This is day 26 of 31 Days of Songs and Stories. For an index of all the posts in the series, click here.
As I stood in the bathroom, watching the water trickle down the plughole, I felt that my faith was draining away with it. The phone in my hand still displayed the text from my friend which had triggered this crisis.
In that moment, the pressure that had been building all summer finally became too much. That week in particular had been horrendous, with late night texts for at least two hours every night with descriptions of depressed, suicidal feelings so graphic that they broke my heart. I was honoured that she trusted me enough to share, and I was glad I could be there for her, but I was also constantly tense and on high alert- breathing a sigh of relief whenever I heard from her and knew she was safe, only to read her words and feel the anxiety rise once again.
The worst thing was that everyone else was on holiday: her parents, her therapist, her other friend who lived close by… It felt like even God was on holiday and everything was down to me. In that moment I realised that, however much I prayed, there was a very real possibility that she would not survive- if she didn’t do it this time, it could be the next time or the time after, and if that happened I didn’t see how my faith could survive.
She made it through that horrible summer but it was only later I realised how much of a toll it had taken on me. Even once the situation had settled down I found it hard to relax and my anxiety level was constantly high. I was struggling to sleep and yet it took effort to drag myself out of bed in the morning because I felt so tired.
I had never resolved things properly with God either. There was no conscious decision to turn away, but prayer and Bible reading were a struggle when I did them at all and I felt my faith was slipping away. I didn’t want that, but I felt powerless to stop it.
I’m grateful that God’s love pursues us, even when we struggle to hold onto him. It didn’t happen instantly, but God acted in two different ways to pull me back.
The first was through a talk I heard from someone retiring from Christian ministry after 33 years. She spoke about people from the Bible who finished well with God, contrasting them with those who finished badly. She pointed out that the difference was in the choices they made, and that it is the little moment-by-moment choices which determine the person we are becoming.
She quoted Moses’ words to the Israelites:
“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses… Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)
So I made the choice to pursue God and commit firmly to him once again- and I knew that meant praying and reading the Bible, even if I didn’t feel like it- but it was a struggle. No matter what I did, I didn’t feel I was connecting with God. I tried various Bible reading plans only to abandon them.
Then, just as my resolve was wavering, God acted for the second time. I happened to click on an image on Facebook shared from a website called She Reads Truth and discovered some Bible reading plans. I looked at one of the readings and, for the first time in ages, I felt that something was sinking in! I kept going with the plan and by the time I had been using She Reads Truth for about 4 months I felt I was properly connecting with God again and actually looked forward to spending time with him each day!
In summer 2015, almost exactly a year after my friend’s illness had been at its worst, it started to worsen again. She overdosed again and the relentless late night messaging began once more.
This time I was determined that it was going to be different- whatever happened I was going to choose to trust in God, and no matter how little sleep I had, the one thing that was not negotiable was time with God each day. I had also learned a lot about sharing the load with other people and not taking on too much responsibility, and this time I resolved to deal with everything in a healthier way.
It sounds good in theory, but in practice it was hard. It was far too easy for the anxiety to creep back in, and, along with it, the questions about why God allowed such suffering and where he was in this situation.
The song “Blessings” by Laura Story is what kept me grounded in the truth. For over a month I listened to it every day- at least once, but often on repeat several times through.
It reminded me of God’s promise to work all things together for good and that even when we can’t see or understand where he is in a situation he is still at work.
It gave me hope that even when I can’t see, I can trust, and, while I still can’t see my friend’s situation as a blessing or see how God is using it, I can believe, as Charles Spurgeon put it,”When you cannot trace His hand, you can always trust His heart.”