As my heavy eyes finally begin to close and I drift off to sleep, I’m jolted awake. “Help me, help me,” my father yelled across the hall.
I don’t remember the last time I had slept for more than a couple of hours. It felt like he had been battling cancer for an eternity, but it had been more like a couple of months. His pain was increasing and the cancer that ravaged his lungs had moved to his brain.
I dragged my sore and weary body out of bed to see how I could comfort him. He didn’t want me, as such was the case most nights. He wanted my mother. I tried to explain that it was three in the morning but he insisted I get her anyway. With a heavy heart, I went upstairs to wake her, knowing she was working on as little sleep as I was. Swollen feet and legs, she made her way downstairs, pausing to offer up the only prayer she had strength to give. “Oh Father,” she said and continued downstairs.
I went back to my room and crawled into bed. After listening to my parents’ exchange for a few moments, I held the pillow to my face to muffle my cries. “Lord, don’t You care that we’re drowning in grief and pain? Where are You?”
As I retell the events of those months to a good friend, she looks at me in astonishment. “I’ve worked in hospice home health care for years and that was one of the most traumatizing experiences I’ve heard,” she said. “The fact that you’re even able to sit here and talk about it without breaking down is the power of God.”
Those few months while my father was sick were the worst and most painful of my life. I was gripped with intense depression, fear and anxiety. I was overwhelmed with holding down a full time job, caring for my mother who was battling her own health issues and a dying father, all with very little help. It didn’t feel like God was with me at all. However, now that I’ve been on the other side for a few years, I can see that He was.
I was so physically and emotionally exhausted back then it could only have been God that helped me function. I functioned so well that people who didn’t know about my situation had no idea what I was going through. It was only God’s strength that helped me to overcome so many fears during that time. He did care that my family and I were struggling. He brought neighbors to give us rides to the hospital and to help care for my father. He also brought friends to comfort us with prayer.
When we’re deep in a storm, it’s hard to think straight. All we can think about is surviving. We can feel so alone. We desperately search for someone who will see and rescue us but when no one comes, we look to God and ask why He doesn’t care about us. Why has He allowed such torment in our lives? I’m reminded of Matthew 8:23-27, where Jesus’ disciples faced such a situation. They found themselves in a boat during a violent storm. As the darkness enveloped them, their faith started to waiver. The boat was tossed to and fro, water poured into the boat, it looked like they weren’t going to survive. They looked at Jesus, peacefully sleeping oblivious to the danger, the One who had confidently told them they were going to the other side. They frustratingly ask Him, “don’t You care, Lord, that we’re about to die.”
Jesus calmly got up and told not only the storm but them, “peace, be still.”
It’s when we are still we can feel His presence. We can hear His calming voice. When we start to panic during the storm, we can’t hear, we can’t think, we can’t see. I don’t know your situation. I certainly can’t pretend to know why you’re going through what you’re going through. I can’t tell you how long it will last or why God has allowed it to even happen. I can’t even tell you that believing God is with you is going to magically and immediately change your situation. You will probably have to go through it for a while and it will be painful. God never promised that we wouldn’t have to go through the valley. He only promised He would never leave us nor forsake us and that we will get to the other side.
My prayer for you is that as you read these words, you are reminded that God loves you and He does care. I pray that you can find a moment to be still and feel His peace which transcends all understanding and hear His voice which speak words that are a balm to your soul. May His strength help you to fight another day.
“I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me.” Psalm 120:1 NIV