This post is a reflection from our own Liz Meier. Thank you so much for sharing, Liz!
Walking the road of faith can be a challenge, as we seek to trust in a God that we cannot see, touch or hear. My analytical mind wants concrete proof, the surety of truth and the reality of a tangible god, but that’s not who God is. He is instead an oxymoron of sorts that I can neither explain nor express with my finite human words. He is all knowing, but not fully knowable. He is just, but forgiving. He is constantly present, but not visible. He is grace-filled and righteous. The tension of this oxymoron was not evident to me in my early days as a young child and teen who blanketly believed what others told me “about God.” Recently though, my relationship with God has evolved into a deeper, more confused sense of being with a God of oxymorons (seemingly contradictory statements). He is not at all predictable, but I depend on him thoroughly, as my entire worldview revolves around his existence. As I’ve walked the road of faith and belief in this God of oxymorons, it’s been most difficult for me to grasp God’s ability to be in the tension of an oxymoron and in the midst of the problem of pain in the world. Pain isn’t a new reality to me, but one I’ve faced on and off over the years.
Looking back over the past 2 years, it seems to me that I’ve faced one challenge or painful experience after another, being caught up in the undertow of pain and discouragement and surfacing only long enough to catch my breath from one experience to the next. This struggle to surface has been utterly exhausting, on top of my profession as an expert “caregiver.” I briefly tested myself on a stress test that assesses the stress you’ve experienced in the past year or two, and I was amazed at how high the results were. In the past two years: I’ve been in two major car accidents, moved 3 times, had a major surgery, changed jobs, and lost friends to busyness and babies. My grandpa died, I experienced two break ups [one of which was extremely hurtful and harsh], and I work over 60+ hours a week between my full time job/babysitting/volunteering. I’ve worked in a toxic job where I constantly kept track of my records for fear of being fired, lived in a very lonely, isolated, and oppressive place, and faced migraines, chronic back pain and auto-immune diseases that leave me exhausted and worn out. Many of my dreams and hopes have been deferred or deserted to pay for or deal with other problems. I've grieved the loss of hopes and dreams of having a family of my own and the strain of how I’ve struggled financially with graduate school loans. Through all of this, I’ve regularly felt very fearful and alone -- living alone and dependent on only myself, making my thoughts and feelings about these difficult situations that much worse. But I survived, even if I was, from my assessments very, very broken. It was hard, because I am used to being - and am expected to be - this strong, independent caring woman, and when I hit rock bottom, people [myself included] were surprised at my brokenness and frailty. Reflecting back on that time, I also noticed the constant spiritual warfare and work of Satan. It was often through the smallest emotional and spiritual struggles that Satan implanted lies into my heart. This pain and stress caused me to question God, his goodness, his basic existence and why he allowed these painful experiences to happen.
I hit rock bottom hard, as my world seemed to fall apart all around me after the harsh break up I went through as it progressively "broke up" from October of 2013 to March of 2014. The words used against me were jagged and sharp, cutting deeply into my heart and breaking and marring it, and betraying my trust [I’m cautious as I share this story, to not aggrandize it or make it bigger than it was, but the people who have walked with me through it, recognize the depth of the pain it caused]. Those words continue to haunt me to this day, and I often find myself in a spiritual battle with God over the lies this person spoke into my life. I was completely empty, struggling and alone. I needed help, love and grace, but I didn’t know how to ask for it or who to ask. I felt very alone, even when I was with people. People, including myself, didn’t really know what had happened to me, the "strong independent unique" woman. I was a complete mess. It was all I could do to hold onto my sanity and perform at work, and I found myself curling up into a tight little ball like a hedgehog, which only isolated me further from friends and family. Regular struggles, like my hopes of being a wife and mother continuing to be postponed, seemed ten times worse than normal. [It was and is a spiritual struggle for me to be content and not bitter while attending a church with 12-14 babies around]. I found myself shut down and disconnected from people I cared about and things I was passionate about. And I was so exhausted from work and dealing with my student's messy lives that I rarely let people in to help me or let them into see my mess. For a while, I lived a very numb life.
In the midst of all this, it was difficult to recognize God in my life. I felt and sensed that he had abandoned me when I needed him the most. It was a confusing, dark time, as I wrestled with whether or not I even wanted to believe in God anymore. I had lost hope in life and in God. In my spiral downward, I railed at God, and I slowly became bitter. I was angry. I pushed people away and hurt them unintentionally. I was a broken mess, and felt like I was hurting people I came into contact with, no matter what my good intentions were for them. Satan seized the opportunity to plant seeds of doubt in my mind about my relationship with God and about my faith in Him. It was alarming at how quickly Satan destroyed my strong faith of many years. At times, I sinned boldly, almost mockingly, testing God’s grace. I argued with God, all the while keenly aware of my humanity and arrogance. I almost turned my back on him, but could not find meaning in life without him. I couldn't understand why God would allow such deep pain in my life, while still expecting me to trust in him as a good God.
In mid-April the storm finally broke, and I could sense I was coming out of the worst of the painful experiences. If anything, I found hope in God again, and it was like I had finally been able to take a breath of fresh air after being caught in the undertow for so long. Being able to breathe after having the crushing weight of this pain and discouragement forcing the life out of me was - and is - a huge relief. It’s been about a month of healing since that time, and I have again found great comfort in knowing God. At the women’s retreat, I finally shared a bit of my brokenness with others, and God reminded me of two important truths. The first was that He is near to the brokenhearted, and I cling to that in my grief, stress or loneliness. The second was a recognition that God had stripped away all my self-made ways of knowing him, until I was so broken that I could only believe in Him with the simple faith of a child. I also recently went through a session on healing prayer, and was blessed with the beautiful truth that God sees me, God hears me, God knows me and God understands me. The truth of these statements was like a healing balm to my soul, and healed away much of the pain I had experienced in the past year. At the end of the healing prayer, God called me to know him. I think there is great beauty in this brokenness that produced a simple faith in me. And the magnitude and wonder of being known by God and seeking to know Him has answered my deepest longing – to be known and understood as me -- the unique, precious and beautiful woman that he created me to be. The experience of facing pain with God is like a refining fire, producing a finer, more beautiful faith in God and a deeper trust in his true, albeit oxymoronic character. I hope and pray that I remember these truths from this day forward, trusting in the true God.