Walking by Faith in a Valley of Shadows

We had been at the hospital for several weeks. Adrian’s IV-line had made a small tear in his heart valve and the atrium filled up with fungus, causing his heart to struggle. His frail body was hot with fever and he stopped talking for a month. My precious two-year-old was in so much pain he had enough with surviving.

He would cry for hours as I held him in my arms, unable to soothe him, but determined to remain there with him, wrapping him in my love and compassion. He let me. That was the best I could do for my son right there and then – showing him that his pain would not scare me away, his horrendous cries would not make me back off, and his lack of ability to express his love for me would not make me love him any less.

Sometimes he would kick frantically as he screamed out his pain. The soles of his tiny shoes would hammer against my thighs as I continued to hold him tight, keeping him safe, and containing him. I was left with a belt of bruises over my thighs that would hurt whenever he sat down on my lap. I didn’t mind. I felt strangely grateful that he would allow me to share his pain. I would much rather that he found an outlet for the excruciating pain that threatened to kill him, than seeing him lying there speechless, motionless, lifeless. He needed to know that I could take him. I would never reject him nor abandon him.

Years later I was the one yelling. Screaming. Verbally kicking an imaginary belt of bruises on my heavenly Father. “Where are you? Don’t you care? How can you let him suffer so much? Did you forget about us? Put us on hold while you’re busy doing something else? Are you not almighty? Why would you allow him to be in so much pain? He’s your child! We gave him to you! He’s your responsibility!”

I was howling, crying my heart out as I slung my pain toward the Father. Intuitively, I knew he wanted me to. Just as I had wanted my son to express his deep-felt, all-consuming pain, I knew that my Father wanted me to come to him with everything. My anger and accusations would not scare him away. He would just move in closer. Contain me. Wrap me in his love.

I stood in my home office facing the windows and roared my pain over the Norwegian fjords. I yelled until I was out of words. I sat quietly in my chair, feet up on my desk, with tears still streaming down my face. That’s when I heard him speaking to me. It’s the only time I’ve heard the audible voice of God. There he was, making time and space for me. The conversation flowed as naturally as the ones I would have with husband. He answered every single one of my questions, all while reminding me of his promises to me. From time to time I repeated: “But I won’t forget this. I’m holding you responsible for the life of my son. I’m holding you responsible.”

I knew he would not have it any other way.

Some will have you believe that you can only come to God with your dignified emotions, such as love, gratitude, happiness and joy. It’s the mother of all lies, because it drives you to hold back from God at a time when more than ever you need to draw close and lean in.

A friend of mine survived a horrible accident where others were killed. He was devastated, asking God over and over again why this had happened? His pastor came and visited him in the hospital, saying that “I know that you have many questions concerning your faith. I am relieving you of your duties in church. As soon as you get these questions figured out, you are welcome back to the church.”

Maybe the pastor tried to shield him and give him time to heal and reflect, but that was not the message that my friend was left with. All he heard was that there was no room for his doubt and his many, uncomfortable questions.

Unattended grief turns into bitterness.
Disregarded disappointment sours into resentment.
Neglected anger petrifies into hate.

My friend never returned to the church. Not that one, nor any other. He had learned that his fragile faith could not withstand scrutiny or discomfort.

We, on the other hand, found our strength in the presence of the Father. Just as Adrian knew that all his emotions were valid and that he could come to us with everything, we knew that God would receive us with arms wide open. He understood that all our kicking, screaming, and accusations were expressions of pain, and he welcomed us into the arms of the Healer.

We found our rest there through the many years of Adrian’s serious, progressive disease. Our hope and strength awaited us at the feet of the Father.

That’s also where we found our joy and thankfulness when God healed him. Our 12-year-old son was miraculously given a life and a future.

The God who came close to heal our son was no different from the God who had comforted us through our grief and anger. He was the same loving Father, and we were his beloved children, no matter the circumstances.

Life will sometimes bring you pain. You lose someone close to you. You, or someone you love, suffer sickness or trauma. Life turned out differently than you expected it to. What are you going to do about it? Sit still and wait for the storm to pass? Turn and run as fast as you can back to where you came from? Or let God lead you through the storm?

Take it all to the Father – good, bad and ugly. Whenever fear, hurt or shame tells you drop off the grid and go into hiding, choose to lean in.

 

He’s such a good God. He will never leave you nor forsake you. You will go through a storm or two, and trust me, there is no-one you would rather have by your side than your loving Father. Sometimes he will quiet the waves. Other times he will place you in the very eye of the storm where you are safe and at peace, no matter how the storm roars around you.

But take heart! He has overcome the world.

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