As the shock dissipates and the reality comes rolling in like a giant wave of destruction that one could never outrun - I am overcome. By pain, by disappointment, by a cacophony of questions that seem to pour out of my heart and are received only as an echo in the darkness. There is no answer that comes, no response, just their echo that seems to go on forever.
The spiritual struggle that is at war within me right now is more intense than any struggle I have faced with the Lord before. I think in the past it felt like I was a disappointed child. I wanted something and my Father said 'no' and I wailed and wrestled against him and it was a real struggle. But ultimately, I trusted my Father, I trusted His care for me, the goodness of His heart and I submitted. I finally relaxed into him and quit fighting and I felt better, I was able to accept whatever it was that He would give me, even if it wasn't what I wanted. Now, this place is deeper and darker. It feels like the distrust and betrayal of a child who has had her Father promise he will come and then he continues to not show up when he said he would. The sadness, rejection, betrayl and hurt are real barriers to being able to trust that father again. I don't mean to imply that this is a crisis of faith for me in the sense that I may choose distrust and walk away from my Father because I did not get what I wanted. I just mean that this crisis of struggling with, who is the Good Father when things unfold in a way that does not feel like it could possibly be the most good, the most kind or the most loving - it is real. I will not pretend like I understand this or like the answers don't matter. I believe that walking through this valley with honesty and earnestness is part of the spiritual journey.
The truth is that in the depths of my despair, I am not experiencing this supernatural protection or comfort from Jesus that makes it feel better. In some ways, God feels far off and I don't think that is an accident. When I look at the scriptures, it seems that there are definite times when God hangs back and does not rush in with the answers to make everything better right away. "Truly you are a God who hides himself." Isaiah 45:15, "As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. " Ecclesiastes 11:5. The Psalms are full of David crying out to the Lord asking "How long will you forget me?" And "Will you reject me forever?" Even Jesus uttered similar words as he hung on the cross. I think the place I am in is not unique - I think it is exactly the place where God builds faith - the place where it looks like a wasteland and hope is nowhere to be seen, not even on the horizon.
I am learning that it is not the suffering, the loss or the pain that threatens to destroy my heart. People have a remarkable capacity to endure hardship and suffering when it makes sense. Men and women choose to die for the sake of their country, to protect their children, to be martyred for their faith. It is the confusion, the circumstances that cannot be explained that threaten to crush the spirit most acutely. I can understand suffering as a result of my own sin or even the sin of someone else that impacts me... But when you did nothing and you had nothing to do with or no control over what happened; those are the situations that shake our foundations so deeply we cannot simply get back up and move on. As I have been reading the book of Job, I have been struck by what appears to be the source of Job's most intense frustration. It is not the suffering that God has allowed to be inflicted upon him, it is his inability to find God in the midst of it. Job says, "Oh that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come to His seat! I would present my case before Him and fill my mouth with arguments... When He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him; He turns on the right, I cannot see Him. But He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold." Job 23:3-4, 9-10. Over and over Job laments that God feels far off and talks of how he longs to be able to communicate with God about this disaster. I feel this way right now. I want God to rush in and make this better, help me understand what He is doing, affirm that He sees and cares. It isn't that I don't believe the things that I know to be true about God. It is this seemingly incompatible place of my knowledge and beliefs about him and my actual reality. I have to believe that it is in this place of incompatibility, this place of impossible questions that real, enduring faith is born. As Dr. Dobson puts it in his book, When God Doesn't Make Sense, "What is faith? It is 'the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen' (Hebrews 11:1). This determination to believe when the proof is not provided and when the questions are not answered is central to our relationship with the Lord."
I know my questions are mostly unanswerable, but that doesn't stop them from pouring out of my broken heart. And that's okay - it is okay to struggle and not be able to accept a simple - God is good all the time. It doesn't mean it isn't true, but my heart needs to get there and for me that takes time and learning what it means to trust God when your dreams fall apart. I would rather have that kind of faith - the kind that can withstand unanswered questions and dead children- than the kind that says the right words but doesn't believe them.