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.
How Life and Tea Differ
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.”
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. I remember thinking as we buried Dad 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’d 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, began having 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. 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 says:
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.”
A Promise of God’s Love
There’s a promise in the Old Testament that’s 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.” (Deut. 31:
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 for sure, 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.
read more Stress Management for the Holidays
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!