There’s one memory I think about a lot from last year. It’s almost the end of 2016, and I’m sitting in a Superstore parking lot, listening to a CD my mom made me when I went to university, because it was making me feel less alone. One song comes on, a song that sings clearly and truly about faith, and I picked up a notepad and wrote this:
“For when having faith feels ultra hard. For when your prayers haven’t been answered for 23 years. For when you have tried forgiveness and you have tried hardness and you end up here, still hurting.
I have combed and clung to Bible passages, Bible characters, and Bible stories of great redemption or promises carried throughout time.
I play this thought on repeat: ‘The things I am bitter and angry about are not outside of God’s grace.’
It’s not even that my faith in God quivers - it’s just that when I think, ‘For we know in Christ all things are possible,’ my next thought is, ‘Except that things with my dad will change.’”
It is one year later. My faith has quivered. I cannot quit this thought. I am still wrestling with it.
Earlier this year, I wrote about wrestling for a devotional. I talked about surrender in the fight; giving up the fight to be blessed. I wrote about wrestling God and the night an angel of the Lord wrestled with Jacob and left him forever with a limp and a new name. Israel: because you have fought with God and with men and have overcome.
"Because we can wrestle - we can meet God in the desert & fight all night long, but at some point, we have to overcome. At some point, we have to stop the fighting, listen to the whispers, receive the blessing, & receive a new name and a renewed calling."
It is one year later. I do not want to stop fighting. I do not want to listen to whispers, receive a blessing or a new name or a new calling. I have not overcome. I am not sure I am even one step closer.
I have cried in Canadian Tire aisles about this. I dragged my butt to therapy to talk about this, only to have the therapist want to analyze my dad more than me. I have gone cold when asked about my dad; I have shared about my dad when the moment requires it.
My lower back stays sore when we come up on anniversaries or times where I’m carrying more tension. As though my body is going to make me feel pain that my heart is struggling to feel; as though my back will be the vessel for my emotional pain.
I have searched half heartedly for answers because, at this point, I just don’t think it can be done.
I started asking people if they’ve ever had a crisis of faith, instead of saying, “I think I’m having a crisis of faith.” I’ll ask others, but not pipe up about my own, except to the gridded pages of my journal.
A favourite author of mine goes onto a favourite podcast of mine, and the author is strong and seems to say the right things all the time, but this time she says this.
“I feel like the sucker who keeps signing up for God to do something for her, and He keeps not doing it.”
“I’m terrified He is going to let me down.”
I feel air whoosh out of me. I feel water welling up in my eyes. It is the right thing, the truest thing.
And suddenly, I realized maybe I’m not the only one struggling with this. Not the only one struggling with this tension of faith and hope when your prayers are so glaringly left unanswered.
If we’re being honest, I’ve spent most of the last 24 years putting more faith in answers given to me, rather than in God.
One weird lesson I’ve learned in all of this - if you’re going somewhere to avoid God, He’ll probably meet you there in a pretty glaring way. Somehow, I tricked myself into thinking Instagram could heal me, and God kept popping up in stories and captions and corners and people I don’t know to remind me this is not the case.
Which is how I found a song - “Seasons” by Hillsong United - and I cannot yet explain why this song is played at least once a day for me. I
cannot explain why I feel an inexplicable need to sing alto on lines like, “Oh how nature acquaints us with the nature of patience.”
I cannot yet explain why I have rewound the bridge, over and over, screaming,
“I can see the promise, I can see the future
You’re the God of seasons, and I’m just in the winter.
If all I know of harvest is that it’s worth my patience,
then if you’re not done working, God, I’m not done waiting.”
A page in my journal repeats that over and over, as though maybe I can write my way into living out that truth.
This song is one of the baby steps I’ve taken into this new season of wrestling. One of the baby steps I’m taking into patience and hope again.
Here’s what I’ve learned in this crisis: maybe, faith is less about having the answers for every pain we have. Maybe faith is more about learning to ask better, deeper, questions.
If we’re being honest, I’ve spent most of the last 24 years putting more faith in answers given to me in painful moments, rather than in God. God is not an answer to the pain; when Jesus cries out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, God is silent.
And yet. He hangs on the crosses with us; He is intimate in our suffering; He weeps at tombs. Perhaps this is better - He is not an answer to the pain, but an intimate companion for the questioning journey of pain.
For a long time, I wrote down characters in the Bible who had promises fulfilled far later than they would have liked. Abraham. Moses. Hannah. I reminded myself that God was faithful, even after all their waiting. I thought this was the answer - if God answered their prayers, surely my questions would go away and my answered prayer would come.
But now, I’m reminding myself of all the times Jesus showed patience and kindness to those who wouldn’t quit asking questions. Those who needed more answers. Those who weren’t there yet. Nicodemus. Thomas. The men on the road to Emmaus. It seems like a lot of Jesus’ ministry was answering questions. Why do I think that ended with His ascension to Heaven?
Maybe in our crisis, we don’t need answers - maybe, in our crisis, we need questions.
In therapy offices and in the arms of those I love, I got answers, next steps, and advice - but in this season, I just wanted someone to say, “It’s okay if you don’t know. You’re asking a hard question.” So I’m not going to give you an answer, a next step, or advice.
Instead, here are my apologies, and here is my hope:
I am sorry for all the times I tried to explain away your pain, instead of sitting with you in it.
I’m sorry for all the times I gave you answers instead of my shoulder.
I’m sorry for all the times I turned away instead of turning in.
I’m sorry for all the time I made plans and gave advice, when you wanted questions + a chance to stay silent, or a chance to speak.
Because in this crisis, I just wanted someone to say, “It’s okay if you don’t know.” Instead,
And I’m sorry I still don’t have answers, but I hope we can muddle through the hard, messy, faith-stirring-the-pot questions together. I hope you’ll join me in asking God the questions weighing heavy on your heart, the questions stalling your faith.