2020. The year many of us are glad to see the back of. The year that no one alive will ever forget. The year that, if you had told us in 2019, we wouldn’t see anyone smile in public again or that we wouldn’t be allowed to gather together, we would’ve thought you were speaking about another universe.
2020 took away incomes, health, family and friends…the list is endless. For me, things were different. My husband’s job wasn’t affected even though he works in a school. They moved online and finished the year at the same time they would’ve any other year. Our income remained stable. We had friends living with us during hard lockdown so we still had some interaction. Our health was impeccable. We were truly blessed!
It was darn hard to live without family though. I think I, along with most of the world population, cried many tears as I longed to hug my mom and dad and watch my children play with them. It was August before we saw them for tea and even then we were masked.
But on the whole, 2020 was filled with many blessings amongst the hardships.
Yet, in another way, it was the worst year of my life.
I haven’t been completely open with all of you (not that I have an obligation to be.) And, I would say I’ve hidden it pretty well because many have commented on what a godly woman I am.
But the truth is, I’m not. I’ve never been further from God in my life. I can’t say exactly when things started to become strained. But I would venture a guess that it happened after children. I used to be incredulous that people could be angry with God. I honestly couldn’t understand it. And then I had a colicky baby. I was exhausted and spent. And it angered me that God could fix it all with a word but didn’t.
Time healed. I prayed that my second child wouldn’t have colic. And even when she did, I prayed that I would have the strength to deal with it. But, in my eyes, God allowed the wheels to fall off. I fell into the pit of terrible postnatal depression. I don’t remember anything about the early days with my baby. All I remember was wanting to rip the curtains from the rails, throw plates across the room and drive my car into a tree. I remember screaming at God in a rage. I pleaded. I sobbed. But, I felt nothing. God had never felt more distant. I stopped praying about it. Because, I reasoned, if I stopped praying, then I couldn’t be angry with Him because I wasn’t asking Him for help. I prayed superficially and became detached. I suppressed my feelings. Even a year and a half later, if I delved into what was really going on, I ended up in tears of despair. It was easier not to address it.
I couldn’t understand it – why did God not answer me when I called? Why, when I got up early to do my quiet time, when I made the effort to pray every day even though I was struggling, did He not honour that? (Because, I reasoned, some moms hide behind the excuse of motherhood being busy and I wasn’t!)
At the beginning of 2020, I remember feeling and praying that it would be the year I felt God’s love. As the year progressed, I found myself caught in a web of doubt, fear and mistrust. I had never felt further from the Lord. I was exposed to another religion that mixed the truth of the Bible with man’s teachings. I was incredulous that millions had been taken in by the teaching. And I suddenly feared I had been brainwashed all my life. It was probably the most unsettling feeling I’ve ever experienced. It was as if everything I had built my life upon and all I’d ever known had been rocked to the core.
It’s strange…I could acknowledge the hand of God in my life. I knew that we couldn’t financially survive on one salary without Him. We technically ran out of money 2 and a half years ago. But every month, we have food and enough to cover the bills. But it felt as if God loved the world, our family as a collective. And I was struggling to see that God loved me.
I am a social person. God knew that. That’s why we had friends in lockdown. And that’s why, one week after they moved off our property, the rules relaxed and we were able to see my parents. I impulsively asked Him for money once. I even told my husband (I am often afraid of saying things like that out loud) and a week later, the exact amount I asked for arrived at our gate in a blank envelope.
I thanked God and was appreciative; really I was. But I still struggled to believe God loved me.
I have come to realise that I have run after idols and turned away from God. I don’t want to let Him in because I’m afraid He will hurt me. I want to keep Him at an arm’s length because I am afraid of what He will ask of me. Instead of seeing a Father who loves me, I have created a “God” of my own imagining. An authoritarian parent who, come hell or high water on earth, will do whatever, and I mean whatever it takes to get me to heaven. So if it means dragging me through the mud to get me there, then that’s what I’ve found myself to expect. I’ve felt like He’s the parent who will “exasperate His children.”
In the past month as I’ve explained my struggles to family members, two of them stood up against me and said what I probably needed to hear. That I am doing a disservice to God.
Because He is not like that. I have created a god and not looked to who He really is.
What the past year has revealed is how shallow my faith really was. The life I’ve lived thus far has been relatively easy. I’ve had no major hurdles and nothing has ever raised questions or challenged my faith. But, now, for the first time, I am experiencing a crisis of faith that is unnerving to say the least! I would like to think the worst is over but what I’ve also come to realise is that there is not just a battle of my sinful heart fighting against God but also a spiritual battle going on. And I am walking into battle, trying to stand on my own without any armour. I’ve refused God’s armour, determined to stand on my own apart from Him just in case He does something I don’t like.
How foolish of me to think I can fight this spiritual war without Him! It easy to see as I put this into words. But putting it into practice and trying to train my mind to take captive every lie I’ve told myself is going to be darn hard. It’s far from over. I may have given an airbrushed, Instagram-worthy image to everyone about the state of my faith, but this is the hard reality of living in a fallen state. Pray for me.
After listening to a sermon this past week about praying the Psalms, I came away with two quotes,
“The very presence of such prayers in the Scriptures is a witness to His understanding. He knows how we speak when we are desperate.”
“He understands when our feelings so overwhelm us that we say desperate things, incorrect things. He understands so much that He puts an example in the Scriptures saying, It’s safe to pray like this with me. It’s safe to pour out your deepest feelings with me.”
A few weeks ago, I sat perched on the edge of my daughter’s bed reading her a Bible story. As I began to engage my brain and actually take in what I was reading, I found my eyes pool with tears and became so choked up I could hardly read. It was the story of the Prodigal Son.
“As he starts for home though, he begins to worry. Dad won’t love me anymore. I’ve been too bad. He won’t want me for his son anymore. So he practises his I’m-Sorry-Speech.”
And he’s the moment, I pictured God,
“All this time, what he doesn’t know is that, day after day, his dad has been standing on his porch, straining his eyes, looking into the distance, waiting for his son to come home. He just can’t stop loving him. (emphasis added) He longs for the sound of his boy’s voice. He can’t be happy until he gets him back. The son is still a long way off, but his dad sees him coming. What will his dad do? Fold his arms and frown? Shout, “That’ll teach you! And, “Just you wait, young man!” (emphasis added) No. That’s not how the story goes. The dad leaps off the porch, races down the hill, through the gap in the hedge, up the road. Before the son can even begin his I’m-Sorry-Speech, his dad runs to him throws his arms around him, and can’t stop kissing him.
“Let’s have a party!” his dad shouts. “My boy’s home. He ran away. I lost him – but now I have him back!”
Jesus told them, “God is like the dad who couldn’t stop loving his boy. And people are like the son who said, “Does my dad really want me to be happy?” (emphasis added)
So they could know , however far they ran, however well they hid, however lost they were – it wouldn’t matter. Because God’s children could never run too far, or be too lost for God to find them.”
The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
I could literally just insert my name in the above text. I have run away from God thinking He won’t look after me and that He doesn’t love me. I’ve told myself that He wouldn’t have died if I were the only human on the earth needing atonement. But that’s not what the Bible teaches about God. Like the shepherd who left the 99 sheep and went out to find the missing one, God loves me. He’s waiting for me to come back to Him. Even if I fall into His arms and pour out all my frustrations and sob. That’s what parents do, right? They hold their hurting children. Why should I expect any different from God who is the perfect Father? The road to finding Him again is going to be long. I will hit bumps along the way because He doesn’t promise an easy ride. But he has also, in the same breath told us, He has overcome the world and it’s hardships. But if I keep my eyes set on Him, like our verse for the year suggests rather than focusing on the ground in front of my feet, He is waiting. With open arms. For me!
Photo Credit: Cottonbro