I guess I should be honest. I’ve had some big questions for God recently. And it all started with my son.
Our second child ushered in as much uncertainty as he did chaos when he arrived. He was born healthy, nursed well, and was an extremely robust baby. However, he didn’t sleep well. At all. For months. We had nightly wakings until he was about eighteen months old (even at almost four years old, we are still seeing doctors for his sleeping problems).
The lack of sleep did a number on me. My oldest daughter slept through the night at six weeks. I’m talking eight to ten hour stretches. We assumed that this meant we were amazing parents, so we did all the same things with our baby boy as we had done with our daughter: bath time, quiet time, books, cuddles, nursing, swaddle, bed. He would go down just fine, but he would wake within two to three hours. All night. Every night.
During those long months, I tried nursing. I tried not nursing. We tried lighter clothes. Swaddled. Unswaddled. Nightlights. Total darkness. Sound machine. Essential oils. Massages. Bedtime snack. We even bet on superstition, putting him in the same pajamas he had worn the previous night if he happened to sleep really well in them. But nothing worked. He was up three to five times a night. And it wore on us.
Over time, my resentment built. I was doing all the right things. Why wasn’t my kid sleeping? As we approached winter, we were all so worn out that we caught every germ and virus that passed through. We got strep, the stomach bug, respiratory infections, sinus infections, strep again, and many of them overlapped … We just could not get well.
Tired and sick, I asked God many times why He couldn’t just let us get one night of good sleep? Every time I bowed my head before bed, tears rolling down my cheeks, I would genuinely ask God for just one night of sleep so I could think clearly, get well, and take care of my kids.
The nights I begged with all the genuineness I could muster always seemed to be the absolute worst nights, filled with puked-on sheets, fevers, nonstop coughing or simply a restless baby. My anger toward God flared.
But as we waded through that winter, I caught myself biting my lip in guilt every time I said, “Amen.” My kids were healthy overall. We had a roof over our heads. We had a stocked fridge and pantry, clean water, clothes to wear and an amazing doctor available by email and phone all hours of the day and night (whose office was across the street). Was I so willing to trade my belief in a good God over a little lack of sleep when people around the world suffered from far greater things?
I did not stop talking to God during my season of questioning. I barely did enough to maintain what faith I had. I continued to worship at church on Sundays. We joined a small group right down the road from our house. I cracked my Bible for the random devotional (almost always only to close it with cynicism and frustration, not able to connect the God of my small devotional book with the broken world I lived in). I bent my head in prayer but with more than just a little doubt that He even heard, often saying amen with a shrug of my shoulders and my eyes burning with tears.
What could He possibly be teaching me in this season? I wondered. Was it that I completely misunderstood prayer? Why couldn’t He give me a clue? And how many others were asking this very same question under even worse circumstances?
As I looked back over my life, however, I could not deny the work of God’s powerful hand. And I don’t mean that in terms of what I have physically in this world. I mean that in terms of what He has done for my soul. As an insecure and people-pleasing pre-teen, He gave me a purpose and a peace. He lifted me up out of the miry pit of not ever feeling good/pretty/smart enough. He set me on the rock that assures me of His love and faithfulness.
Yes, God was real. I was missing something.
So I hunkered down. I began studying the Bible. I was done with devotionals that served only to make me feel good (no offense, many of them are wonderful, just not for me in this season). I needed the Word….the one that penetrates the soul, dividing bone and marrow (Hebrews 4:12), the one that shows me what life is really about and points out where I’ve clung to my selfishness with white knuckles.
After a few weeks, I raised my head and I saw something beautiful. Everything was coming into focus. I was beginning to understand things through the eyes of God, and I could see purpose in it. And not only that, but I looked around and saw faces right next to mine who were asking (and learning) the very same things. Faces that never left my side and were putting their hands to the hard work and tasks of life right along with me.
It felt like suddenly being placed on firm ground.
- “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Psalm 40:2
Yes, this world is a completely broken, hopeless-feeling place sometimes.
- God said to Eve in the Garden of Eden: “What is this that you have done? ….[to the serpent]: I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head and you will strike his heel….[to Adam]…Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.” Genesis 3
The Bible tells us we will have trouble and tribulations. It actually tells us this multiple times.
Things will get hard, Jesus said. Really hard. But I have been there, and I won’t ever leave you. “Surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
We’ll experience pain, sickness, loss and utter heartbreak. But He knew it would be that way. And we may not understand until later. When things are finally better and complete.
- “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now, I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12
He has promises for us. Good ones. And He will come through.
He took my measly and imperfect loaf (probably moldy) and fish (more like accidental sushi) and made something of it. He took what little I offered…a half-baked faith with a little bit of “let’s see if this works” bible reading…and He built my faith.
No. He re-built my faith, and continues to rebuild it, one tiny stone at a time. And to have a hopeful faith, instead of a naïve one, in the face of our world today is completely precious and irreplaceable.
Did the Word of God heal my unbelief? Maybe not 100%, but I am getting there. My heart doesn’t feel quite as sick as it did. It’s a little softer now, a little more open to learning, and a little more real.
In a day and age when everything can feel so phony and fake, real is all any of us really need.
24-28 “‘For here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to take you out of these countries, gather you from all over, and bring you back to your own land. I’ll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. You’ll once again live in the land I gave your ancestors. You’ll be my people! I’ll be your God!