What do you do when you are angry and disappointed with God, and who do you turn to? I say when because if you have been in a relationship with Him for very long there has probably been a time when you felt like He let you down. I am not talking about mild disappointment, but gut wrenching anguish. Waves of grief and anger. Confusion, questions that result when circumstances and facts don’t add up to answers that reflect the character of God as you understand, and believe He should be. The wilderness experiences that come when the Caring Heavenly Father, or Loving Bridegroom, seem distance at best, or worse yet, a cruel joke at your expense. The feelings of betrayal that come when you have prayed the prayer of faith, waited on the Lord and praised Him in the storm only to be drenched and whipped by the gale forces of life's hurricane. What do you do during these moments when the One that has comforted you in the past seems distant and silent, when the Healing Miracle Worker seems to be too busy to hear your painful, pitiful cries?
The choices that stand before you at this moment may seem daunting. Based upon the specific nature of your personal crisis there may be so many options that you feel lost amidst the chaos, or you may feel like you have been knocked into a dark pit with no possible avenues of escape. However your physical circumstances resolve, you understand that the most critical need during this dark night of the soul, is your soul itself. Where is your Savior? The One that has promised to never leave you nor forsake you, and while you need to find physical direction for your daily comings and goings, your spiritual direction is still spinning like a compass that has lost its true north. Where in these moments can your mind rest, can your emotions find safe harbor and your soul safeguard against shriveling despair?
The last thing that you need during these times are Christianity’s pat answers, and yet that is what seems to be most prevalent. The God won’t give you anything you can’t handle or He will work this for your good. God has BIG shoulders, you can yell at Him, He can take it. Comments that somehow sound and feel revolting and false. Being called to be the Salt of the Earth doesn’t mean throwing salt in the wound, however that is exactly what these phrases do when they are carelessly and casually tossed at someone that is hurting. The truth is, that these spiritual promises sound empty and may lead to only more despair unless they are first preceded by loving action that helps to bear our burdens. They only add to our humiliation and feelings of spiritual inadequacy and failure, unless they are lived out in front of us by a life that speaks I have been there & I will sit with you in this darkness, for as long as it takes. I will be the physical body of Christ for you during this season, so that you do not feel alone. I will not judge, or advise, or fix, or tell you how you should have done things differently, but I will be here, and I will whisper to your heart the things that it is struggling to remember amidst the death of dreams and hopes that it is experiencing. Until you find Hope again, I will tell you that you are loved, that you are not alone or forgotten, that you matter and that this pain and confusion will not last forever. There will be victory again. There will be joy again – hold on, don’t give up. You can, empowered with strength beyond yourself, do this.
Sometimes God allows these faithful brothers and sisters to be physically present in our lives, but in some seasons we are physically alone. The physical and emotional isolation is more than our souls, that were created for community, can support. To whom can you turn? Who will whisper, or scream if necessary, to your heart during these times?
During times of pain there is something powerful about the creative arts that dives deep into the core of our being, that shifts into the empty places that mere words in traditional sentence form can rarely fit. It squeaks into crevasse that alone might be small and unnoticeable yet their countless number aligned to form huge fault lines. The examples that support this fact are numerous, but one that comes from my personal experience was encountered when I battled a series of severe allergic reactions of unknown origins. I had never been one to suffer from skin allergies yet over a several month time frame the attacks intensified until it climaxed one night and I ended up in the ER with 90% of my body covered in hives. The physical itching, burning and pain drove me mad. My mind was assailed to the point that despite being in a crowded room of strangers I rocked and shook in the fetal position like a crazed lunatic. The torture was beyond anything I have ever experienced. I felt as if I had been tossed into the dark pit of hell and that demons attacked in waves clawing every inch of my body. I was beyond the point of being able to pray or even ask God for help, the only anchor that staked me in any realm of sanity was music. In the middle of the ER, while I was rocking and clawing my skin to shreds I had on my ipod and I was listening to praise music. As long as I whispered and meditated upon the words my mind was anchored. With the help of the music I entered God’s throne room of praise and I found refuge amidst the anguish. When the music stopped and I had to interact with nurses and doctors the physical assailment was more than I could stand and I had to dive again into the strong tower of His presence, dismissing what was physically before me and choosing to meditate only upon the spiritual. To make it through my nightmare I had to ignore everyone around me discarding their opinion of my character or mental state, and cling to the hand of my helpmate. The person of Praise was my companion and it walked me through the dark valley that night. I was beyond the point where through prayer I could even dictate or request to God my desires for Him to fix the outcome. By closing my eyes to what was before me, and meditating solely upon praising God for who He is, and not what He was, or was not, doing for me at that moment, I clung to the life raft that was before me, and together, my sweet, faithful companion Praise and I made it through.
If today you find yourself within the confines of a nightmare that appears to have no end let me not be the one that burns you by throwing Christian salt in your wounded heart. From across this page, let me be the one to climb down into your dark hole with you, to sit with you and help you discover a small treasure in your mine, a diamond that is not for the jeweler, but the setting within your soul. Together, lets find the song, the poem, the image, whatever creative form provides nourishment to your soul, and behold it and the One that inspired its beauty. Cling to it and meditate solely upon its message. Avert your eyes from the darkness and despair of your surroundings and cast them only upon the small light until the larger Light is reflected. His presence is your only Hope, your only Strong Tower during this battle. Do not worry about when this night will end. Do not fret about how to fix your circumstances or how your deliverance may, or may not, come. Cast your cares, toss them as far as your mind will allow. Disregard what others may think, and with the help of your artful companion, keep your eyes only on the One and let Him figure it out. Equipped with the beauty that speaks to your soul, array yourself in the garment of praise. Throw off the heavy spirit of despair. Without it you can take the next step that is in front of you and watch as the "things of this earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace" (Lemmel, 1922).
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
Lemmel, H. (1922) Turn your eyes upon Jesus.