The Long Road of Suffering: What Happens When My Faith Isn’t Enough?
- Lori Freeland Crosswalk.com Contributor
- 2015 23 Jan
With the exception of a few posts, I haven’t blogged for close to a year. Not since my son, Kyle, relapsed with leukemia. I wrote a few posts on that topic that I won’t repeat. (But here are the links if you or someone you love is struggling with cancer: When Life Stops, Wishes, Wants, and Secrets Fantasies, You Want Me to be Thankful for What?)
I’m a writer. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been published or in what venue, that need to create lives in my soul. It’s part of who I am. It is who I am. You’d think the first thing I’d turn to in a crisis or a struggle would be writing. At least in a journal.
But I can’t. I don’t. Some days, I just won’t.
Writing is more than putting words on a page. Writing is letting emotion flow to build a story, whether that story is fiction or truth. Once I open the emotion dam, everything I feel rushes out and I’m so busy trying to deal with the aftermath, I can’t do what I need to do. I can’t take care of Kyle and my family.
In a way, I’ve had to compartmentalize in order to function. Shut down what steals my focus. And for me that’s been writing.
Yes, I have breakdowns. There are leaks in the dam. I’m not that strong. I cry. I vent. I whine and whimper. But then I seal everything up so I can get out of bed and do what has to be done. Life moves on and I can’t request a time-out to get myself together.
But there’s another reason I’ve been quiet. If you don’t appreciate honesty and failing and a story that is still waiting for a happily-ever-after, you should probably stop reading. There are far more uplifting posts in the backlog of my blog.
The biggest reason I don’t blog anymore is because I don’t have anything to say. Nothing that will benefit anyone else, anyway. My usual posts are inspirational. Lessons or insights God has taught me.
I’ve been a Christian since I was four. Until Kyle relapsed, I’d kept that childlike faith that God can do anything. That he’s there for me. That I don’t need to understand my circumstances in order to believe.
Life isn’t fair. Bad things happen. People make bad choices that affect others. Death and disease and heartache walk among us every day. But in the midst of all the chaos and confusion, in my heart I’ve heard God’s voice and felt his peace. Somehow, that had always been enough to make life right.
The first time Kyle got cancer, when he was ten, I ran into a bathroom stall in the hospital and begged God to take all the bad feelings I would have toward him away because I knew I couldn’t climb the cancer cliff without him. And he did. Over the almost four year battle, I was frustrated. I was angry. I was hurting. But I never blamed God. I felt that he walked beside me. I wrote a post about that too. Can God Find Me Anywhere? Even in a Restroom.
Today, I’m propped in bed with a broken ankle. Kyle still has fifteen months of treatment. Two more hospital stays and lots of clinic visits. I’ve already missed some of those. I’m his caretaker and I can barely take care of myself.
In the seconds after I fell, my first reaction was a plea to rewind so I could step left instead of right. My second was to shout out to God—Why this injury? Why now?
Here’s the laundry list I’ve taken up with him in the days that followed:
Kyle needs me—physically and emotionally.
My family needs me. See above.
The steam on my stress-level is already rattling the lid of what I can handle.
My faith has been shaky all year. I’m already at spiritual rock bottom.
Are you listening? Are you real? Or is it that you don’t love me anymore?
Since the week Kyle relapsed, a year ago Christmas, that childlike faith I’ve carried all my life has been slowly chipped away.
If you’re still with me, I’m going to be honest about why I’m sharing this now.
I know I’m not the only person who struggles and questions. I may be the only person who admits it publicly. But that’s who I am. I can’t lie about my faith. And I can’t share uplifting stories when I don’t have any.
Knowing I’m not alone in my spiritual struggle comforts me. So, if you’re standing where I am, you’re not alone. You’re not a bad person. You’re not even a bad Christian.
God isn’t afraid of your questions. He’s bigger than that. He isn’t afraid of your anger or your frustration or the bad words that might slip out while you’re raging at him.
Here’s what those years of childlike faith have taught me—the worst thing I can do is shut down the lines of communication, strangle my bad feelings, and walk away. Questioning God is not the same as disrespecting him.
So I have another laundry list we might consider together:
What if in the coming days, my childlike faith isn’t enough?
What if I need to know exactly what I believe and why?
What if I need to be broken to be rebuilt?
What if I can’t see the truth in the ocean of my struggles and I need to be still and wait?
I don’t like where I am—spiritually or physically. I hate watching my son suffer. I hate not being able to help him. I hate being stuck and immobile and not able to fix everything.
But I’m on a journey.
I haven’t written this last year because I like to share what God has done after the journey ends. But I don’t see an end. Not yet. And maybe sharing in the journey is the most important part.
Maybe God’s plan is too big for me to see and understand until I’m farther along the path.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
This is what the ancients were commended for.
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command,
so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible”
(Hebrews 11:1-3, NIV).
Lori Freeland is a freelance author from Dallas, Texas with a passion to share her experiences in hopes of connecting with other women tackling the same issues. She holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a full-time homeschool mom. You can find Lori at lafreeland.com.
Publication date: January 23, 2015