I sunk into the couch, inches away from a stranger.
This stranger was my new counsellor. I hoped she would ease the turmoil inside me, and fast!
She reached into her oversized purse and pulled out a white candle. Its waxy rim pushed halfway up the glass jar, surrounding a blackened wick in the sunken centre. A counselling candle?
She pulled out a lighter, lit the candle, and gently placed it between us on the coffee table. She leaned forward expectantly while I hung back, clutching my purse to my abdomen.
“This candle represents God,” she said reverently. “Even though we can’t see Him, hear Him, or touch Him, He is here with us. This candle will remind us that God is also a part of our conversation.”
My breath caught. My chest tightened. Was God actually here? Based on the last 12 years of my life, God wasn’t anywhere near me. At least I couldn’t sense Him.
Have you ever felt that God was not there when you needed Him the most? I have.
11 years and 4 months before this meeting, my mom had died from cancer. It was a devastating blow but not one that we hadn’t seen coming. My mom received an incurable cancer diagnosis 8 months before her death.
But my faith had been strong. Having been baptized 2 months before her death sentence was issued, I believed that God could and would heal my mom.
Months of praying and crying out to God had amounted to…nothing. My mom was gone.
The years after her death left me confused, angry, and desperate for answers. I wanted some kind of explanation or “bigger picture” from God.
Was God even there? Did God see me? Did God care that I was hurting?
Had my prayers meant anything at all? Was there anything I could have done that would have made a difference in God’s plan? Or was I merely a helpless pawn?
These thoughts must be very un-Christian-like, I thought. God would not approve of my bitterness and doubts so I pulled away from Him, choosing to nurse my pain and resentment.
As I opened up to my counsellor, pouring out my story of losing my mother, having 2 miscarriages and struggling to parent the 4 children I had at the time, I couldn’t take my eyes off of the candle. The candle that reminded me that God WAS there. God WAS close to me even though I couldn’t feel Him.
In the Bible, the Psalms are full of verses that hint at serious adversities in David’s life. The writer repeatedly calls out to God in desperation.
Call to mind your own painful struggles, then read these verses out loud.
“My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long? Turn, O Lord, and deliver me;” Psalm 6:3+4
“How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” Psalm 13:1
“Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry for help come to You. Do not hide Your face from me when I am in distress.” Psalm 102:1
“Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord;” Psalm 130:1
“Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need;” Psalm 142:6
Can you feel David’s pain? Do you sense his longing for God to answer?
Do we do this? Do we go to God with our pain when we can’t feel Him? I struggled to do this, and I’m sorry to say that I gave up trying to get God’s attention.
Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on the Lord and He shall sustain you.”
To cast means to hurl, fling, throw down, put away in Hebrew. These sound angry, almost violent, words. Yet we are to cast our burdens on God. Not away from God, but ON God.
In this verse, David realized something I hadn’t yet understood. God could handle my questions. He could handle my grief, my pain, even my anger and doubts.
God had been waiting for me to bring Him all my dark emotions, bitterness, and overwhelming grief for 11 years. Instead I kept my pain close, keeping it between me and God. I pushed God away because I wanted my ideal world with my Mom more than I wanted a God who didn’t answer my prayers.
It doesn’t matter what you or I throw at God. He is not easily put off by it. In fact, God welcomes all our yucky feelings, thoughts, and questions.
The Psalms show that David knows God is with him, even in the worst of times.
Just as there are verses pleading with God for mercy, there are verses that speak of God’s goodness, love, and never-failing faithfulness. These verses tell us that only God can truly soothe the suffering of our injured souls.
“Praise be to the Lord, for He has heard my cry for mercy.” Psalm 28:6
“I will exalt you, O Lord, for You lifted me out of the depths…” Psalm 30:1
“He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap;” Psalm 113:7
“I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy.” Psalm 116:1
“The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” Psalm 145:14
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him.” Psalm 62:5
Another translation of Psalm 62:5 says, “My soul waits in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him.”
Can God handle our anger and our pointed questions? Will God love us any less for it?
Psalm 62:5 tells us that God will sustain us. In Hebrew, sustain means to nourish, to hold, to support, to provide. What a comfort.
In reference to this verse, Charles Spurgeon says that it is the wise who cast their lot on God. What a relief it was to know that God was near me even when I couldn’t feel Him and also that He wanted me to cast my burdens on Him.
I don’t know what kind of pain you are in today. Perhaps you have suffered a loss so big you feel like you can hardly go on. Maybe you feel like God has abandoned you.
My hope for you is that you don’t waste 11 years of your life suffering in silence, feeling deserted or punished by God.
I pray for each hurting woman who reads this. I pray you will realize that God IS right beside you even when you don’t feel Him.
God welcomes your burden. He knows it is far too much for you to carry alone. Don’t be afraid of hurting His feelings. You can’t. He truly is the loving Father who will endure this trial with you if you let Him.