When it rains, it pours.
Familiar with this phrase? Many of us are. We recite it flippantly when a series of not-so-fortunate things falls upon us in a short period of time. Generally, no big deal. We usually laugh it off – dismissive.
Until the day when the rain becomes a flood.
We were sitting in one of those really cute hole-in-the-wall restaurants in London. One of those places where the warm light, and even warmer people filled with laughter and spirits, spilled out onto the nearly deserted cobblestone street. It was an Italian restaurant and I was in heaven because the owners were actually Italian – I was eavesdropping, hoping to catch pieces of conversations in the beautiful language I wish I had more opportunities to speak, enjoying delicious prosciutto e melone and various pastas, laughing with my family.
In an instant, the world changed.
You hear about it in movies, the main character on the other side of the world when they learn that a dear, loved one has passed. You imagine the shock and pain they feel. You hurt for them. But you have no idea.
Until you’re sitting in a restaurant in London, watching your parents through the window as they receive this news hovering on the sidewalk, asking the waiter to give you the check asap and wrap up all the food to go. Being snippy because no other cultures seem to understand “hurry” like Americans, and you love that about them, but not now. Not while the world doesn’t even seem to be a real place.
You all walk back to the hotel in a tear-stained daze, stopping for none of the lobby pleasantries. All you want is to get back to your room, which isn’t even your room because you are a 10-hour plane ride from that room, and cry.
And you cry. You all cry.
You cry until your body cuts you off from exhaustion. And then you lay in bed wishing you were anywhere but there. Thinking surely you will wake up and none of this will have happened. You deny your new reality as you lay awake, like some cruel joke your body plays after telling you you’re too exhausted to keep crying.
An event that seemed only possible in movies – the sudden, shocking loss of my Papa – will forever be June 9 for me.
On it’s own, this would have been difficult enough. But as we know – when it rains, it pours.
See, my wonderful Granny, a woman I admired and shared so much of my life and faith with, lost her battle with Parkinson’s on May 9, exactly one month earlier. Throw in an onslaught of busyness and stress at work, tension within personal relationships, the resurrection of a battle with anxiety and nightmares that I thought I conquered years ago, jury duty (yay democracy, but I seriously think the government handpicks the most inopportune times) and finally, I was broken.
I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t have the “why?!” moment.
You know the one – the, “why are You doing this, God?” moment. The one that we as Christians are ashamed to admit to and feel. We’ve been told it’s wrong to question God.
Well, guess what? I’m calling bull (excuse my French).
You may or may not be familiar with Job from the Bible. He was an incredible, faithful servant of the Lord. You’d think that would earn him some extra protection, right? Wrong. That’s our human wisdom. Remember, no amount of goodness “earns” us a better spot in God’s eyes. We’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
Still, Job was special. He had such a strong relationship with the Lord that God actually allowed Satan to test him.
I know what you’re thinking. I had to stop and think about that for a minute, too. Why on earth would God “reward” Job’s faithfulness by letting Satan loose on his life?! Seems like, well… not an incentive to be faithful. But again – that’s our human thought process. It’s not about us. It’s all about God’s glory. And God knew (He’s omniscient after all) that Job would remain faithful to Him, no matter what, helping Him to write a story that we are still drawing strength from today.
Long story short, Satan took it all. Job’s land, wealth, health, family…any and every earthly possession or happiness that God had blessed him with. Through it all, Job never turned his back on the Lord. He didn’t blame Him. He didn’t curse Him. Not even when his closest family members and friends told him to do so.
You think, ok, that’s all fine and good, and Job is inspirational (if not somewhat unbelievable) and an example of a perfect reaction to pain… but that’s not relatable.
Well, you would be wrong.
Job may not have denounced the Lord, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a breakdown along the way. In fact, Job straight up asks God, “Why?!”
I like to picture him down on his knees in his room with his eyes lifted toward the ceiling, tears streaming down his face, his whole body feeling weak and shaky, his fingers straining from the palms of his hands, fighting them from turning into fists as he cries out with the energy left in the deepest parts of his soul:
I loathe my own life; I will give full vent to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me; Let me know why You contend with me.’ ~Job 10:1-2
It’s moments like these where it can be easy – assumed, even – to start asking the “what?” question: “What have I done wrong to deserve this horrible stuff happening to me?”
Once again, we can owe this self-pity and blame to the foolishness of our humanity. We may operate in a tit-for-tat mode, but God does not. It’s easy to start thinking there must be some reason, some justification for our misfortune. It’s true, some tough situations and pain are in fact the consequence of poor choices, disobedience, and plain ol’ sin. But other times, trials are the result of God working to redeem the dark world we live in, and we are the story He uses to bring light into an otherwise hopeless picture.
People are going to try to convince you that it’s your fault. Job’s friends did. Don’t believe them. Instead, hold fast to the faithfulness you know to be true of God. He may be growing you, and nobody ever accused growing pains of being delightful. Hold onto the promises of God – be strong and courageous and don’t be afraid; for the Lord is with you and He will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6 – and Papa’s favorite verse)
Here’s the thing about Job: He didn’t wallow in his darkness.
He questioned God, no doubt. Pretty much the entirety of Job chapter 10 is his own personal meltdown. But he didn’t stay there. He didn’t allow his pain to consume him. He turned back to the Lord. He continued to trust in His goodness, mercy, and sovereignty. He laid his head on his pillow at night making the choice to believe that the Lord’s mercies truly would be new in the morning (Lamentations 3:23) and he kept walking. He stumbled, sure. But he never stopped walking with the Lord. Which, by the way, God knew from before Job was even a thought in his parents’ minds. If that alone doesn’t give you a sense of calm, I really don’t know what will.
So now you’re thinking, ok, Alyssa, good for you, you’ve got this all figured out, you won’t continue suffering with loss because you have this faith in God’s goodness.
I wish that were true. But let me be transparent: I am struggling.
You’re right. I do believe in God’s goodness, mercy, and sovereignty. I do believe that someday, some way he will redeem my pain and that glory will be brought to Him and healing to me for the suffering of the last 2 months.
But that doesn’t mean I haven’t questioned. That doesn’t mean I haven’t struggled harder than I have in a long time to not let my anxiety consume me. I have experienced sadness that has made me wonder – is this what depression feels like? I have laid in bed until the last possible minute in the morning pleading with God to give me the strength to get through the workday. Even now, I am saddened just thinking about the fact that Papa will never read this post – he was so supportive of me and my dreams of writing.
I pray that the rain has stopped, that the floodwaters will start to recede. I know some day it will come again, but for now, I hope for recovery. I trust that the Lord knows what I need, even though I tend to argue that I know better. I pray that the next time God asks me to step out into the downpour sans umbrella, I will have the faith to look back on these days of loss and point not to my own strength, but my reliance on His. Because I’ll fall. You know it, I know it, we all know it. But He never will.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come, behold the works of the LORD,
how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. ~Psalm 46