Yesterday I wrote about my beautiful niece Hannah, about the grace with which her parents have continued day after day through exhaustion, desperation, and helplessness. But they have also been the recipients of great joy as they have seen prayers answered in the very life they are able to hold and cuddle and treasure every day. (Into Every Life…The Good)
I can only assume in reading that there were some of you that felt the sharp pain of longing and the prick of reminder that your prayers were not answered. While Hannah’s parents have witnessed a miracle, you were the recipient of silence. And you find it an impossibility to find any type of the”good” that I was suggesting in that.
It doesn’t matter what you have prayed for, a child, an illness, a hurt, if God has remained silent, you can easily find yourself ambivalent, not only towards someone else’s happy ending but God himself. For some, ambivalence would be an improvement over how they feel about a God who doesn’t answer.
For those who don’t know let me share with you the lens through which I share life with you and more specifically yesterday’s story of good. We buried our infant son who never even took a first breath. Stillborn at 32 weeks, he could have had a shot at this life if only we would have know how wrong things really were. If only God would have intervened. We labored in prayer over that pregnancy and our son but God didn’t answer our prayer. I understand the raw pain of God’s seeming silence. I understand if you are not ready to see or even begin to look for the good in anything. But can I ask you one question? Isn’t it lonely in the pit you have dug for yourself?
I know the pit. I came dangerously close to camping out there in anger and bitterness 13 years ago. It was through God’s hand, holding out hope and rest and peace that I baby-stepped out. Brooding is exhausting, miserable work. I tried to ignore the disappointment. I tried to hide from the anger. I pretended, I masked, I denied but it wasn’t until I crashed headlong into it that I finally began to deal with my pit. Only then could I begin to heal, and begin to see the light that “good” can provide. But I had to make the choice, do I want to be bitter or do I want to be better. Do I want this mess to take me under or can it somehow be redeemed? I couldn’t do on my own though. I couldn’t make it better, I couldn’t make it “good” and the harder I tried the deeper my pit became.
It took me five years to get there, to have my eyes opened to see what I had become. On this particular Monday I had come face-to-face with myself and the pain that I hadn’t let myself feel in a long time. The more I do, the less I feel; and the less I feel, the less I hurt. I thought I was doing just fine, that I had been handling myself in a healthy manner. I didn’t realize that I had put up a major wall within myself, not allowing the emotion to spill over into the matter-of-fact way that I had dealt with our son’s death. I was afraid to be vulnerable, especially in the eyes of others, because in that I saw a weakness in myself. Repeatedly people had commented on my strength, but in reality, I tucked the pain and hurt away and never fully dealt with them.
Instead of fully allowing myself to feel the brunt of my pain, I had created a numbness and called it strength. I was afraid that if I felt the pain that I would also feel the anger, and I was afraid if I started down that road, I might not be able to come back. In my strength, I was robbing God of the ability to save me from myself and robbing myself of the knowledge and gift of true strength and dependence on God. God was longing to provide not the fake, plastered-smile, I-have-it-all-together façade that I was trying to convincingly pull off, but the glorious, holy power that brings with it pure strength.
Anger and bitterness are far more common than most of us would like to admit. Sometimes it just feels good to be angry, especially when we don’t have the answers or they aren’t the answers we wanted. It feels good to point fingers and place blame in order to try and make sense of things. We end up destroying our own soul when it becomes filled with anger, resentment, and hate; the one who has wronged us moves on, while we crumble under the weight of our resentment. It is hard to forgive sometimes, yet I have found it is even harder to carry the soul-crushing weight of anger and resentment.
Ephesians 4:26–27 says, “Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” We must choose to be honest about our anger and admit that we feel that we’ve been let down, that life isn’t fair, that we have been forgotten, passed over, and left for dead by those whom we loved the most. When we can take the first step in admitting these things, then we can begin to heal.
The question I asked you at the beginning of this series was this: how are you? I know how I used to answer it. Are you holding on tightly to your bitterness, to your anger, letting your hatred numb the pain and sorrow and disappointment of what you think should have been? Have you driven a wedge between yourself and others who have reached out their hands to help because your pride wouldn’t allow you to take it, wouldn’t allow for vulnerability and weakness? Have you written God off because He didn’t come to your rescue when you thought He should have?
Admitting that we are carrying this anger doesn’t mean that He’s guilty; God cannot commit sin. But when we admit and acknowledge our anger at God, we release our expectations of what we think God should have done to prevent our hurt or failure in the first place. When we acknowledge our anger at others and seek forgiveness for this anger, God creates in us a clean heart and renews our spirit, allowing us to begin living again.
This is not easy. This is a choice. Bitter or better? Are you ready to see healing and redemption begin? It most likely will not happen quickly but one foot in front of the other if we keep moving we will begin that baby-stepping journey out of our own personal pit. Reach out for the hope and healing that God is offering…begin your journey back to your ability to see the good. My prayer for you even as I write this is that you don’t give up.