moan through the night from searing pain in her dying limbs, but refused amputations because she could not fathom life without the freedom to walk. 

Another woman cried in anguish when an operation cured her thyroid cancer, but forever altered her singing voice. 

Such stories highlight that even when we escape a health catastrophe with our lives, every disaster leaves a mark. Some scars so disfigure us that we no longer recognize ourselves, and like Jeremiah stumbling through the ruins of Jerusalem, we cry out, “I am lost” (Lam. 3:54). 

Called out of the darkness

And yet, when we look with dread upon the pieces of our fractured lives, our worth derives from something far more permanent, far more precious than these scattered fragments. Our worth doesn’t derive from our self-reliance, our talents, or our independence. We can’t earn it via anything our trembling hands accomplish. Rather, our worth springs solely, wholly, beautifully, and immutably from Jesus. His blood, for ours. Our renewal, caught up in his. 

Our true and foremost identity has nothing to do with the vigor of our limbs or the keenness of our eyesight and everything to do with the truth that we are image-bearers of God (Gen. 1:26), loved by God (John 3:16), and made new through Christ (Rev. 21:5).

Consider the words of Peter:

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Pet. 2:9–10).

In Christ, when God looks upon us, even in our lameness, even when we cannot recognize ourselves, he sees righteousness and holiness, a reflection of his own marvelous light. 

A child of God

One day, after a horrific accident, you may glance in the mirror and struggle to recognize yourself. You may remind yourself that you are a spouse, a mother, or a father. You may remember that you were a lawyer, a teacher, or a bus driver. But first and foremost, remember that in Christ, you are a child of God. Revisit John’s declaration: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; And so we are!” (1 John 3:1).

Cleave to this truth if the steps you took for granted decades earlier now feel like labor. Revel in itw hen the person you envisioned yourself to be seems a distant memory. When the days unfold before you like a path plunging into the fog, the destination hazy, and the journey bleak, dare to rejoice that all meager, worldly identifiers shrink before who you are in Christ

As a follower of Christ your identity, now and forever, is as one called out of the darkness into his holy light. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). By that light, you conform to the image of God’s Son. By that light, God wraps you in his love. And nothing, not illness or death, not halting speech or a crippled limb, can snuff that light out, or enshroud you from its brilliance (Rom. 8:38–39). 

This article was adapted from Glimmers of Grace: A Doctor’s Reflections on Faith, Suffering, and the Goodness of God, Crossway, April 2021.

By / Feb 17

Over the last several years, it’s become a tradition over the Christmas holidays to take the kids—by which I mean my daughters and all of our nieces and nephews on my wife’s side—to see a superhero movie. Many of us adults love these movies as much as the children. 

This year, we didn’t venture out to the theater. Instead, we crowded into my in-laws’ den and streamed Wonder Woman 1984. And as we watched this latest installment from Warner Bros. and DC, I began to think about how this film does something that’s a bit unusual. It uses the fantasy genre as a way of critiquing our culture’s desire to escape reality. 

WW84’s critique of living in delusion isn’t totally unique. In many ways, the movie’s plot mirrors that of the new television series, WandaVision, from DC’s competitor, Marvel Studios (Warning: From this point forward, this post contains some spoilers for Wonder Woman 1984 and WandaVision, episodes 1–6):

  • WW84 centers around a wish-granting Dreamstone, a “monkey’s paw” created by a powerful trickster god that grants a person’s deepest desires while taking what’s most important—their dignity and identity.
  • In WandaVision, the leading character, Wanda Maximoff, attempts to escape her past by creating an alternate TV-land reality, but dark memories haunt her sitcom dream world.

I love this new theme for both comic book franchises. In a culture that says you can define your own reality, stories that blow holes in that assumption are beautiful. 

Our love affair with illusion

Fantasy is a good thing. The story world of knights and dragons, wizards, and superheroes teach children deep truths about how righteousness triumphs over great evil. As we grow, more complicated stories, like Maleficent for example, can show us the complexity of our own villainy. What’s imparted to us through the best fantasies is moral imagination, a sense of empathy, and—when we identify with those who persevere in the crusade for justice and beauty—perhaps even faith and courage.

Illusion, however, is different. It’s comforting to curl up with a good book or movie on a cold and depressing winter’s day. But the truth is that we’re all tempted not only to escape from life’s harsh realities for a moment’s solace but to attempt to create alternate realities of our own design. 

Our culture is in love with illusions. Influencers carefully manicure their online personas for public adoration while inside they are secretly starving for friendship. Suburbanites amass debt, possessions, and retirement accounts as safety nets that moth and rust will one day destroy. Men spend billions of dollars each year on pornography, building mind palaces for sexual experience while destroying their real relationships. Growing numbers devote their hearts to the conspiracy theories of QAnon, believing secret knowledge is a pathway to political power. Many young people (and some old) are seeking to redefine their gender, believing that rewriting their biological sex will numb social discomfort and pain. 

Each of these world-building exercises is a house of cards—like Wanda’s enchanted town of Westview, they may be elaborate but they are ultimately fragile and impossible to live in. Such illusions simultaneously seek to hide from and are driven by fear, shame, guilt, greed, and grief. But even though our alternate realities are built with strong chaos magic, their foundations ultimately crumble, because they’re constructed on lies. 

Facing down the devil

WW84 alludes to a trickster god behind the Dreamstone without revealing his identity. Marvel fans, meanwhile, have speculated that there’s darker magic from the comic universe at work behind Wanda’s delusions—perhaps the witch Agatha Harkness, the demon Mephisto, or Lethal Legion leader Grim Reaper. But even if the evil in the TV series is only found within Wanda herself, there’s a real devil in the details, hiding in the shadows behind the lies we want to believe. 

The Bible’s testimony prevents us from reducing evil down to impersonal forces and ideologies that stand in opposition to Christian teaching. It’s not even sufficient to name sins like greed, lust, and fleshly hunger for power. These are all real, but behind both sinful systems and individual temptations is a personal devil, our accuser, the archenemy, the evil prince of this present darkness (1 Chron. 21:1; Job 1:6–13; 2:1–7; Zech. 3:1–2; Eph. 2:2). 

After Jesus’s baptism, the Holy Spirit led him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matt. 4:1–11). There Satan tested Jesus with three particular lies—untruths that still lay at the heart of the illusions within which we’re tempted to live.

The first was the illusion of independence (vv. 2–4). Will we trust in our own desires and abilities or in the Father’s loving care? 

After fasting for 40 days, Jesus was hungry. So the devil prompted Jesus to take care of himself—to break his fast by turning some stones into bread. When we’re living in the illusion of independence, we can delude ourselves like Wanda Maximoff and say, “I have this under control.” But when Satan tempted the Savior to act on his own apart from the Father, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3: “Man doesn’t live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” 

Moses spoke those words to remind Israel how God had tested them during their 40 years in the desert. God allowed them to be hungry and gave them manna so they might learn that people don’t merely need bread but God’s sustaining care. 

Sometimes we quote the words of Deuteronomy 8:3 as if Jesus was talking about having good theology, knowing the right Bible verses for each and every temptation or circumstance. But Jesus (like Moses before him) wasn’t talking about mere head knowledge; what he expressed was a deep trust in the Father’s goodness no matter his circumstances. The first step toward fighting illusion is trusting that whatever pain or griefs may come in life, God’s every word for us—all he ordains—is loving and good.

Second was the illusion of presumption (vv. 5–7). Will we treat God like a vending machine, thinking that he somehow owes us comfort or protection on our timetable? 

The devil took Jesus to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple: “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down.” This was a temptation to presume upon God’s promises. Satan cited Psalm 91:11–12: “He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up. . . so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” It’s as if he was saying, “Didn’t God promise to protect you? Let’s test that out.” 

But putting God to the test and presuming that he’ll give according to our standards doesn’t recognize God as God. It attempts instead to paint God in our own image and bribe him to act according to our expectation of how he should or ought to respond. When we presume, we fail to remember that God is the distant and holy one who came to Job in the whirlwind. Jesus knew better, and he answered, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

Last was the illusion of attaining kingdom glory apart from the suffering of the cross (vv. 8–11). Will we worship the lie and the liar or will we embrace our call to suffer for others? 

Satan offered Jesus a shortcut to kingdom glory. He could rule and reign as Messiah over the world’s splendors and even avoid the sufferings of Calvary. There was only one small catch. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 

The trouble with the devil’s logic was that for Jesus to worship him would have entailed a redefinition of the Savior’s identity. It’s true that Jesus was the Davidic king, but he is also the Lamb of God, the Suffering Servant, who did not come in his first appearance to rule a splendid world (that’s an illusion) but rather to pour himself out for a fallen world, one mired in death and sin.

In the early church, new converts would not only be asked to confess “Jesus is Lord” before baptism but they were also instructed to renounce the devil publicly. If you’re familiar with the old liturgy, you may have heard echoes of it in the “I renounce my wish” refrain at the end of WW84. For me, it was a beautiful reminder that embracing a Christian identity has always involved renouncing the illusions of self and Satan and giving ourselves instead to the Truth—to the Lord who first gave himself for us.

Death and grief expose the lies

For Diana, Wanda, and for us, the truth quite literally hurts. WW84 and WandaVision wrestle with themes of death and grief as both leads attempt to use their reality-shifting power to resurrect lost loves. With Wonder Woman, this begins as an accidental wish to see her lost boyfriend, Steve Trevor. It’s coming to grips with letting Trevor go that teaches Diana how her desire must be limited by the truth. 

Wanda Maximoff’s sitcom reality similarly centers around her relationship with the deceased Avenger, Vision. While it appears—six episodes have been released at the time of writing—that she’ll do anything to protect the illusion of her life with him, it’s also clear that grief over the many losses in her past has never left her.

Facing death ultimately reveals how our fantasies are fleeting. Every year around this time, many Christians, like Jesus in the wilderness, fast 40 days to prepare their hearts for Easter. Though keeping a Lenten fast is less common for Baptists—after all, believers aren’t required to celebrate regular religious festivals (Col. 2:16)—I believe the broader Christian tradition carries with it a helpful reminder that can help us fight temptation and delusion. 

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday—a day that boldly acknowledges that no one gets out of this world alive. On this day, those who gather around the world receive an ashen sign of the cross on their foreheads. This mark is a reminder of our mortality and a call to repentance. Memento mori. Remember, you are going to die; “Dust you are, and to dust, you will return” (Genesis 3:19b). 

So prepare for Easter by preparing for death

Whether you live in the real world or a fictional one, building your life on conspiracies and lies will send you spinning into chaos. But Christians have a better hope than the devil’s illusions, one that allows us to be honest even about life’s starkest realities. 

We can speak the truth when temporary comforts, dreams, expectations, political hopes, and even our bodies are dying.  That’s not where our ultimate hope is found. We instead acknowledge even the hard truth of our death knowing we have a Savior who has already faced down the lies, the liar, and even the grave itself. And here’s the good news: Christ did not give in. On the other side of his long road of temptation and torment, there stands an empty tomb. It’s no illusion.

Brothers and sisters, Easter is coming. So put aside the lies and delusions which you renounced when you were baptized in him. Find in Christ the strength to be honest even about your griefs. And know that one day they will be fully conquered in him.

By / Jan 12

The experience of watching a family live through the last few days of their child’s life will never leave you. The loss of a child is perhaps the most painful thing one can experience. Regardless if it’s a miscarriage, a toddler, a teenager or a 50 year old, parents are not meant to outlive their children.

I have no idea what it’s like to live through it, and I hope and pray that I never will.

Through my training as a general pediatrician in a busy pediatric hospital, I watched a child slowly die. I observed her family experience her decline over the week leading up to her death. I saw people come and provide support. I overheard conversations that were immensely helpful and some that undoubtedly caused more hurt. From that experience, I’d like to help you know what to say to a family walking through this horrible loss.

Things you should not say

1. “Everything will be OK.”

Everything will most certainly never be OK. Something simple like seeing another child that is the age their child should be or a toy that belonged to their child will bring back all the hurt. Even though life may start to look more normal in time, everything will not be OK.

By trying to move a parent through their grief toward resolution, you are ignoring the fact that many of our spiritual forefathers mourned openly before God. You see examples of this throughout the Psalms (see chapters 31, 35, 55 and many more).  In Job 30, he says, “I cry out to You for help, but You do not answer me (v 20). Therefore my harp is turned to mourning, and my flute to the sound of those who weep (v 31).”

2. “I understand (or I know how you feel).”

You don’t, and you never will.

Even if you lost a child in the same way, there will be something unique to their situation that makes this statement false.

If after some time, the parents realize that you might have an experience similar to theirs, they may come to you with questions. At this point, you may share your experience but not until you have been invited to do so.

3. “God works in mysterious ways.”

God does work in ways that we do not understand, but no one wants God to work in this “mysterious way” in their life. So, this statement is not helpful. Many people are tempted to want to find that little phrase that will be the groundbreaking spiritual moment for the heartbroken parents. Resist doing this. You could easily end up causing them more harm than good.

The best case scenario is that you become a clanging cymbal. You might be speaking truth, but you can do so in such a manner that you cannot be heard (I Cor. 13:1). By saying these things at the wrong time, you are not loving the parents well. At the worst, you are actually being selfish. Honestly evaluate if you’re trying to say the magic words for the parents or for your own selfish ambition and vain conceit (Phil. 2:3)?

Superficial, trite statements have no place in a situation like this. “She’ll be an angel now,” “You can always have more children,” and “It must have been God’s will,” are three other statements that are best left unsaid.

Things you can say and do

1. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

It may seem like it’s not enough to say—and it really isn’t—but, if said with sincerity, it is probably the best way to express exactly what you are feeling. The most helpful way to live in God’s community and to serve those in that community is to mourn with those who mourn. It may actually be your only role in this situation (Rom. 12). Don’t place expectations on the parents to react in any way; if they have a negative reaction, that’s OK.

2. “We care about you and will pray for you.”

Community is incredibly important in these situations. You should care about the parents and, when appropriate, find a way to tangibly care for them. This might mean fixing a meal or cleaning their house. Tasks like these are overwhelming to someone who has experienced such a tragic loss. Like Aaron and Hur holding Moses’ arms, we should come alongside them and help in any way we can. Even if it seems small or insignificant, it could be helping on a larger scale (Exod. 17).

In addition, you should offer to pray for them. Then, actually pray—don’t say it just for show (Heb. 4:6, Matt. 6).

3. Remember birthdays and death anniversaries.

A quick note on a birthday or on the anniversary of the child’s death can mean so much. It’s a chance to say, “We know you will be thinking about him/her today, and so are we.”

4. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day still apply.

Mother’s and Father’s Day are some of the most painful days in the lives of parents who have lost a child. Remembering to tell them Happy Mother’s Day or Happy Father’s Day let’s them know that you are thinking of them and reminds them that you know the life of their child matters.

In the end, you’ll find yourself to be the most helpful to a family who has experienced the loss of a child, not by doing or saying anything, but by being there for them. Don’t try to do too much. Don’t try to say the magic spiritual words.

Just be present and available—and trust the Lord to do what’s best for the family.