I paused from stirring the homemade bread I was in the middle of preparing. I stared out the kitchen window and took a deep breath into my lungs… and slowly blew it out. My daughter happened to glance at me right that moment and I heard these words come out of my mouth quietly: “I cannot believe people live this life without knowing God.”
I had been stressed all morning. I had 1002 things I needed to get done before company arrived in a few hours. Honestly, it was no big deal. Just a few friends coming over to have dinner with my family. But for some reason I was feeling especially overwhelmed by all the grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning that needed to be done between now and then.
And it was in that moment of simple, no-big-deal-exhaustion that I took a deep breath and inwardly asked God to please help me to find His peace and strength with this very “regular” day I had ahead of me.
And I genuinely wondered: I can’t even get through a simple dinner party— besides the fact that I cannot function through major crises— without God’s help… how do other people live life without having God as an integral part of their lives?
This isn’t a flippant figure of speech for me; I genuinely can’t imagine not having God’s help every step of the way.
And this moment in the kitchen with my daughter— it wasn’t the first time I had wondered out loud about that.
As I whispered out my quiet astonishment to my daughter, I had a flashback to the fall of 1997. I was nineteen years old and had just been thrashing around the garage, slamming my fists against the walls, wishing I could somehow break them. I was completely overwhelmed with grief and anger and sadness.
My parents’ marriage was ending and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. Just a few weeks prior to this night, my mom had sat us all down and told us she was leaving my dad for another man. And, to my genuine astonishment, despite all of my prayers and the various attempts I had made to literally beg my mom to change her mind, nothing had changed. She was still not living in our home and was still wholeheartedly determined never to return to my shocked and forlorn dad.
My dad was wasting away. Not eating, hardly sleeping at night, and trying to nap in his car during his lunch breaks at work. He had even started smoking in the backyard when he thought I wasn’t paying attention— a habit he had never done in his entire life.
I felt so desperate; there was so much darkness overwhelming my family and I. I literally feared that I was going to lose my mind and have to be hospitalized for the rest of my life. I felt like I was going crazy and would never come back to sanity.
I thrashed around the garage, slamming the walls with all the force my youthful frame could muster. Exhausted from my teenage temper tantrum, I, like a toddler, stopped flailing around and tried to catch my breath. My chest heaved as I struggled to get oxygen back into my lungs.
I was bone-tired and felt so completely helpless and hopeless.
And then the sobs came over me. I couldn’t stop them. My entire being was crying. Crying out for God to please please please fix this mess. To please please please help me to somehow live through this ripping apart of the loving family I had always known and with whom I had always felt safe and secure. I begged God to do whatever it took to wake my mom up to her foolishness and to somehow… somehow… turn from her ways and fix this mess she had made.
I slunk down on the dirty ground, my back against the cabinet where my dad kept his tools, and let the tears spill out.
At some point, my brother’s girlfriend came out to the garage to check on me. I told her I thought I was losing my mind. Like… for real. She hugged me and cried with me a bit. She loved my parents and felt broken by this mess also. And then, for the first time in my life, I uttered these words: “I cannot believe that people are even capable of living their lives— and going through things like this— without knowing God.”
I knew divorce was very common, and so I think my 19-year-old self must have assumed it couldn’t possibly be that torturous because so many people— even people who didn’t know God— had survived it.
And yet now that it was my turn to be the child of divorced parents, the child of a “broken family,” I now knew: it was absolute torture.
And yet somehow I arrived on the other side of that heartache. Somehow God, in His mysterious and infinitely good way, was able to reach into my life— into my heart and my soul and even my tormented mind— and rescue me. Somehow… I still knew beyond a shadow of any doubt that I WAS NOT ALONE IN THIS. My God was with me. Holding my hand, holding my broken heart, and comforting and strengthening me. Even there.
And even though that season hurt like hell— I can still honestly say that I had a strange, underlying “peace that passes understanding” and an otherworldly strength through it all. Even there in that dirty garage with impenetrable walls.
Life is messy and brutal and sometimes I’ve been unsure whether or not I would be able to make it through. Yet… even in my darkest of seasons, God breathes life and hope into me every step of the way. And I am so. very. grateful that He does.
In both the big, “how will I ever get through this?” challenges and the seemingly small, insignificant stresses of life… I am carried and loved.
Thank You, Lord, for all the countless times You have rescued me and redeemed my brokenness and the brokenness surrounding me. It has been more than 18 years since that night in the garage, and I don’t even have words to describe how grateful I am that You have been with me all along. You are good, good, good, Lord. Thank You.
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What about you?
Have you ever experienced God’s presence, peace, or help in a time of great challenge or suffering?
Please feel free to share your comments or your own journey in the comment section below.