I will NEVER, as long as I draw breath, forget the feeling that hit me like a two-ton elephant sitting on my chest and sucking every bit of air from my lungs the day the sonographer looked at my eyes and solemnly confirmed my already anxious suspicions; “There is no heartbeat, sweet heart.” Hopes, dreams and expectations were incinerated in one second and I felt a breaking in my soul. The storm was upon me, and all the spiritual muscle and faith I thought I had was put to an ultimate test that I began to lose rather quickly.
After five years of infertility, I had given up the hope of having another baby, and I threw myself into homeschooling and raising and loving well the three awesome kiddos I was already blessed with. I never could quite shake the feeling that our family was incomplete, but I tried to give it to the Lord and set about my days with purpose and joy. After a successful year of adhering to a healthy eating plan and losing a little bit of weight, however, I was pleasantly surprised and overjoyed to discover I was expecting! Joy quickly gave way to insecurity, and I was plagued with unexplainable fear, worry, and anxiety my entire first trimester. I had never fought this before, and there was no reason or explanation for why I would be feeling these anxieties this pregnancy. I tried so hard to pray and cast all my cares upon the Lord, but the fear kept coming back with a vengeance. And then, at 14 weeks, those anxieties turned into a reality there was no escape from.
I was sent home that awful Monday afternoon this past September with some decisions to make. I was numb as we went through the motions of telling our children and family. I was numb to everyone else's tears and hugs and "I’m sorry"s, enveloped in a blanket of sadness and depression that very quickly began to envelop and smother me. It was almost a particular color; a color that filled my eyesight so that everything I saw filtered through it. Instead of running to the Lord, my refuge, the One I’d professed I’d follow and worship no matter what so many years ago as a twelve-year-old girl, I pulled the blanket of my despair closer and tighter around myself.
My husband, Chris and I decided finally to have a D&C, which the doctors scheduled for Wednesday morning. On Tuesday I had to return for a final ultrasound, wanting to hold out hope that they had made a mistake somehow. After getting back home that afternoon, I began having slight cramping. In my exhaustion it didn't even occur to me that I could be going into labor, but within forty-five minutes of that initial tummy cramping, I found myself in the bathroom delivering my precious baby boy into my hands. What followed was many hours of a traumatic miscarriage at the emergency room that left me quite literally empty, emotionally and physically. Due to the amount of blood I had lost, I was required to stay in the hospital overnight. At about 3 in the morning when my husband and I had finally been given a tiny, sterile, white little room to sleep in, I found myself wide awake, staring at the ceiling in the darkness. My husband was beside me, trying to doze in a very uncomfortable plastic recliner. I remember lying there, re-playing the events of the past hours. I tried to remember every detail of holding my tiny little baby in my hand. He had appeared perfect in every way, and of course he had fit in the palm of my hand. As fresh tears began go fall, I grabbed my now hollow-feeling tummy and wept.
"Where were you, God?"
This question screamed at me in deafening tones.
I am now fully convinced that God, in His grace, allowed me to deliver my sweet boy the way I did, rather than having the procedure we'd planned. For as I lay there in the dark, quiet, aloneness at the absolute end of myself, I was able to see through the fog and haze and realize a truth that ultimately set me free. I woke my husband up, grabbing onto his hands as though for dear life, and through tears I admitted to him that I didn't want to be mad at God. I wanted to trust Him! It was a simple statement, but one that held such release for me that just saying the words made everything change inside my heart the moment I spoke them. I had no flowery, perfect prayer in me. I wasn't able to even process all the correct verses or hymns or prayers that could or should be said when one is surrendering everything to the Lord. All I could sob out was this one, simple statement of truth: I want to trust You, God.
The anger and despair that had filled me was instantly lifted, and God showed up in that little hospital room and became strength for me. All my anger and despair turned into genuine, healing mourning. I began to feel His presence, and I began to feel held. I began to SEE Him. And a new level of intimacy and trust was reached.
Have you had any of those ‘Where were you, God’ moments?
Are you having them now?
Do the questions fall and soak tear-stained pillowcases night after night? Do the words fall angrily off the tip of your tongue like they did off Mary and Martha’s, “Lord, if you’d been here…”
"Where were you, God?"
His grace, if we allow it to, floods in and becomes every answer to every question we’ve every asked! He has, and never will, leave our side. His answer to our desperate "Where were you?" is that He has filled us and surrounded us and enveloped us every second of every day since before the foundation of the world was laid out. We must choose to see.
In Matthew 14, Jesus sent His disciples out into the boat and across the sea ahead of Him. He gave them their orders. He told them exactly where to go. They were acting in obedience and walking in His will for their lives. Yet, the winds still came against them. The storm began to surge all around them. On their way to a new shore, a new season, new opportunities and ministry and fresh ground to harvest, their vision became shattered and a storm became bigger than their mission and purpose. The bible says as Jesus comes to them walking on the water, the disciples were terrified and thought He was a ghost! They could not recognize their Savior, their Lord, the Master they'd walked with day after day!
And this blinding is what storms are so competent at doing. The wind and sea-spray clouds our eyesight and blurs our vision, causing us to choke and sputter so our cries and praises become silenced. We lose sight of the fact that the One in command of those very winds and waves is the One who walks on water to rescue us, time and time again. The One who always comforts us and shows us greater wonders and miracles and signs than we'd ever see if life were always steady and calm and peaceful. The disciples couldn’t recognize the miracle they were witnessing – Jesus walking on water towards them.
We must remember that in this life, we WILL have trouble. We WILL face storms. But the one who walks on water says He is greater than this world and that He NEVER leaves us or forsakes us. When we long to never have a storm, we forget we're asking to miss the opportunity to see Him walking on water--or to walk on water with Him.
A dear friend recently told me something that sent my mind reeling: she reminded me that when we worship in the midst of sorrow, tragedy, trial and difficulty, that is true worship and a type we will not be able to give to the Lord when we leave this life and go to eternity in heaven. How profound! I have the opportunity, but only while living here in this fallen world, to lift my hands to Heaven and cry out to the Lover of my soul when all hell is coming against me. I have the privilege to lift my dirty, tattered, weary, tear-stained soul to the Creator of the Universe who placed every single star in the heavens and offer up praise to Him when my heart is broken and my world is falling apart. To open my eyes and see Him walking on stormy seas towards me, breathing God-life into the broken, dead, shattered spaces that are being wrecked and ravaged by the wind and waves of my storms!
Where was He?
Where was He when you lost that job? That opportunity? That dream? Your reputation?
Where was He when your heart broke from losing that dear loved one?
Where was He when the doctor delivered that life-changing news?
Where was He when the adoption fell through and the infertility doctor said there was nothing else they could do for you?
Where was He when your marriage fell apart? When that wayward child began traveling paths not intended for them and breaking your heart? When home became reduced to a broken mess of brick and timber?
The answer: He was and is, ALWAYS and forever, right there with you. He sees you! We have to choose to see Him.
The moment I stopped asking God where He was, and instead asked Him to let me see Him where I knew He was--right next to me, right in the midst of losing my baby boy--a peace that passed all understanding invaded my heart and mind. Suddenly, I began to see Him everywhere. There was still grief and longing and many tears, but pervading all of that there also a sense of lightness that I cannot explain! I wasn’t enveloped in the suffocating darkness anymore; I was aware of being carried gently in His everlasting arms.
I chose trust. I chose worship. I chose to see Jesus walking on the water in my storm. And He did.
I am praying you, too, will see some water-walking miracles this Christmas season, and that all your own "Where were you, God?" questions are answered with the fullness and assurance of His faithful and life giving presence.