This time of year, the world is bursting with new resolutions, goal setting, and exercise plans. We’re constantly being fed the idea that we’re only a new morning routine or day of decluttering away from finding true happiness and that any unhappiness present in our lives is simply due to a lack of productivity or effort.
I don’t know about you, but this makes me want to scream.
We cling to a pile of superficial bandaids while refusing to truly assess our wounds – and not just in Target or across our newsfeeds.
Experiencing loss has highlighted how this happens within the Christian community as well (and I’m as guilty as anyone): we allow comfortable religion to become a barrier to truly sitting with someone in their painful reality.
Prayers and bible verses are lobbed over the wall, allowing us to stay one step removed and protecting our own hearts with sayings like, “It’s all part of God’s plan.”
Even as someone trying to be open with their walk through the valley, it’s difficult not to want to wrap it all up with some sort of bow. It’s much easier to put up a polished facade of, “I’ve been through this trial, but all is well because of Jesus” than it is to honestly let people in.
Lane and I have been told that we’re walking through this experience with strength, resiliency, and grace.
And maybe we are.
But what I have failed to share with you is the wrestling, and I think it’s time to talk about it.
From the moment we found out that our experience with Norah wasn’t going to go as planned, I began wrestling with my faith and questioning God.
I fought, doubted, and yelled at God daily. I would sit in my car and audibly scream at Him on my way to work, hurling every single version of ‘Why?’ and ‘How could you?’ towards heaven.
I felt hurt, betrayed, and cast aside; God was supposed to be good, but how could He be good and let our daughter die?
Bitterness, jealousy, and rage rushed through me whenever I saw a birth announcement or another example of someone else’s seemingly painless life.
Countless prayers were said with every cell in my body begging for Norah’s life, and later for Mom’s; we had an entire community of prayer warriors holding us up. But even so, the healing didn’t come. The miracles we had been petitioning for didn’t appear in the way we so desperately longed for.
Prayer became confusing and difficult. Trusting God didn’t come easily, and honestly sometimes it didn’t come at all.
But strangely enough, as I was fiercely pushing against the painful reality I found myself in I also felt more connected to God and surrounded by His presence than ever before.
It didn’t make any sense – I would go from praising Him and feeling His undeniable presence to collapsing into a puddle of tears and questioning in a matter of seconds.
I felt like a total mess, all of it amplified by the fact that I had never heard of anyone wrestling with their faith in this way. I definitely couldn’t share this – the doubts, the questions, the anger – I was clearly failing. I mean, how could I possibly believe in God and have all these doubts at the same time?
Well, because God.
I vividly remember one drive to work while I was pregnant with Norah where, in the middle of throwing daggers towards heaven I felt God interrupt my rant and say, “Trust me.”
How little did I think of God to believe He was incapable of handling my questioning, doubts, insecurities, and rage? Just how high of a pedestal had I placed myself on to think I could be the only one that has ever felt this way?
After Norah died, it took weeks for me to open my bible; I’d often find myself just staring blankly at that holy book collecting dust on my nightstand.
Eventually, after using gratitude journaling as a stepping stone (not any Instagram-worthy thing here – I’m talking short, rough lists which consisted primarily of things like ‘being alive’, ‘water, or ’the sun coming up’), I was able to brush the dust off and open it.
As I hesitantly thumbed through those crinkly pages, I came across multiple examples of other broken hearts crying out to God, questioning Him as they navigated their own sorrows. I mean, there is even an entire book of the bible called Lamentations.
According to Dictionary.com, to Lament is to mourn, express deep grief, and/or express regret or disappointment over something considered unsatisfactory, unreasonable, or unfair. The definition of lamentation is, “the passionate expression of grief or sorrow; weeping.”
Any of this sound familiar? None of it — my pain, doubt, or hurt — was new to God. Even Jesus as He was on the cross cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
Reading those tales of a sorrow and weariness that I was all too familiar with allowed my soul to catch its breath for a moment; I felt seen and acknowledged exactly as I was – broken, hurting and messy.
For some reason I had believed that God would be disappointed in me for my human reaction to pain. But in every one of the biblical examples I found, they ultimately surrendered their suffering to God. They brought all of their hurt, their pain, their anger – very real, valid, and natural human reactions to the horrible realities of life – and laid them at His feet.
Angie Smith, in her book “I Will Carry You”, beautifully articulates this desire God has for us to bring our pain to Him:
Now let me be clear – bringing it to God is not easy. Every single day I fight to do this, and some days are better than others. Bringing it to God isn’t a magic pain eraser either but it lightens the burden slightly, allowing more breathing room.
Bringing it to God simply makes it easier to survive.
“To hurt so deeply is a sign that we live in a fallen world, not that we serve a small God.” – Angie Smith, I Will Carry You
“Our faith gives us the sure hope of seeing him again, but the hope does not take away the pain” – Gregory Floyd, A Grief Unveiled: One Father’s Journey Through the Death of a Child
The wrestling hasn’t ended and honestly I don’t know that it ever will; there is so much that I will simply never understand this side of heaven.
I still really struggle with prayer. Anxiety plays a much too significant role in my life. I question God’s plan constantly and still find myself yelling at Him in the car.
But I’m learning to be comfortable with the wrestling. I’m learning that this gritty, messy faith has no reason to be hidden.
If your faith doesn’t look like a freshly-pressed Sunday dress, if it looks broken, messy, or a little bit raw, you’re not alone. You’re not failing. You don’t have to pretend to be perfect.
Bring it to Him.
He can handle it.