By Kathy Helvey

I love collecting china teacups! One of the most enjoyable parts of my day is preparing a cup of hot tea in one of my favorite cups.

First, I have to brew the tea just right and pour it through a strainer. Of course, the right amount of sugar is a must, or Splenda if I’m on a diet. Then I sit down, relax, and enjoy my cup of tea in a quiet place.

As I look beyond my home to the world, I see people as a unique collection of china teacups with different things being poured into their lives. Sometimes the brew may be sweet and enjoyable. Other times it will be bitter and hard to swallow, lukewarm, or even cold.

But there is a difference between a cup of tea and life. When we brew tea ourselves, we can put it aside or throw it away if it’s not to our liking. That’s not so with life’s cup of tea. We have to drink it. How we go about swallowing those difficult cups of life depends upon what we know and believe about the nature of our life’s “tea strainer.”

A Bitter Brew

Five years ago, I was faced with having to identify the nature of my life’s tea strainer. Early that year, my parents were in a terrible car accident in Minnesota where they were living. My dad died instantly, and my mom was in critical condition for ten days. As we buried Dad, I remember thinking the horrible thought that we might have to plan Mom’s funeral next. She did survive, though, after four months of hospitalization and rehab. I made a lot of road trips up to Minnesota during that time.

It was mid summer when I returned from my last trip to Minnesota to move my 80-year-old “Miracle Mom” from rehab back into her own house. After my wonderful husband, Bob, welcomed me home, he told me that he was going to have open-heart surgery—a quadruple bypass—the next week! We had been down that same road 10 years earlier, and all the old familiar fears, anxious thoughts, and “what ifs” came pouring out of my cup, spilling over into my saucer.

About six weeks after Bob was on the road to recovery, our autistic daughter, Stephanie, experienced her first bipolar psychotic episode (although at the time we didn’t know that’s what it was). In her highly confused state she ran away from home. Thankfully, we were able to find her quickly, but two more of these hellish bipolar episodes, lasting three weeks each, happened again before the year was over.

My cup was a very bitter brew, and I didn’t like it one bit! There was absolutely no sugar in it, and I certainly didn’t relax and enjoy it.

Three Essential Truths

But at the beginning of that year, I read Jerry Bridges’ book Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts. I discovered some things about the “tea strainer of my life.” Bridges writes:

In the arena of adversity, the Scriptures teach us three essential truths about God—truths we must believe if we are to trust Him in adversity. They are: God is completely sovereign, God is infinite in wisdom, and God is perfect in love. Someone has expressed these three truths as they relate to us in this way: “God in His love always wills what is best for us. In His wisdom He always knows what is best, and in His sovereignty He has the power to bring it about.”

These three truths (that God is completely sovereign, infinite in wisdom, and perfect in love) went from my head to my heart as I drank from my life’s cup during that year.

There’s a promise in the Old Testament that reminds me of God’s perfect love: “I am the Lord your God. I go before you, I am with you, and I’ll never leave you or fail you. Do not be discouraged or afraid” (Deuteronomy 31:8). This is such a beautiful picture to me of God’s sovereignty, going ahead of me on a path. Like a shepherd, He clears away all the things He knows I won’t be able to handle. Then He comes back to get me. In His infinite wisdom and perfect love, He guides me along life’s path and promises not to leave me or fail me. And at times He carries me over the roughest parts, reminding me not to be discouraged or afraid.

Now, will I be discouraged or afraid to drink life’s cup at times? Oh yes! But I don’t have to be … because now I know and believe in the nature of my life’s tea strainer. I also have the confidence that as I drink, even though I can’t taste the goodness of it, or understand the why of what’s in my cup, in the end I know it will be good for me. I don’t have to be discouraged or afraid because it’s all been “Father filtered” from a loving, wise, sovereign God.

What would this world be like if we were to really see people as china teacups with signs on them saying, “Fragile, handle with care”? There would be some beautiful designer cups, along with some exquisitely hand painted ones. Others would be made from the finest bone china. And alongside these would be cups with chips, cracks, stains, or broken handles. Some may have even lost their saucers.

Oh, if teacups could talk, what would they say? Plenty! And as we listen to what they’re saying, we’d all do well to remember an ancient Indian prayer that says: “Great Spirit, grant that I may not criticize my neighbor, until I’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.”

Or to put it another way … let’s not judge another, unless we’ve drunk from their cup of brew!