I’m almost always grateful when I see other Christians writing attempting to write honestly about pain, suffering, sadness, and grief. We should not try to pretend that these are not part of our experience as Christians living in a fallen world. As long as sin remains in the world, so too will all these.
So why “almost”?
The almost isn’t because I want to stick my head in the sand. It’s not because I feel there are subjects that we can’t talk about as Christians or anything like that. No, it’s something far more significant: it’s the sense of aloneness that’s communicated in so much of this writing. There’s a sense in which people are absent, but more importantly, that God is absent.
But who told any of us that? Does the God who swore that he would never leave nor forsake his people abandon them when things get messy? Do our feelings of distance mean he truly is distant from us?
When I’ve felt like this (which I have on many occasions), it’s taken time to see the truth. That God was right there with me through everything. For example, in recent months, I’ve been dealing with what for me is a fairly significant amount of anxiety. I have had more than one night staring at my ceiling wondering if I’m going to get a letter saying I’ve done something—anything—that will result in my visa being cancelled and forced to return to Canada.
Maybe I’ll mess up my taxes and I’ll be sent back. Or having my social security number run so I can volunteer at a church. Or my boss will suddenly change his mind and decide he doesn’t want me on the team anymore. Or…
(This is how my mind works, gang.)
But what keeps me from spiraling most days are the moments where the unexpected happens, which in my case usually means someone offers an unsolicited word of encouragement. And then another comes up. And then there’s another one still. While I wouldn’t use them as hard evidence regarding his plans, these moments are genuinely gifts from God to me. Small reminders that help me at least get through the day.
But that’s not the case for everyone. Some of us just take a pounding and it doesn’t seem as though it’ll ever let up. And in those times, even to say, “don’t worry, God is with you” feels like a copout. And maybe it is, depending on how who’s saying it. But the truth is, well, it’s true. Remember that David and the other psalmists all wrote and prayed and sang this way.
“Where are you? Why do you hide yourself from me?” They would cry (see Psalms 10, 13, and 42, among others).
But they didn’t stop there. They didn’t say, “God’s hidden himself, so I’m out.” Instead, they would speak the truth to their own hearts. They would remind themselves of reality, in spite of their feelings. “Why, my soul, are you so dejected?” the psalmist asked himself (Psalm 42:5). “Why are you in such turmoil?” When darkness threatened to overcome them, the psalmists would encourage themselves (and those who read their work today) with one truth: “Put your hope in God.”
That’s what we need, despite it feeling like a cliché at times. Weary believer, it’s easy to despair and to give up. To believe what your feelings are telling you. But despite what you may think or feel right now, despite any evidence to the contrary, God is with you. He will not leave you. He will not forsake you. And he will not fail you.