Isaiah 55:8,For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.”

There he goes, like a streak of lightning, running through the house at full speed.  ZOOM.  He is dressed like a soldier and has at least five (plastic) weapons in his hands or on his belt.  Following close at his heels is his younger brother, ready for battle in his Batman costume, cape flying in the wind.  Little tufts of blond hair poke out from his mask, revealing his true identity.  Bringing up the rear is the fearless little man, trying to keep up with his older brothers.  He is dressed as a bumblebee brandishing a foam sword in the air.  Here they come!  There they go!  They are on a mission to rid the world of bad guys.  Their main target is our cat Tiger.  That cat gets plenty of exercise dodging six grabby hands! (Don’t worry: the cat can hold his own!)  I watch my boys at play—what imaginations!  Finally, I just can’t resist, and as they run past again, I grab the closest one and give him a big bear hug. “Oooo, I love you so much!”  I say as I squeeze the life out of him.  “Mom!” he protests, trying to wiggle free.  Finally I let him go, and he races off to join his brothers.

The bear hug needs no explanation.  I’m sure it is exactly the same thing in every corner of the world where there are mothers and children.  This big squeeze is an attempt to show an intense love by putting one’s arms about another person and holding him as closely as possible.  It only lasts for a few seconds.  I actually started thinking about bear hugs after I gave my son one this week.  This hug is meant for the giver, not the receiver.  When a person overflows with a feeling of love, and he wants to feel very, very close to the one he loves, the immediate reaction is what we call the bear hug.  Every mother or grandmother has given this hug many times.  This hug, though, often does not have a very warm reception.  The one getting the hug oftentimes feels imprisoned and simply wants to get away.  He can’t breathe!

I began wondering, what if, just maybe, our trials and burdens are actually bear hugs from the Lord.  We know that we do not think like the Lord thinks (Isaiah 55:8), and possibly the circumstances in our lives that seem to overwhelm us, making us feel breathless, are in reality the big arms of God tightened around us in a bear hug.  To us these trials and griefs are not enjoyable, but to our Father they may be an expression of His intense love for us, given in a way in which He feels love.  We do not want our burdens any more than little boys want to be hugged in the middle of playtime.  Burdens disrupt our lives and make us feel trapped.  We try to wiggle free as quickly as possible.  Could it be that our time of testing is enjoyed by God as a few brief moments when He knows that He can be very, very close to us?

My sons feel loved when I give them candy, buy them a toy, let them stay up late to play, or take them to Playland.  Most often I try to say, ”I love you,” to them in the ways they understand.  But I refuse to give up my bear hugs!  At these times, I am expressing my love on my terms.  I feel loved by God when I look out my window and see the trees and the birds and the deer and the muskrats playing by my pond.  I feel loved by God when my husband brings me roses or buys me jewelry.  I feel loved by God when I watch my sweet children sleeping.  Those things are ways I understand His love.  Burdens and trials are not my idea of being loved.  But the Lord may feel otherwise.  Usually He shows His great love on a base, materialistic, human way that I can comprehend.  He does have the right, at times, to show His love to me in a God-like way.  Trials, I believe, are expressions of love on the Father’s terms.  He feels very, very close to me when I know how much I need Him.  He feels love for me as I cry out to Him in weakness.

Sometimes our burdens seem to go on and on forever.  My boys would probably say that same thing about my bear hugs!  But to me they only last a few seconds.  God’s hugs, on His time line, are very quick and temporary.

This analogy comforts me.  I always want to search for ways to believe in God, especially when my mind wants to doubt Him.  If I can picture my hard times as bear hugs from the Father, I can grow a little in the knowledge of His wonderful love for me. Putting the Lord in a good light in my very limited brain helps me not to become angry or bitter.  Give God the benefit of the doubt.

My youngest son kicks and fights to be free from my bear hugs.  My oldest boy stands still and “takes ’em.”  He does not really enjoy my bear hugs, but he has grown up enough not to fight me.  I want to grow up spiritually and quit fighting God over my trials.  He does not send burdens into my life to make me miserable.  His love prompts His actions.  I cannot say I will ever enjoy the tough times, but at least I can stand still.

Psalm 46:10a, “Be still, and know that I am God.”