Full disclosure here. I'm not the guy you want to call when you need a guy to do a job with a hammer.
But I do know the fundamentals. A hammer can be used to build something - or to tear it down. Either way, what a hammer hits can't possibly stay the same.
Life's hammers are like that. Losing your job. Your health. The one you love most, as I did recently. Tragedy. Divorce. Betrayal by that person you trusted. Family heartbreak.
The hammer may have hit recently. Or it may have hit a long time ago - but its effects are still there today.
And whatever the hammer hits can't possibly stay the same. The only question is whether the blows build you or tear you down.
But the hammer doesn't decide that. We do.
Each summer, I travel with a team of young Native Americans who've been hammered all their lives. By family violence, sexual violence, addiction, depression. Most have been to a dozen or more funerals by the time they're 16 - many of them their peers.
But when they talk about their lives with reservation young people like them, they don't sound like victims. Oh, they acknowledge the damage the blows have done. But what they talk about most is hope! Because they made choices that have made them stronger, more compassionate, people of great faith. They hand out hope wherever they go. They're amazing!
We don't get to choose if and when life's hammers hit. But we totally choose what kind of person it will make us.
Will I let this tenderize my heart or turn it hard? Let pain open up my heart or close my heart in fear I'll get hurt again? Will I let it go, by forgiving - and be free? Or let it grow into a cancer in my soul?
Will I let the blows equip me to be a wounded healer for other bleeding people - or make me become one of those hurt people who hurt people?
The hole left by Karen's absence is unfillable. But God has used it to open my heart to Him and other wounded people as never before. I'm living His promise: "He comforts us in all our troubles so we can comfort others" and "give them the same comfort God has given us" (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
When we've been hurt, we can choose to let the hammer turn us inward. Putting up walls that say, "Leave me alone." People get the vibe. And they oblige. And we end up self-isolated at the very time when we need people the most. On the other hand, if we choose to reach out, we can experience the very flood of love and support we need to heal.
Maybe the worst choice we can make when the hammer hits is to turn our back on God. We ask "why?", and the heavens seem silent.
But when we turn our back on God - at the very point where we need Him most - we are turning our back on the only One who can make any sense of what's happened. Who can bring meaning out of our pain. Who has the hope. And the supernatural strength we need to go on. As the Bible promises, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13). Even through the most leveling blow of my life.
My Jesus gets it. No one took the blows He did. Literally. Loving me enough to take the hellish punishment for my sin. So I wouldn't have to. And anyone who loved me enough to die for me will never do me wrong. So, yes, I can trust Him. Even when I don't understand Him.
When my son was three, we visited the U.S. Capitol. Imagine how those long, steep stairs looked with his little legs. Impossible. But he made it to the top! Not with his strength. With his daddy's. I carried him.
Just as Jesus has been carrying me. Where I never could have gone without Him.