Many years ago my husband and I went to a dinner party. I was almost nine months pregnant with the baby who would be our second child, after one healthy baby and then two miscarriages. I was so grateful that this child seemed safe. Our host and hostess had a new baby also: a little girl almost three months old. She had a little cold and was fussy, so while our hostess was finishing up the last details of getting dinner on the table, some of the guests were attending to the baby; passing her around, cuddling her and trying to get her peaceful and sleepy. I held her briefly and enjoyed the warmth of her little body, thinking that soon I would have another like this to care for and love. She finally fell asleep and was put into her crib. We had a lovely evening and went home.
The next morning I was folding laundry when the phone rang and it was my husband to tell me that the baby I had held last night had died in the night; they thought of SIDS, or maybe as a result of a complication of her cold. I was devastated for her parents, and remembered the feel of her in my arms. This was not the only recent incident involving small children and tragedy. A relative had had several tragic miscarriages in a row, and then lost a child she had carried to almost eight months of pregnancy. There was the fact of my own miscarriages. I had been heartbroken and wondered in anguish, “Why?”. When our first child had been born, she had been born absolutely healthy, but friends of ours had a little boy at about the same time who had been born with a congenital malformation of the liver, and he lived in constant pain. He only had another year or so of life expectancy, and I knew how his parents suffered for his sake. It was hard just to trust God blindly in those circumstances.
I agonized about the apparent randomness of things. I had an irrational sense of guilt that my child was fine, and that other loving parents were suffering such pain. At the same time I was angry with God. I demanded of Him that he leave my children alone; I didn’t care what He did to me ~ but I wanted Him to leave my children protected and healthy.
He responded with silence, and it took me a while to realize that I had just erected a barrier in my relationship with Him. For the next few years, and through the births of three more healthy children, I went through all the motions of an active Christian life ~ but He seemed remote, although I did not feel abandoned. I didn’t lose the faith I had, but I remained essentially static. It was as if I was living my life by habit rather than my faith being based in an active, growing relationship. I knew, always, that I was holding something back from God, and that He and I needed to come to terms. It took me several years of thinking and praying and soul searching, but eventually I came to the place where I could accept the fact that I didn’t own my children; they were gifts from God, and when they were born we had given them back to God as His. I had been reneging on my promise, and telling Him that He could no longer have authority over their lives.
I had to come to the place where I could let them go; where I could trust Him enough to accept willingly that no matter what happened to them, He was still in charge, and that because I knew He loved them and me, I could trust Him. I asked His forgiveness, and told Him that I trusted Him, and that I could deliver my children back into His goodness and care (as if they had ever not been there!).
It was as if a dam broke. He no longer seemed remote. My mind and spirit began to hear spiritual things again. I had finally been able to take a leap of faith in spite of His silence, and found that He was there on the other side of the chasm to catch me. It had been necessary for me to take that step before I was able to go further. I had to be willing to accept God on His terms in trust, even if that choice involved pain..
Why is it so hard for us to trust God? It is very easy to be glib and say we know we can trust Him, and that He is always there. We all know this intellectually, but in the dark night of the soul, those hard places when He sometimes seems remote and distant, it is not so easy to continue to put our trust in a sometimes silent God.
In the years since then, I have seen that this is often His way of dealing with me. He will bring an issue into my mind. Everywhere I look, the same specific subject will keep coming up; one that involves something I am choosing to control all on my own. I prepare myself, because I know that soon I am going to have to make some kind of choice. He will let me know that there is another part of me, maybe just a tiny corner or maybe a great big piece, that He wants me to relinquish to Him in faith. He and I will shadow dance and spar, and I will try as long as possible to hold on to my own will. He will let me make excuses and rationalize and give Him all the reasons why I can’t, I just can’t let go of this thing. It might be anger I am holding against someone. It might be another little facet of pride, or self-will, or fear of the future. He will metaphorically look me deeply in the eyes and stay silent. Finally I realize that I am doing it once again, and have to let it go to Him in trust, ashamed that I have been so stubborn and so foolish as not to realize that there is no point in holding on. Whenever I submit to Him I find I am stronger, or wiser or more patient, or just simply blessed.
Why does He hide Himself from us at times? Why do things often seem to happen so randomly? It would be easy to say that I, from my great age, understood it all and that I had all the answers. That wouldn’t be true. I don’t understand half of all the rationalization that the Church has put out there over the centuries to explain Him. I am not a theologian; I am a simple believer just trying to get through life the best way I can, and wanting God to be fundamental in the process. The truth is, I know that I will never understand all of God’s ways. I am not sure that I am supposed to understand Him completely. He is well beyond my finite mind, and it would be more than a little arrogant of me to suppose that I could figure Him all out and put Him into a nice tight little box, all labeled and categorized.
What I do know is that He has given us the Lord Jesus Christ, and He has given us the scriptures. Do we wonder if He loves us? We only have to look at Christ, and we see His love demonstrated in the most definitive way. Maybe that should be enough. Jesus once said that whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it. I understand this to mean that we are to trust that God is as He tells us He is, without arrogant debate. It means accepting His authority with humility. It means wanting to be obedient because we have the kind of faith in Him a child has in a good, loving father; full of trust, and believing with our whole being that we are loved. We want to please Him not out of fear, but just because we love Him and treasure His love for us.
I know I will continue to have questions as long as I am still looking through finite eyes ~ but if I can continue to trust in the absolutely unchanging love of God, and in my past experience with Him, I am sure I will find that His grace has always been abundantly heaped up and over-flowing. All I can do is continue to keep on trusting and obeying whatever I DO understand, and leave the rest to Him.