This is a struggle for me to write. I have struggled to believe. I have struggled to believe that Jesus has me. I have struggled to believe that He is enough. I claim that He is. Sometimes I just write #Jesusisenough to help me believe that He is, even if at that moment I am struggling with even having just a little bit of belief.
I was raised in the church. Jesus saved me when I was six. I knew my Bible from Sunday School. I listened to sermons at church. I started a Bible Club in my high school. I was active in youth group. I went on mission trips. I graduated from a Christian college and I married a Christian guy who had a crazy testimony. It was totally opposite of mine.
We moved to Seattle to go to a specific church. We didn’t have jobs. We got a place to live online (in 2000 no one did that), and we ended up moving 4 blocks away from where the church was meeting. We knew that God would provide. We were stepping out in faith, and He took care of us.
But when life hit the fan…
We had lived in Seattle for four and a half years by the time Mike’s mom was diagnosed with cancer and passed away suddenly and a month later we had Tullie nine weeks early and diagnosed with Down Syndrome. It wasn’t even 10 months later, I was on bedrest at the hospital for three weeks and delivered our son Eli (we both nearly lost our lives during the delivery), and Jesus took him Home the following day.
Those months following Eli’s death, I was living on the edge and in constant fear. I was in protection mode. I was just waiting for the the next thing. I didn’t know what it would be, but I was ready for whatever it was.
I stopped talking to a lot of people. Every time someone used some sort of Christian tag line with me, I’d get mad on the inside. I knew how to hold it together in church. I didn’t talk much because I didn’t trust anyone to really be there. I questioned God’s goodness. I questioned who He was. I thought that He was cruel. I thought that He was unkind. I thought that His people just wanted happiness and no one around me understood the pain that I was experiencing. It had been a lot in a very short amount of time and I was done.
About two years after Eli’s death, I hit a wall. Everything I learned in Sunday School didn’t seem to help with life. Everything I learned in my Bible and Theology classes in college could not have reasoned away the pain that was in my heart. Those games from youth group were no help.
I woke up one day and went to the Bible study that I had decided to attend. Kind of begrudgingly. I was starting to enjoy my own self-pity. It was the day before Eli’s birthday, but I had decided already that I was going to be tough and save face, nothing was going to cause me to cry. I had formed a tough outer exterior. When I showed up a friend greeted me with a gift. During the time that we all came together a friend sang, “It is Well” (a song played at Eli’s service). While my friend was sharing her heart she read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (The verse written on the cover of the program for his service.) Before she was even done with that verse I had completely lost it and ugly cry happened right there in front of 20 ladies that I barely knew. My heart still hurt so bad. I was still so broken. I was angry. I was bitter and I was a complete wreck.
After that study, I decided to start to relearn everything I had learned before. I was at a crossroads. I had to decide what it was I believed. Did I believe that God created the world? Yes. Did I believe that Jesus was born of a Virgin? That God sent His Son? Yes. Did I believe that He was crucified, died and rose again? Yes. Now what?
I read a book called, Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth E. Prentiss, it was life changing. The story of suffering and hope. A woman trying to understand her Lord even in the midst of tragedy. I started reading people that I knew had suffered. I started talking to people who had lost babies. I started reading about how our Lord had suffered.
About four years after Eli passed away, two ladies in our church delivered babies born still. They started coming over every Monday. They came over for a year. Each Monday, they were at my kitchen table and we talked. We laughed. We cooked. I watched their kids so that they could talk or we just talked about our weeks. During that year, Jesus changed me. I didn’t think that anyone understood my pain before this year. During the time between Eli’s second birthday and when these ladies were coming into my kitchen, I learned the Gospel all over again. I learned that Jesus came and died for me. I learned that He loved me. I learned that He hadn’t forsaken me, but that He had held me when I wasn’t even paying attention. In the midst of my unbelief, He had me in His grip.
Life. Is. Hard. There is no way around it. I cannot explain why pastors do what they do. I cannot explain why babies are taken away from their mamma’s and daddy’s. I cannot explain why racism is even an issue. I cannot explain what tragic tornadoes run over people’s houses. I cannot explain why children have disabilities. I cannot explain why spouses cheat. I cannot explain why addicts become addicts. I cannot explain life around us, but I have learned though that our Lord is a God who loves us and who came for us. He cherishes us and he wants us in the midst of life’s tragedies and brokenness and heartache. He wants us.
When we have been hurt by people and when we have been hurt by life, where are we going to turn? Do we turn to ourselves? Can we make things better? Do we turn to our spouse? Or to our pastors? Or to friends who we think have it all together? It is so easy for us to turn to people. So easy for us to try to find strength within ourselves, and take credit for our own healing, but those kinds of fixes are transient. They are temporary. And they will eventually fail us.
When we learn the Gospel and we learn the Gospel in it’s fullness, we are able to be full of joy and peace that is unmistakable. When we understand our weakness and we understand how He was made weak, so that we could see His strength, and we can see a glimpse of His power.
Since Boston has gone Home, I have spent hours crying. Weeping. Asking Jesus why. I have spent time in Psalms reading about David yearning for God to save him from His enemies. I can understand David. I understand his yearning. I understand his struggle. I also understand how he was a man after God’s heart. He wasn’t shy to question the circumstances in his life. He wasn’t shy to ask God why. He understood God’s hesed love for him through his pain.
A few months ago, Mike and I were talking and I told him, “I believe in Jesus. I trust Him, but I don’t want to believe because this is so hard. But I can’t not believe.” Jesus has a grip on us. Even if I am just being dragged and He’s holding me by the thread of my sweater. He has a tight grip on that thread. He has a grip on you too. If He has saved you, He has a tight grip on you, even in your unbelief. Even in your doubt. He has a grip on you in the midst of your questions during your pain. He has a grip on you in the midst of the hurt that you’ve received by someone you trusted. He has a grip on you in the midst of grief and suffering and chronic pain. He has a grip on us. All of us that are is, He has a solid grip. That thread doesn’t loosen between his fingers. Our fingernails don’t break in His grip.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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. Romans 8:37-39
I can’t stop believing, because He has saved me from my muck and He has held me through the darkest and most taunting hours of my life. He has remained steadfast and He has remained gracious even in the midst of my doubts and my unbelief.
This Advent season is about Hope. This Advent season is about how Jesus came to save the world from darkness. The waiting was over when Jesus came and conquered death. We now have Hope eternal. Life everlasting. Jesus is enough to make it until we are Home. He promised that He would be.