“Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me home empty."
I decided after my diagnosis this was my new life verse. I was angry, I felt abandoned by God, I felt forgotten. I felt like prayer didn't matter...prayer was a shot in the dark. I'd seen faithful people pray for healing and their loved ones die and others lived. Why? I don't believe it was because someone prayed more than someone else...so where does the answer lie? Is there a point to prayer other than getting close to God, and if that is the only point then why are we praying specific prayers?
I could not open my Bible. My ground was shook and I did not know how to recover. Was my faith so brittle and weak I could not withstand this? Had I been fooling myself this whole time? How am I a Pastor if I can't even imagine moving forward from this still trusting in God?
I wept. I wept harder than when we lost our baby, when my husband's best friend died, when my Grandpa died, when we said goodbye to our foster daughter.... I could not breathe. I screamed and yelled. My doctor called me in two anxiety medications that I began taking immediately and I started seeing a therapist consistently for the first time in my life. I didn't leave my bed for days. I didn't eat for days. I did not return calls, texts or post anything on social media. I didn't want to talk about it. I just needed to be angry.
I yelled a lot at God. My Mom always told me it was okay to because at least I was still talking to God. That's the only line of communication I kept open for quite awhile. I let others pray for me, letting them know it was fine if they chose to but I wouldn't be participating. I did ask them to pray for specific things I just could not find the words to pray for myself. I couldn't sleep. I had flashbacks from my traumatic surgery and hospital stay and hearing the words from a doctor with terrible bedside manner. It all replayed over and over and over and I got angrier and angrier.
Mercifully those days grew farther and farther between. I did not think they would. There was breakthrough. There were specific answered prayers that others prayed for me. There was the patience of my husband and kids and my Mom who sat on my bed and cried with me, who brought me over a booklet of verses about joy because that is the one thing I was asking for. I needed to feel JOY again. I desired to feel HOPE and I could not find it. I discovered Scrabble on my phone was a great distraction and my therapist incorporated it into my plan. Slowly things began to level out but it isn't perfect.
I still have questions and doubts and anger. I still don't know all the answers to my questions but the one thing that has changed in all of this is that God brought people to me.
God brought them in like a thundering herd of elephants. Do you know how emotionally intelligent elephants are? They surround one another while one is grieving, they look after each other and don't leave one another alone. They stay in communication with one another. "They reveal a creature that weeps, revels, rages and grieves." My tribe came from nowhere and yet everywhere. They were quick and eager. They surrounded me and my family, they have done the praying and the caring and the loving and the trusting and they have been God's gift to me. Some I have never met. A pack of elephants if you will, raising up their trunks believing in things for me and raising the battle cry. Rise and look up and see the goodness before you- God is still at work.
Do I know God is good? Yes I do. Do I forget that truth sometimes? Yes I do.
But when I forget, when things get hazy and I lose sight, I force myself to look back at what has already happened. I look back and see what God has already brought me through and that is how I keep going. I have belief that God has never once abandoned me even if it felt like it for a moment. God has never once forgotten me even if in a moment I felt silence. Even if for a moment I felt my life bitter.
I write all this very transparently because I want you to know this has been a struggle. I may smile though my chemo treatments and put on a brave face but it is because I don't really know how else to do it. I don't really have a choice. I do not feel tough, I just do not have a choice but to do it. I wear my Wonder Woman masks and shirts not because I feel like Wonder Woman but because I am willing some kind of Wonder Woman gusto to help me forge on. I want you to see that it is okay to fully love and trust God and still have questions and that sometimes those questions will not be answered and that it is okay to land in that tension. I want you to know that Pastors grieve and deal with anxiety and depression and need praying people for their battles too and I want you to know that you are not alone either.