If you’ve been anywhere near my Instagram in the past week and a half, you’ve likely seen approximately 1,000 posts about this amazing trip I just took to Rwanda with a group of storytellers through my work at HOPE International. I’ve only had a couple of experiences like that in my life—where a group gels together perfectly, the logistics fall seamlessly into place, and no unforeseen mishaps occur. The entire trip was a gift, from start to finish.
But what Instagram won’t tell you is that leading up to the trip, I was dealing with near-paralyzing anxiety.
You see, travel has a long history of challenging (read: shattering) my views of God’s goodness. In moments of complete trust, I’ve experienced some of the most difficult situations of my life—car accidents and diseases and rejected book proposals.
My anxiety has centered on the question: What can I trust God for? If the things He has led me to have often been the rockiest predicaments in the future, how do I walk with Him into
In my worst moments, it’s felt like God has led me to a series of dead ends, or that He’s toying with me unnecessarily.
In one particularly low moment a year ago, I remember telling a counselor, “I hear other people talk about their relationships with God from a place of victory or triumph. But for me, it feels like I am always grasping at straws to see fragments of the good He is doing in my life.” If I’m honest, I have often felt like God has let me down.
I imagine this is how Mary felt when she met Jesus for the first time after her brother Lazarus had died. While her sister Martha runs to meet Jesus, Mary hangs back. And when she finally meets Him, all she can say is, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:17-37)
I see so much of myself in Martha’s response—the feeling of betrayal she felt at knowing that Jesus could have saved her brother and chose not to. I see her words in my own heart: Lord, if you had been there, I wouldn’t have gotten in that car accident. Lord, if you have been there, we would have seen You at work in Uganda instead of dead end after dead end. Lord, if you had been there, the book I felt You called me to write would have gotten picked up. Lord, if you had been there, I wouldn’t have gotten malaria. Lord, if you had been there, my church would not have closed.
Intellectually, I know that God has ways higher than mine, that His thoughts are not my thoughts, suffering is part of the deal of following Him, etc. But in my heart, I’ve felt deeply wounded by Him. Like Mary, I have known Jesus as friend. For much of my life, I have known a sweet intimacy and closeness with Him that has made it difficult to accept that He would allow me (or, perhaps even lead me) to suffer. To my human eyes, it doesn’t always feel like love.
In sermons and writings on these two sisters, Martha always gets a bad rap. In many ways, we can see many of our worst American tendencies in her—working too hard, listening too little, and drowning in comparisons. But at the same time, the faith Martha demonstrates in responding to Jesus in her grief is extraordinary. Like Mary, she knows Jesus could having saved Lazarus, using the same words that Mary does: Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died—but unlike Mary, she continues onto say, “But even now, I know
But even now. Her faith extended beyond her circumstances to a trust that I have only caught glimpses of.
This trip, I’ve felt my heart shift—not because this experience has been “perfect” or because everything has been smooth, but because for the first time, I can see Jesus in the memories where I have only felt the sting of His absence. I can see Him there, waiting, for reasons I may never understand. And I may finally be ready to let His presence be enough for me.
Perhaps it’s a lot like what C.S. Lewis wrote in A Grief Observed, his reflections on the loss of his wife just four years of marriage:
“God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. … He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.”
May we, like, Martha, be able to live in the “even now.”