I grew up in the church. Hymn books, “Amazing Grace,” and Sunday School were all familiar. I feel as though I grew up knowing God. I became a Christian at an early age. Faith was fairly simple. It was all I knew.
As I matured into adulthood, I would occasionally ask the hard questions. Things like: where is God in the midst of tragedy? And why does God allow suffering? I asked questions, but only to the extent that mainstream Christianity deemed suitable. You know, enough questions to join the “it’s okay to have questions” club, but not so many to actually get kicked out of the club.
My faith seemed solid. I endured difficulties in my adult life, things that would test this faith, and it stood strong.
That was, until suicide.
When my step-brother died, I grieved. Oh, how I grieved. And I prayed. Initially, I talked to God just like I’d done through the years for so many other reasons. I prayed because that’s what I had always done when things were falling apart. That’s what I knew to do. The difference this time, however, was that it was me who was falling apart; I just didn’t realize it yet.
And so, I cried. And I prayed.
Until my praying became more like clenched fists and angry words. And then, at my lowest, it became silence. It turns out, for all of these months since his death, I’d just been teetering on the edge of the darkness. I suppose the shock kept me there in the shallows. It kept me upright, though slightly off-balance.
But once the shock began to fade, I began to fall, further and further into the depths. And oh how dark it was there. So much darkness and so much pain.
I felt lost. The Foundation, the Cornerstone that had held me in the past, seemed to have crumbled into the deep along with me.
Then one day it struck me. I clearly remember seeing myself as if from a distance, looking at God and backing up. I was looking at God and moving away. I could no longer wrap my “Jesus-is-the-answer-for-everything” arms around my “where-in-the-world is God” questions.
What God allows this? How did this happen? Where were you God when he did this? All of these questions were slung toward the sky with a vengeance that could rattle Hell itself. I heard no answer.
At the time, I worked full time including a couple of days a week out of town. It was about a two-hour drive one way to my office. I remember distinctly driving along the four-lane highway, both hands on the wheel. I was filled to overflowing with darkness.
My prayers had grown fewer and farther between over the months. But this morning, tears began to fall. Quietly at first. More like a seeping than a full-on torrent. My mind began its litany of, “Why, oh why?” fragments of sentences, my heart too empty and my mind too tired to form full ones. Those thoughts began to sound more like prayers, whispered into the early morning fog. “Why, oh why God?!” The tears came on more strongly. The prayers became more intense.
I was yelling now, leaned forward up against the wheel, one hand clenched around it, my foot pushing the gas pedal further toward the floor, my other fist banging at Heaven’s door while the grief exploded through me and around me.
“Where were you God, when he did this?! Where was Jesus, this Savior, this Friend, who’s supposed to be closer than a brother?! Where were you when he ended it all!?” I raged into thin air.
That’s when I heard it, felt it, sensed it, with a power I can’t explain…
I WAS RIGHT THERE BESIDE HIM, ASKING HIM NOT TO.
My hand dropped to my side; the other hand slipped off the wheel. I fell back against my seat, and my foot slid off the pedal. Without my foot on the gas and no hands on the wheel, the truck suddenly slowed and then began to veer slightly towards the right. It slowly dawned on me that I was no longer driving the vehicle, and I shook myself aware enough to get a hand back on the wheel and a foot on the pedal.
I was shaken. I was stunned. I was speechless.
It was just one sentence. It was not an audible voice, nor a booming thunderclap from heaven. But I felt it nonetheless. I heard it in my soul with such intensity I felt changed somehow. Like I’d experienced Something Holy.
That was the beginning. I stopped backing up. I stopped moving away.
I can’t tell you that my relationship with God was immediately repaired. It wasn’t. But that was the turning point, and I slowly began my walk back towards Him. And I’m so thankful that I did.
That’s been so many years ago now, and I’ve never talked about it, nor shared it. In some ways, I’m hesitant to do so now, but my thoughts have morphed into a new way of thinking over the last year or so. A way of thinking that believes that the parts of my soul I most like to hide are the very parts that God can use for His glory. A way of thinking that believes only that which is brought into the light, can God fully redeem.
And so I share this because I know that many of you struggle with faith. I know you do because I hear it in your words and sometimes I see it in your eyes. Perhaps, like me, there has been a tragedy or difficulty that you just can’t seem to wrap your faith around. I get that. I really do. And I won’t offer simple answers or platitudes because for all of its simplicity, at times, faith can indeed be hard.
But to you who struggle as I once did, for those who question, and those who doubt, I simply say this. Please keep searching. Please keep seeking.
Because I believe with all my soul that, “he or she who seeks will find, and for he or she who knocks, the door will be opened.”
With all of my heart, I want you to find. With all of my heart, I want the door to be opened. With all of my heart, I want you to find, feel, and know the incredible love of God.