Friday, April 3, 2015

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go

In May of 2013, I remember laying on the operating table before my hysterectomy, thinking about my cancer, my physical pain, my miscarriage, and my mom's brain disease. To say I was overwhelmed by it all would be an understatement. I remember thinking about David in the Psalms crying out to God when he was overwhelmed. As my thoughts alternated between fear and prayer, tears started running down my cheeks, and then I was out.

When I woke up from the surgery, my anxiety and depression quickly returned. I was on lots of pain medicine because of the surgery, and I mostly slept for the next couple days. I just wanted to isolate in my room and sleep in order to escape from or at least quiet all of the thoughts and feelings that were swirling inside me. I didn't give into those things completely though; I kept trying to get "out of" myself and to focus my heart on God. I was continually praying, singing and listening to music, and reading the Psalms. But rather than feeling strengthened to face life here on earth, all I could think of was going to heaven. I wanted my new, glorified body, to see my dad and my miscarried child, and to rest at Jesus' feet. Though I longed for it, I simply could not feel His presence in my pain. I was in the midst of the “night," and it was very, very dark.

It's astonishing that looking back, I can now see that God was with me. In fact, He had me in the palm of his hand and never let me go. He did allow me to wrestle with some deep emotional and spiritual pain, but over time He used that renew my hope in Him. He didn't renew my heart when or how I wanted Him to, but he did indeed take hold of my heart once again and drew me to Himself.

In the midst of suffering, it is so hard to hear someone say, "It is okay - God will take care of you." While this is a true statement, it is rarely a comforting statement to one who is suffering because it seems like an attempt to discount or silence the deep emotional turmoil they are experiencing. While they aren't always reliable, God gave us real emotions that should not be discounted or silenced. Rather, those thoughts and emotions should be verbalized to God Himself in prayer.

We sometimes think of prayer as a peaceful, quiet, happy thing. But in the Bible, especially in Psalms and in Jesus' life, prayer is regularly marked by the raw emotions of lives disrupted by sin and brokenness. There is nothing wrong with crying out to God and asking him our "why" questions, telling him our complaints and frustrations, and "groaning" to Him in pain and sorrow.  Just think about Jesus' words on the cross on Good Friday: "He cried out to God saying, 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me (Matt. 27:46).'" And in Psalm 102, David is in such distress and sorrow for the majority of the psalm. He is honest with God in his emotion. But by the end of the psalm, he has reminded himself of who God is (or, more likely, the Holy Spirit has interrupted his complaints with a fresh reminder of truth). I love seeing this pattern in the psalms. The honesty and raw emotion and honesty of cries to God, followed by simple reminders of who God is and what He has promised. 

Even in the midst of my struggles with anxiety and depression three years ago, God had a hold on me. As Romans 8:38-39 famously says, "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." I didn't always feel that reality, but I knew deep down that it was true. In fact, it was during that season of my life that I wrote a new tune to the hymn, "O Love That Will Not Let Me Go." Like the text, this tune seems to blend the somberness of my heart and joy of my faith in a unique way. I hope it offers some perspective and encouragement for you and your heart today.