There are two related principles in Challies’s illustration and Habermas’s story for us to grasp and learn to live by. Don’t try to bear all the griefs and sufferings ahead of you all at once—especially not the imagined ones. Trust that God will give you what you need to bear your grief and suffering on the day when you need it.
I don’t need to tell you that life is hard. The older you are, the better you know this. The heavy burdens of past grief, present suffering, and anxiety about the future can easily overwhelm us, but they don’t have to. There’s wisdom about handling suffering to be learned from those who have gone through it before us.
Tim Challies, who wrote about the unexpected loss of his only son in Seasons of Sorrow: The Pain of Loss and the Comfort of God, had this to say about how to bear crippling grief:
My father was a landscaper, and he used to take me to work with him from time to time. I remember one day when he brought me with him to be an unskilled but low-cost source of manual labor. He showed me a skid of bricks that had been delivered to the end of a client’s driveway and then a walkway he was building to the front door. My job was to get the bricks from the first spot to the second. I remember gazing at that giant pile with despair. How could I, at twelve or thirteen years of age, possibly move what looked like a literal ton of bricks? I realized I would have to do it in the only way I could. Piece by piece, brick by brick, step by step, I carried each one to my father. He laid them as quickly as I could bring them to him until a perfect path led to the entrance of that beautiful home.
And just so, while God has called me to bear my grief for a lifetime, and to do so faithfully, he has not called me to bear the entire weight of it all at once. As the pile is made up of many bricks, a lifetime is made up of many days.