It was the first week of a new year, an appropriate time to look back over the events of the past year and anticipate all that would come with the new one. But unless the pattern radically changed, all I had to look forward to was more struggle, more disappointment, more weakness, more pain. Was this what God had in store for the rest of my life?
Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
Worn and weary, I lay suspended in a hammock looking up through the tree branches towards the heavens. I had not yet found resolution to the relational dilemma of a sovereign God who had ordained great suffering for me. But my soul was shattered, too broken to fight anymore. His were the hands that had wounded me. But His were the only hands that could comfort me. Part of me wanted to turn away from Him, to run away from the source of my pain. But the thought of life apart from God’s love brought even more despair than the misery of living within it.
My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. … I am reduced to skin and bones.
For I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears because of your great wrath, for you have taken me up and thrown me aside. … In the course of my life he broke my strength; he cut short my days.
Psalm 102:4-5, 9-10, 23
The only choice I had was to go to Him with my grief, to cling to Him while telling Him how much He had hurt me. Once again, the Psalms gave me permission to voice my complaint and the words to do it. I told Him frankly of the ways that I had been affected by His actions, and I didn’t sugar-coat it with statements of how gracious He had been to spare me from worse.
Tangible experiences of His love became the balm that made my anguish more bearable.
Lightning did not fall from heaven and strike me dead. Actually, I wouldn’t have minded if it did. I didn’t really want to live anymore, not with the prospect of a life filled with nothing but more suffering and pain, stretching out endlessly before me. I knew it wasn’t an option to end my own life, but it would be such a relief if He would end it for me. I fell asleep each night asking Him to do so. I awoke each morning disappointed that He hadn’t.
Through the first few months of that year, like the psalmists, I rose each morning and cried to God for help. I implored Him for the strength to make it through another day, then began by putting one foot in front of the other. I often felt like I was walking on that invisible bridge over an endless chasm from the old Indiana Jones movie. But as I took each step in blind, desperate faith, His strong hands kept my feet from slipping and my soul from falling into infinite despair. I came to the end of each day shocked and grateful to have actually made it that far.
By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me — a prayer to the God of my life.
In the midst of the struggle to go on, tangible experiences of His love became the balm that made my anguish more bearable. He did not “beam me up” out of my misery, but He did join me in the middle of it. The compassionate, silent hug of a friend. The gift of those sweet hours of oblivion that came with sleep each night. The poignant beauty of a song. The warmth of the sunlight caressing my face as I stole a few quiet moments in the hammock. All of these were touches of comfort from His hands, reassuring expressions of His true heart towards me.
Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.