Sometimes, the God Who created us for relationship isolates us.
I’m talking pitch black isolation. The kind of darkness that is so alive it has its own heartbeat.
If we didn’t have moments (sometimes years) like that, we’d lean on others. The thing is, we’re meant to press in to HIM. So, when He sees that we need it most, He arranges it for us.
Under the suffocating thickness of that inky blanket, my first thought is never Thank you.
It’s more along the lines of I’m dying. Every time I scream, the darkness swallows it.
It was just after we’d moved to Poland for the second time. The nights were so cold we had to bring in the car battery so it wouldn’t freeze. That wouldn’t do if I went into labor in the middle of the night (even though taxis are almost omnipresent). Boyfriend-Who-Is-My-Husband and I whispered with unrestrained and expectant joy about the ways our family would change with the birth of our third child.
We didn’t know what was about to happen.
When our son was born, he was strong and healthy. A man child.
Within two weeks, he began developing a strange rash—first around his mouth, then spreading onto his tiny scalp, down his little trunk. We visited doctor after doctor, specialist upon specialist. No one had any idea what could be causing it. They tossed medicines at us as if our baby were an experiment, never trying to find a diagnosis. Only, ever trying to get the rash to disappear.
But it was an angry rash, and the bumps began changing into lesions.
And our wee man began turning a sick, ashy gray.
I won’t go into any more detail except to say we were terrified. We clung to one another, needing answers.
Praying for answers.
The only way to get them after four weeks of watching our son’s health fail was for me to get on a plane by myself and take our baby to a clinic in Hungary. It was time for me to speak to doctors in myheart language. Too much was on the line.
BWIMH and our other two little ones waved goodbye as
our youngest and I boarded the plane.
The jet ascended on a path toward Budapest; my baby and I descended into loneliness.
People—flight attendants, hostesses, doctors, other missionaries—many people would cross our paths over the next few weeks. But I have never felt so alone in my life.
My son was so innocent, so helpless—he didn’t mean to frighten people and their children away with his disease, whatever it was. Sometimes he’d gaze up at me as if he were asking me why things were so different.
Sometimes he screamed when I touched him.
Those moments cut me, and I bled inwardly. How could I not be a comfort to my own baby? How could my mother-hands not soothe? How could he not feel my love?
He was alone, and I was right there.
I was alone.
When I tried to hold him, he arched in pain so severely that my forearms bruised. So, every few hours, I fed him and I put him back down.
Near me, but alone.
I sang to him. I whispered prayers over him.
The other missionaries in the guest house planned a worship session, and I tried to join them. I did. Truly. But my little one screamed and twisted in pain at the noise.
Peace had never been so evasive for either of us. I feared our son was slipping away.
I called home to tell BWIMH that he and the kids probably needed to come and say goodbye. No answer. I left a message. A message like that.
I tried to send an email out, but the internet was down.
In desperation, I wrapped my son up in a thick blanket so he wouldn’t feel the pressure of my arms around him, and we took a taxi to a quiet internet cafe. I sat there only long enough to email one person. He’d spoken at a missionary meeting about the power of prayer networking. “When a missionary is in a crisis,” he said, “what a ministry it would be if they only had to email one person and could trust that person to spread the word.”
The only word I sensed from the Lord that night was that man’s email address. So I asked him to pray.
When we got back to the guest house, the darkness closed in around me. My little one slept, and I cried.
I punched the bed.
I kicked and wore myself out until I was short of breath.
In a pile on the floor, I whispered, “Where are You, God? Why don’t You answer? Why don’t You offer any comfort? I’m cut off from everyone else, and now—even You are silent.”
In that moment, I had to figure out whether or not I believed He was genuinely there. I thumbed through Linda Dillow’s book Calm My Anxious Heart, and I read this: God’s Word is truer than anything we will ever feel or any circumstance we’ll ever face.
His Word. I made myself remember the things I’d read and memorized when things were trite and happy.
Matthew 28:20 “…and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Joshua 1:9 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Psalm 116:1-2 “I love the LORD because He hears my prayers and answers them. Because He bends down and listens, I will pray as long as I breathe.”
Matthew 14:27 “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
None of those verses promised safety. None of them promised wish-granting and healing-the-way-I-wanted-healing.
All of them promised Him. I may not have felt Him there, but those verses were His grace to me in those dark moments.
His name is Immanuel. God with us. God with me. I knew—if nothing else—I believed that. I could take Him at His Word.
So that night, I knelt on the floor at the foot of the bed where my little man slept, and I offered God my son’s life. I knew He understood the pain of a parent letting go of their child. And I wrapped self up in that knowledge.
I asked for only one thing: the grace to handle what was ahead.
Have you ever felt so alone that you wondered if God had turned His back on you? Or if He really existed at all?
Are you there right now?
I’ll finish the story in my next post, but for now, I want to hear from you. What do you do when you feel this alone?
Take a minute to comment below.
God can handle our questions and our doubts. And even if He doesn’t grant wishes or promise safety and comfort, He promises Himself.
And that’s ground solid enough to kneel on.