“I’m taking you to the emergency room!” my roommate shouted as I lie shaking on the floor. After a tense 15 minute car ride to the hospital and hours of needles, x-rays, and heart monitors, my ER doctor told me I was having a panic attack. That scary night was only the beginning of a year in and out of the doctor’s office, with fear and anxiety plaguing me on a daily basis. I had entered the darkest season of my life, and it felt like God had abandoned me.
Maybe you struggle with crippling anxiety like I do. Maybe you’ve had any number of other difficult circumstances plunge you into a time when it feels like God is nowhere to be found. Or maybe in the slow disillusionment of life, you’ve watched as your once burning faith in a living God has gradually dimmed to not much more than flicker.
When our struggles are all around us and we’re left wondering if we are alone, God doesn’t want us to just read an inspiring bible verse and move on! After all, even when Jesus was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, he didn’t happily tell Lazarus’s sisters, “Cheer up! I’m about to resurrect your brother! This isn’t a bad thing!” Instead, even though there was restoration coming, the scriptures tell us that Jesus wept for Lazarus. God doesn’t want you to just shrug off your difficulty and pretend that you’re okay; he grieves with you when you’re faced with all the painful effects of injustice, suffering, and evil.
When we’re in the middle of pain that won’t relent, and it seems that God is gone, I’m beginning to learn that sometimes all we can do is press on to know The Lord. Growing up I always expected life to somehow work out for me. Many of us are even told Christianity will make it easier! But this world is full of disappointment and hurt. God never promised to make it all better this side of heaven. In fact, Jesus describes the Christian life as one marked by suffering. And although He doesn’t offer us freedom from all pain and suffering here and now, he does give us freedom in pain and suffering. He gives us himself.
If Jesus really is who is he said he is, that means that he also understands what it is like to be subjected to the bitterness of humanity. But more than just feeling abandoned by the Father in his suffering, he went through the complete darkness of true abandonment from the Father. Think about when Christ cried out on the cross, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” Why did the Father forsake the perfect Christ? The answer is that He forsoke Jesus in your place. On the cross, Jesus was forsaken by God for our sins, so we could know that even when we feel a thousand miles from God, He will never leave us.
God has so much more to say to those struggling with suffering and feeling distant from Him. He wants to teach you, comfort you, strengthen you, and give you hope. But it doesn’t happen instantly, and often times he won’t lighten our circumstances to accomplish it. So press on to know the Lord! Fight, struggle, cry, pray, search God’s word, talk to friends and family, but don’t give up. And when you feel like you can’t hold on to God anymore, know that if you’ve put your faith in Christ, God will never let go of you.
"Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth."
- Hosea 6:3