It was a sunny 78 degree day as I left work, top down on the convertible, with sunglasses on my face. I should have been overjoyed to feel the warm spring air rush past me as I drove home. Instead, grief and sorrow gripped in a way that it had not done in many months. The trigger on this particular day was the sight of numerous people- couples and families- who were walking, biking, fishing in the pond, and playing in their yards.
With sunset still hours away, it should have been a time for celebrating and soaking up the early April warmth. On the contrary, I found myself sobbing uncontrollably on the floor of the shower. The grief was palpable as I longed to walk the dog or take a bike ride with someone special. I once again found myself in the tunnel of despair, and I had no idea how to emerge from the darkness.
It’s challenging in these grief-stricken moments to imagine anything but darkness and isolation. My heart cries out in desperation much as David did in Psalm 13: “How long will You hide Your face from me? How long will I be left to my own wits, agony filling my heart? Daily?” (Verses 1a-2b, CEB) And just as I cry out to God, peace comes over me, and I remember God’s faithfulness in my life. The trust that has sustained me so many times before comes flooding back, and I remember God’s unfailing love.
The calm that comes over me is the reassurance that God is ALWAYS at work in my life, even when I am not able to see it. My heart hears God’s words saying, “Just wait, My daughter, for I am doing something new in you. It is going to take some time, and it will be on MY time. Be patient as you wait for ME to show you the door to open and go through. Try hard NOT to act in haste, for I want you to trust that I am actively at work in your life.”
This trusting of God takes perseverance for me. I so desperately want this new thing, and I want it now! The loneliness of the social distancing caused by the pandemic is unbearable at times. Acting in haste sometimes seems like a better option, and I consider settling for relationships that lack depth and meaning. Then I remember that God’s plan and vision for my life are different than my own. I am only capable of seeing a small piece of what is happening in my life, while God sees the whole picture: past, present, and future.
While God is operating behind the scenes in my life, I am being asked to endure this time of periodic darkness. Doing so means that for now there will be dark times interspersed amid bright, joy-filled days. It also means that one day I will receive abundant blessings, and a life that takes me beyond just surviving each day (as I am now), but actually thriving.
The doubts that creep into my life are reduced when I seek the promises that God offers. There is a picture in my home that I see daily. It reminds me of the Lord’s assurances: “I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster; to give you a future filled with hope. When you call on Me, I will listen to you. When you search for Me, you will find Me. I will be present for you, declares the Lord, and I will end your captivity.” (Jeremiah 29: 11-14a, CEB) This passage, written long ago, is about how one day God will take the Israelites out of their captivity in Babylon, and will allow them to return to Jerusalem. Yet God also tells them that they will be in Babylon for a while, and that they should settle in by planting gardens and having families. The amount of time in captivity has yet to be made known, and that’s the hard part for God’s people.
Aligning my life with God’s timing is difficult for me, too. My own captivity of darkness and isolation is different from the Israelites, and yet I too am being promised “a future filled with hope.” One day I will be able to spend time in social situations without fear of illness, and that will reduce the loneliness that I feel. At some point there will be a person with whom I can spend my life; a person to love and grow old with. Until that time, God continues to be with me, guiding, comforting, and blessing me. So I wait, sometimes surrounded by darkness, other times with glimpses of the Creator’s Light breaking through. I am not alone because I have friends, family, my puppy, and the Lord to keep me company in these challenging times.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:
For me, writing has always been a way to sort through the hard things in my life and see where God has been on my journey. There are times when inspiration comes in the form of poetry. This is one such time, so I offer to you this poem.
The trail that is my life
Winds through tall trees
And dry grasses,
Only revealing a few steps ahead of me,
as I meander through my days.
The terrain is often rugged;
Roots raise up and grasses thicken,
Tripping and tangling my feet,
Causing me to stumble,
And sometimes even fall.
On better days
I am able to get right back up;
But on the days of struggle,
I merely lay where I have fallen,
Staring up at the vast sky.
From the vantage point on the ground,
It all seems so hopeless;
No one is there to pick me up,
And tears roll off my head
Soaking the earth beneath me.
It is lonely on the uneven ground,
And moment by moment,
As time ticks away,
I reflect on what led me
To be prone on this spot.