We were leaving for a trip. Just us. No kids. Seven. Whole. Days.
Anticipation. Excitement. Business AND pleasure.
The van was packed. We were on the road. Headed out. Daughters in the back. Gonna drop them off. Radio humming. Holding Hands.
Patch of fog. Can’t see. Stopped traffic. Semi-truck. Can’t stop. Tires screeching. No way out. Blackness.
Shock. Denial. Unbelief.
One moment. Everything changed.
In less than one minute, not only did my travel plans change, my week change, but my whole life changed. Every. Single. Aspect.
We had our own businesses. We pastored a church. Not just my home environment changed when my husband was killed, but my work, my church, every dynamic socially and professionally. Everything.
The biggest change, though, was morphing from a person who felt secure…..secure in my marriage, secure in my life, secure in my faith, secure in the path I was headed down in life….. to someone completely unraveled. Like a ball of yarn tossed around the floor by a playful cat. Yarn whose mass lay limp, strewn across the carpet in a random, jumbled mess.
As a Christian, I never believed my faith in Christ meant exemption from suffering. I never figured I’d be one of those people who questioned their faith just because suffering hit. Ministry was our life. But when the unthinkable happened, it shook me to my core. I questioned everything. Everything. Thoughts and chaos invaded my mind.
I can distinctly remember one of my first thought processes. “What is the point? What is the purpose of any of this?” As I looked around at life. The chaos. The heartbreak. The trying. The work. The ministry. What is the point of any of it? Why? Why try? At the beginning, the very thought of continuing was overwhelming. All the effort seemed pointless. All the sacrifice and dedication seemed in vain.
I was numb. Not numb to the pain. No, that squeezed in full force. I was numb to caring. Numb to caring about my faith, caring about my passion, my purpose, serving Him. There was a distinct retreat. Like a turtle slinking into its shell.
Through the following weeks and months, I can remember rationalizing with myself, trying to decide what I wanted to “do” with my so-called faith. I literally can remember the discussion within myself as I considered my options. The way I saw it, I had three:
- I could simply not believe anymore. Screw the God thing. Forget the Christian thing.
- I could continue “believing” in God, but totally detach it from my everyday life. Do my own thing for once in my life.
As I considered my three options, for months I debated. I debated logically. This was no emotional decision. My emotions were fried. A closed sign hung in the window of my heart. Some say faith is what people depend on when they are weak. At this point, honestly, in my weakness, I did not yearn for it. The fact that I even entertained some of these thoughts shocked me. Disgusted me. Yet, I couldn’t deny them.
And so my discussion continued in my rational mind.
- If I did #1, I’d basically be surrendering myself to an atheistic worldview. But I didn’t know if I could bring myself to believe that nothing randomly brought all this into existence. No, that went against everything logical within me. The order. The magnificence. The unexplainable. There has to be a God. Besides…. I’ve seen too much to deny His existence. I have EXPERIENCED too much to deny He’s real. Remember when…..(and my mind would recall many events where God had intervened, spoken, provided. Someone else could deny it. I couldn’t. I was there.) And so logically, I shrugged off the appeal of this. I just couldn’t do it.
- Okay, #2 then. So there’s a God. I admit it. I’ll set that acknowledgment in the corner of my mind so I could claim to “have faith”, but just do what feels good. Do me. Ease the pain with whatever is handy. Live the way I want, with any distraction and activity that seems to satisfy. What is the point in serving Him, anyway? But I couldn’t shake the argument…..why believe in God if you aren’t going to follow Him? Why acknowledge the existence of God if you aren’t going to treat Him like…..God? What would be the point? I’ve seen lives founded in carnality and humanism. I’ve seen where it leads. Even though it appealed to my senses right then, appealed to my numbness, I couldn’t shake knowing where it’d take me. I just couldn’t do it.
- Okay, #3. So I continue. Press on. Even though I was not feeling it.
And so my logic left me with what I always had. What I had to reconcile was not my faith. What I did have to reconcile was my sense of betrayal. What I did have to reconcile was my confusion that this could be God’s will. What I did have to reconcile was my preconceived ideas about His goodness and what serving Him got me.
And if you are reading this, waiting for me to write some blessed and profound answer, I have none. I’m still working through this. The only answer I have is that you can hold fast your faith even while reconciling those questions. A blind person does not have the right to negate the reality of light. And so, just because I can’t see the answers, I don’t get to negate that they are there. Way up in the heights of heights with the rest of God’s wisdom and providence. I have yet to reconcile all my emotions. That’s okay. Sometimes your head has to lead your heart. I know it is popular to say, “Follow your heart”, but that can be a dangerous road. Your heart is a rollercoaster of emotions that is easily influenced by the ups and downs of life.
We cannot always resolve God’s sovereignty with the existence of human choice in our minds. Nor harmonize God’s goodness with the existence of heartache in our logic. And often, our quest for answers (demand for answers can sometimes be more accurate) becomes an idol in itself, blinding us to relationship Christianity is to be built on. To quote a MercyMe song, “The healing doesn’t come from the explained.” Even if God answered in a way we could understand, it wouldn’t take away the sting of loss. It wouldn’t bring them back. The answer wouldn’t undo the pain.
Whether I am a Christian or not, suffering will happen. Christianity isn’t a promise to ease suffering or exempt you from it. Christianity isn’t the claim to a comfortable life. Quite the opposite. So if I am to experience rejection, and loss, and hurt, and pain, whether Christian or not, why not hold tight to the only hope there is outside myself? Outside this world. Outside this system of broken human beings. To quote MercyMe again…“It’s never really crossed my mind, to turn my back on you, Oh Lord, my only shelter from the storm.”
And so, my logic led me to keep my faith. And so I must trust God is big enough to rekindle the passion that was quenched, and feed the faith that proved shallow, to grow it into one that is not.
Do I feel like a hypocrite sometimes? Yep. Going through the motions. Yet, isn’t that part of a mature adult? You stick to the commitment in your marriage… in your job…to your children… even when part of you would love to run away and pamper yourself and only yourself. Emotions don’t always support commitment. And so, sometimes you go through the motions, waiting for your emotions to catch up, recover, and heal. Yet, so often, we treat faith as different. As if we can’t be mature in that aspect and cycle through the motions, waiting for healing. So many, when they face a life-altering pain like I did, and struggle with the thoughts, like I did, somehow feel, like I did, that the doubts mean they have to abandon ship and their faith must have been fake or weak. And they give up. And they submit themselves to the doubts.
Take heart. Be encouraged. You don’t have to. You can forge ahead. You can stay committed though you don’t understand. You can hold tight your faith even while you feel disconnected from it.
Sometimes, faith doesn’t show itself as the ability to feel celebratory every time someone shouts “God is good”. Sometimes faith reveals itself as the simple choice to hold on, even when you don’t feel like it. Knowing that God is strong enough to tighten His grasp and pull you from the dark waters in His time.