Swamped and desperate – but never alone

Some of my readers are treading life. It has swamped you, either in increments or suddenly. You feel almost at the “no surviving beyond this point” point. And you wonder if God cares.

I opened an old journal last night, and found someone like that. Me. A younger self, passing through an excruciating circumstance that felt like both fire and flood. It dragged on for years.

“I have cried all my tears. I have prayed all my prayers. My arms hang at my sides and a terrible weakness overcomes me …”

I felt reluctant to read further. Today my life is joyful in comparison. God saw me through. Why re-enter that airless tunnel of black days? Sure, they drove me to grasp for God as never before, but why live it again?

Nevertheless, I read on…“I know what King David meant when he said that his bones were like water. Mine are too, these days.  There is no strength in them. They are dissolving in the acid of…”

That long season affected my state of mind more than even I realized:

“I feel utterly, horribly aimless and worthless, as though I’ve never been good for anything and never will, and I wonder if God thinks that too, even though I know better in my head. Some days are like that, more frequently lately. I want to pull the covers over my head and just go to sleep and keep sleeping…”

Beyond, “Help, God!”(the easiest prayer of all, and one God always hears) I often struggled to know how to pray and if it even mattered if I did. I resorted to groaning, gut-level prayer. Ugly prayer; the jagged inversion of one’s soul, an exorcism of our darkest thoughts into God’s ears. The type of prayer we shun because it reveals to us the person God knows we are (and loves anyway): flimsy, faithless; needy and pleading for a scrap of hope.

Eventually, that worst of times passed, but others have come since. In each one, I’m more aware of the best answer to every prayer: God’s constant nearness. When I’m tempted to fear the road ahead, I remember that and fear less.

Fellow Christ-follower, you aren’t alone or abandoned in your private desperation. God hears the prayers that seem to go nowhere. Know that his highest “yes” is always a deeper relationship with himself. In our darkest times, when we can’t find the words to pray, the Bible says Jesus prays them for us with groans of his own.

When we cling to the God we can’t quite grasp, but believe is present, he rewards that faith. And when we can do nothing more, he invites us to simply rest in his goodness and trust in his presence.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:2 (NIV)”

You are in my prayers.