Why Does Life Have to Be So Hard? [Excerpt]

My oldest (and newest) daughter, Ana, is upbeat and energetic most of the time. Early in the morning, late at night, she invented perky. And she’s gone through more in her ten little years than most people would experience in ten lifetimes. Maybe someday she’ll write a book of her own, but for now, she’s given me permission to share this story from a few nights ago.

Last year, at nine years old, Ana made a choice, a choice that’s too big for a nine-year-old, but one she had to make anyway. The court presented her with the option for us to adopt her, to live in a family that loves her, to have a permanent, stable home. The price was leaving her country and language and culture and the people she knew. She made the choice and she’s entered her new life with gusto and unbelievable courage and tenacity.

And last week I heard her crying late at night at the top of the stairs. Her face appeared over the railing, and she asked about a close friend from Latvia. She was grieving because she had forgotten her for a time. How could she forget her friend? The enormity of the loss of her friend, her culture, her language—which try as she might is slipping as she works on English at school and home—engulfed her and she dissolved into my arms in sobs.

She cried, “Why does my life have to be so hard?”

“I don’t know, precious, I don’t know,” I whispered back, stroking her hair. “I’m so grateful to be your second mom, but I wish you never had to lose your first mom. I’m so sorry. I wish I could make it all better.”

This is a snapshot of adoption, comforting the child you love and wishing she could be comforted by her first mom. This is adoption, sobbing into your new mom’s T-shirt as you grieve the loss of your first family. We’re both broken and clinging to each other and wishing we could fix it.

Why does life have to be so hard? When will it be okay? Most of the time, there are no easy answers.

When we feel out of control, careening through the air toward Vulcan without parachutes like Kirk and Sulu, we create scenarios in our minds in which it’ll all turn out right, and we’ll get beamed back to the Enterprise in the nick of time before SPLAT.

The careening makes us feel helpless.

There’s always something that could be better in my life, and for the most part, I’ve learned to enjoy life even in the midst of the pain. But the question I began asking myself, as prayers were answered and as new challenges arose, was: When will I have enough?

Is God enough?

If I never have a baby, is he enough?

If I lose that baby, is he enough?

If the adoption doesn’t come through, is he enough? If my precious child suffers, is God enough?

Maybe you’ve asked yourself that question too. Is God enough?

If you never get married, is he enough?

If you never land your dream job, is he enough?

If you suffer from mental or physical pain, is he enough? If you’ve lost your dearest person, is God enough?

Honestly, your answer doesn’t have to be yes. It doesn’t have to be. Ask yourself if God is enough, and be brave enough not to censor your answer. Don’t play games. It’s in your own head. Is he enough? If he is, why do you believe that? If you don’t think he’s enough, admit that to yourself and ask why. It’s better to be honest with yourself than to go through the motions.

And once you’re honest with yourself, then you can find the freedom to be honest with God. Tell him you don’t think he’s enough. You can ask him to change your mind, or you can just tell him and let it hang there for a while.

Marinate there for a bit. What is enough? When you’ve lost something huge—a person, a job, a dream—what is enough? Who is enough?

For me, I finally had to admit to myself that there’s no such thing as enough. I always want more, I love change, and I’m always straining to the next thing. Contentment is a unicorn. I’m like my child who, the day after Christmas, came up to me and asked, “Are there more presents? I want more.”

Well. I appreciated the honesty. “No, honey, the North Pole burned down. Now walk away and let Mommy drink her coffee.” What. I would never.

From It’s Not Fair, by Melanie Dale. Zondervan Publishing, used with permission. 2016.