2009 was the year grief began to hit our family. That is the year the miscarriages began (back to back to back) that brought everything I thought I knew crashing down. Before 2009, I had answers for everything. I had eloquent prayers for every situation anyone could ever face. In fact, I often received praise for my ability to pray so eloquently. I was eager to offer counsel and prayers for others in their grief. Mostly because of compassion….but also because I thought I knew.
Grief is an efficient way to learn that you really don’t know jack. Because of grief, my prayer life dramatically changed. I stopped offering eloquent prayers that I thought God wanted (needed?) to hear. I started offering raw prayers. Raw became all I knew. It was all I had. The truth just came pouring out of me. I didn’t understand why I had to go through this pain over and over again. The “God” I believed in used trials like a car wash. “She’s not clean yet…send her through again!” Was I not content enough with my life? Was I not faithful enough to the church? Whatever “it” was, was God going to “beat it out of me”? With that “God” in view, these were the only conclusions left to draw. So, I just started boldly asking Him those questions.
By God’s sweet grace and perfect timing, I had studied the book of John right before the trials began…and I saw Jesus altogether different than I ever had before. He wasn’t angry with sinners. In fact, he was compassionate and gentle. (Especially with women who were grieving!!!) More importantly, Jesus repeatedly stated that he was a reflection of his heavenly Father, which could only mean one thing: the way the son interacted with people around him is the way the Father interacts with us. That truth alone began to reshape my prayers in the midst of my grief: God the Father wasn’t angry with me.
Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. John 5:19
“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” John 14:7
“Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. John 14:10
I decided to get out of my house daily for a while to help battle the depression that was always looming. Somehow a change of scenery was always helpful. One day in particular, I took my daughter to a “splash pad.” I found a shady tree and sat under it. I had been reading “Hinds Feet on High Places” but I was so numb that I might as well have been reading an auto parts catalog. Nothing was getting through. As I sat there that particular day, these words hit me like a tidal wave:
“Fear not, Much Afraid, only believe. I promise that you shall not be put to shame. Go with Sorrow and Suffering, and if you cannot welcome them now, when you come to the difficult places where you cannot manage alone, put your hands in theirs confidently and they will take you exactly where I want you to go. Much afraid stood quite still, looking up into His face, which now had such a happy, exultant look, the look of one who above all things else delights in saving and delivering.”
I sat there, under that tree, in the middle of a park and “ugly cried” my eyes out. I finally understood that he wasn’t driving me repeatedly through a car wash until I was clean. He was gently leading me through the difficult places. It was okay that this was hard. It was okay that I was afraid of the unknown. His purpose for all of my pain wasn’t punitive at all, he was delivering me. From what, I had no idea at the time but at least I understood that he looked upon me with delight as a loving Father. His love for me gave me the freedom to believe. Terrified still, my prayers started sounding more like, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!!”
Seven years later I see what the Lord was doing. He was on a rescue mission. I was drowning in self-assurance and self-righteousness. He lovingly rescued me from it and laid me on the beautiful shores of his grace. He began teaching me about the gospel, to stop relying on what I’m doing and all of my “safety hedges” and to rely on what he has done for me. My prayers are still not eloquent in a worldly sense. I am pretty sure that when I pray I resemble closely a baby giraffe that’s just been born as I stumble through requests and praises, tripping over the right word. The truth is: I am like a baby giraffe when it comes to the gospel. I’m re-learning how to “walk.” Every bible passage that I read jumps out at me, and I realize I’ve heard it wrong or I’ve read it wrong for the past 17 years. I can no longer offer “brilliant, pretty words of wisdom” to others; the only thing I have to offer is: rest in what Jesus has done, pray honestly, and lean on Him.