Math, Tears and the Whys of Life

And the tears came.

Poor daughter of mine. Today’s math work was dividing decimals. Something she’s done a hundred times before. Certainly a task much easier than some of her more recent math assignments—solving long lines of x and y problems, multiplied by square roots and divided by more of the same. math

“What’s wrong, sweetie?”

“It just doesn’t make sense to me.” Sniffle.

“What doesn’t make sense to you? How to move the decimals?”


“Then why doesn’t it make sense?”

“It just doesn’t.”

As she wiped away her warm tears, smearing them across her blotchy cheeks, I sighed and gave her ‘the look’. You know what I mean. The calm, albeit censuring, pointed look that told her she needed to chill.

“Telling me ‘it just doesn’t make sense’ doesn’t help me. I want to help you and I can’t do that unless you explain what specifically you don’t understand.”

She threw up her hands, her voice shrill and quavering with emotion. “I have no idea why I need to learn this!”

Ah. There it was.

It’s not surprising from a girl who declares math to be ‘mental abuse to humans’. math mental abuseStill, I scratched my head. Her math assignment today wasn’t even all that difficult. Why the angst?

Suddenly it hit me. The suffering she was enduring seemed far worse because she didn’t understand ‘why’ she must endure it.

Painful stuff seems much more painful when you don’t know the purpose behind the suffering.

It’s kind of like going to a consultation with your surgeon. He explains the procedure to its most microscopic detail. He explains the whys, whereofs and runs every possible scenario by you so you’ll be prepared. He explains how it will make you feel when you awake. What you can expect. He gets you mentally ready for the change.

Does knowing what’s going to happen change your ability to control what transpires while you’re snoozing on the clouds of anesthesia? anesthesiaNo, of course not. But having someone explain to you why and how things are going to happen relieves the nervousness. It gives you a sense of control—even if you’re knocked out in a drooling stupor.

Here’s what is interesting: it’s the same with God. You may not understand the hard time you’re walking through right now. It might seem confusing, or even cruel. But, provided it’s not the natural consequences from living outside His will, God tells you exactly why those tough times come.

Don’t believe me? Look up Romans 5:3-5.

“…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

1 Peter 1:6,7

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

There can be no growth without a little suffering. Like a butterfly who can’t break free and fly without pushing through the pain of ripping open a stubborn cocoon, or muscles that must endure heavy weight in order to be molded into something bigger and stronger. No pain, no gain.


Getting back to Bethany, she finally relaxed when I explained that she might never need to use x/y graphs, algebra 2 or even dividing decimals. Then again, she might. The point is to be prepared and ready. We can kick and bellow our way through math, our health, our circumstances or any other struggle we encounter but it’s not the path of wisdom. It’s like telling God, “I don’t need to learn this. This isn’t in my agenda and I know more about my future than you do.” Foolishness.

Leaning in to the uncomfortable, the challenging things, even the confusing things is yielding to God and His refining touch. Trust Him. He loves you and knows every detailed nuance of your future.

Even if it seems like ‘mental abuse to humans’ at the time.


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