“If this is your way of joking, God, this is really NOT funny.”
The words spilled out of my mouth as I read through an email that had landed in my inbox. I was being invited onto a fellow blogger’s podcast…to talk about what God’s been speaking to me in the midst of this life of illness.
I’d never been a guest on a podcast before and instantly felt worried about how much Lyme would affect my ability to communicate effectively. But that wasn’t the part I felt was a cruel irony. No, it was the fact that I would be talking about what I’ve been hearing from God.
And I was sure that my response would be a short one: “I’m going to go with ‘What is NOTHING’ for $100, Mr. Trebek.”
Contrary to the wildly popular idea in many Christian cultures that there is a very specific formula for feeling/hearing/sensing God in our lives, I’ve mostly experienced the opposite effect. I’ve read, prayed, asked, sought, begged, cried, you name it. Read the Psalms or Job and you’ll probably find me there. In the ashes, crying and saying all the words.
And nearly every time I’ve reached out: Silence. Distance. Heartache.
The three moments I felt I heard from God? They were in moments of tragedy and chaos. Three times in three years, all within a five month span. And in the end it wasn’t as peace-giving as we always hope and envision it to be. One of those moments was, in fact, more painful than reassuring in the end.
My experience with faith in the midst of suffering has been far different than the stories and books I’ve read of the joyful warriors. The ones that profess being at peace with whatever comes their way in the darkness of illness.
The things that I’ve been hearing from God? All the “lessons” I’ve been learning? They don’t fit into neat and tidy theological quotes or overused cliques.
If I’ve heard anything from Him, it’s come in the silence. When I’ve felt Him, it’s come from the arms, care and words of the loved ones around me. And if I’ve seen anything of His beauty, it’s been in the hills, the green of the trees, the colors on the passion fruit vine outside my home, the generosity of those giving to our medical fundraiser.
It’s in the stillness that I’ve sought after answers to the questions most, or all, of us ask in the trials. The wondering of where God is in the suffering, loss, and heartache. Does he cause it? Why doesn’t he rescue? Isn’t healing one of things he DID when he was earth?
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Wasn’t it kind of his thing?
I’ve ridden the waves of “why” and “how long” and “will you ever heal me?” Only, I’ve never been able to ride it long enough to hear the answer. Or maybe it’s simply been drowned out by the roaring of the waves. Muffled by the winds of this storm.
But the thing I’ve been clinging to? The words that have been giving me comfort in recent months? It’s found in the following truth:
It’s not unholy to be in the darkness.
Be it a traumatic ER visit or unending waiting for healing and relief. It could be loss or pain, feeling cast aside. Or maybe sadness, loneliness, depression or fear.
That darkness is not unholy or evil, my friends. Hear me: It is human. It is honest struggle. This place is not a rejection of God or faith or hope (thought they might feel faintly present). It is simply a reflection of the very place our heart is sitting. The wounds we are bearing.
If you’re pushed hard enough, you fall flat on the ground. Cut deep enough, you’ll bleed. If you hurt long enough, tears are bound to flow.
We aren’t choosing this darkness anymore than our heart is choosing to beat.
We didn’t invite the trial, the heartache, the disappointment to come. Yet here we often find ourselves sitting. In the cold, wet, muddy mess of pain – the result of ongoing or aftermath of a storm.
And yes: life can still exist here. But I’m finding the picture looks different. I still laugh and smile most, if not every day. Some days more than others. I can even find beauty in the simple things like the daisies growing on my front step or the silly antics of my pup.
Yet the sadness still comes. Physical pain and suffering are always here. The loss illness has caused is all too real some days. And so you’ll often find me here, holding onto dreams and promises with both hands. Facing the day’s storm with all the strength I can muster.
In the end, I agreed to chat with my fellow blogger (and now friend) about this life with Lyme and some honest truths about my experience with faith in illness. After all, our stories need to be shared to remind others they aren’t the only ones to have faced the darkness.
And that it’s not unholy to be here. For it doesn’t take too long to see:
We’re holding on with all we have.