Since publishing Counting Grains of Sand, my book that talks about choosing faith while walking through great sorrow and great joy, I’ve received so many letters with some version of this question: How can I trust in a God who speaks promises, when I am forced to walk through heart-wrenching sorrow?
I don’t have all the answers. There is so much of the mystery of God that I can’t begin to understand. But as someone who has carried trauma and sorrow and has buried babies and dreams, I offer this letter in response to those who are suffering.
Oh, dear friend. I hear the whispered agony of your words, your sorrow.
I don’t have all the answers, of course. After all, there isn’t any answer that is good enough to explain away such horrible pain.
You asked how you can trust God and what I say to this undeserved horror… and oh, what questions those are!
I cannot tell you how to trust God for yourself, the only thing I can explain is how I learned to trust Him. Still, even that will be difficult. There is always so much, such depth to experiences, it is hard to put actions into words. But I will try.
I kept talking to Him, even when I was angry. I kept crying and crawling to His feet and whispering and yelling and begging for His presence.
I kept striving to remember what He has done for me. I wrote the truth on the doorposts of my home and clung to it with everything. I reread the crucifixion story and forced my mind to brand my heart with the truth of His unrelenting compassion and love for me.
I chose forgiveness, both asking forgiveness and offering it. Even when I didn’t understand how or why something happened. Even when I knew someone had scraped me raw with their callousness or anger. Even when someone else’s selfishness stole irreplaceable things from me. Even when I hurt.
I chose to embrace the fact that God knows. He knows the pain of coffins and tombs, He knows the deepest sorrow of loss, and He cares, intimately. Of this I am certain. And He is faithful, even (and perhaps especially) when we are at our very weakest.
The whys and reasons that God allows pain are so far beyond my understanding. I can’t even attempt to grasp it. But I do know about His promises. I do know that this broken world with all its sinfulness and illnesses and losses, is not our home. And sometimes it makes me angry and I think, “Jesus, just return already! Stop this madness!” but then I look over at my neighbors and friends who don’t know Him and I realize that He tarries, even though it brings HIM pain as well, because His eyes are on the souls of His precious beloved children and He longs for them to spend eternity with Him.
God isn’t afraid of pain, in fact, He walked through it ON PURPOSE (when He chose creation, when He chose love, when He chose the cross) and we have to walk through it too— but never alone. Never ever alone. He’s with us every single step of the way. And any pain we carry, He carries as well.
And somehow our pain, our brokenness, when left in His hands, is the very thing that reaches this broken world with love.
Even as I write these thoughts, these responses to these questions on pain, I look at them on the page and I feel the hollowness of them. Not because they aren’t true, but because they are so little. They are just printed words from an unknown person, and they are meant to help the struggle through heart-shattering pain, and ugh. They just aren’t enough. I know that. You know that.
But I do pray that they can be a tiny bit of healing salve for this festering wound. That even if you feel angry or reject them today– at some point, somewhere, the Holy Spirit will use them to minister to you and bring comfort.
I also know we all walk different roads with different sorrows and God meets us all in different ways. There are no pat answers and I don’t pretend that I have any.
In fact, if my answers to your questions just feel like more madness, let them all go and just remember this one truth: I hurt for you and with you. And even though I don’t know your specific pain, I DO know pain and the horror of walking through it. You’re not alone.
Sending you a warm hug,