I finished writing my first book, and I breathed a sigh of relief. It was the only breath that felt full — a metaphorical one. In the final months leading up to my deadline, my asthma gripped hold of my lungs and sealed them off like I was breathing through a small stirring straw and someone kept capping it with their finger on one end. The air outside my window filled with smoke as forest fires blazed, and I stayed indoors, perched at my laptop or lying in bed propped upright hoping to breathe again.
There were more things, too. Health issues and doctor’s visits. Financial stresses and life stuff. There are stories we don’t tell and trials we don’t share. I’ve thought “when it rains, it pours,” but more often I’ve felt “when it rains, it floods.” During seasons of suffering, I’ve felt like the ground has washed out beneath me, and the breath I’m struggling to catch isn’t just from my asthma, it’s from being tossed ragged in a downpour that never seems to let up.
This is what it feels like when the hits keep coming. There comes a point when so many ridiculous things have happened, you stop keeping count. You stop sharing because no one would understand how absurd your life is. You watch the world go on without you, and you begin to think maybe you are the only one. Maybe every one else is navigating this life with an ease you’ve never experienced. Maybe they’ve got God’s ear and pleasure and favor, and you’ve got another doctor’s appointment you can’t afford.
You find yourself sitting on your bed next to a pile of prescriptions that never seem to do the trick and bills that need to be paid with an overdrawn checking account, because you forgot about an automatic withdrawal that cleared while you were in the hospital, and now it’s too late. The bills pile up like cars crashing into each other, each rear end building while hoods fume and bumpers crumble and sirens flash. And it’s all a disaster. That’s when your kid comes in and throws up on your only clean sheets while your washing machine is broken or your dog runs away or your car breaks down or your husband gets laid off. This is when you think, if only I had any musical talent, I could write sad country songs about those times when life gets you down.
So I was feeling right sorry for myself, as one sometimes does. I told God, “I’ve been obedient. I’ve done everything you’ve asked of me. I’ve written the book I felt called to write. I’ve done it even though I’ve been sick and tired and life has been unbearably hard, and this is what I get? More suffering? I do not need any more material for my book!” And then I sat silently and waited.
I didn’t hear anything back. God was, once again, silent. He felt distant, and I felt tired.
I got my edits back the next week, and once again I was back to work. Still sick, still tired, still frustrated because I felt like God was holding out on me — again.
Maybe I’d given up on being healed, but I still hoped to be delivered.
I opened the Word doc and read my words again. I sometimes wonder if God didn’t give me this burning desire to put words down for the distinct pleasure of watching me eat them. He’s not cruel, but I reckon He’s got a sense of humor. It’s His kindness that patiently reminds me that this is familiar.
Life has been hard, is hard, will be hard. But I am not alone. I read about the God who meets me in these very places, of the gift of community and how our honesty is an invitation. And I realized how even after writing an entire book on how God uses our lack to discover Him and His ways, I had still anticipated a different outcome.
I’d wanted a shortcut that bypassed the pain. I’d wanted the oft-prayed hedge of protection to descend from the heavens and shelter me from anything wicked or treacherous that would come my way as I faithfully pounded out words late into the night. I hadn’t just wanted a trial-free book writing experience, I had expected it, felt I’d earned it. I’d conjured my own health and wealth as a sign of God’s provision even though in the end, I’d written an entire book saying God’s Kingdom is subversive — the poor are rich, the weak are strong, and everywhere we lack is a place for God to meet us.
Still, I’d felt my faithfulness should procure blessings, and those blessings had less to do with the gospel of grace and everything to do with keeping score and earning my way towards God’s favor.
I wrote the book weak, sick, gasping for breath. I wrote the book in the place where the words on the page would indeed be my food. I wrote the book hungry for God, lacking, desperate, and it needed to be so because isn’t that where God meets us?
Sometimes God is silent, but He still speaks.Leave a Comment
Michele Morin says
Thank you for calling us out on our closet-prosperity-gospel leanings, Alia. Our words can be so orthodox and our hearts so off-base. Thanks be to God for His grace–and His sense of humor.
Kit Tosello says
Yes, Alia, this. The thread of His greater story gilds yours: redemption. Thank you for your honesty. Looking forward to the book!
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I think that when I write, I write to myself to remind me of the Truth I know and have somehow misplaced. I, too, have had a string (years) of events (physical and mental) that I have asked, “How long O, Lord?” I am going on a week and a half of not feeling like a knife was stuck in my back. I am walking, relatively, without pain for the first time in a LONG time. I do admit that I look up once in awhile to see if a piano is going to fall on my head. That’s how ludicrous it’s been. Life is hard. It has been hard, and it will always be hard, but we are not alone….truth Alia. Some days I’d like to trade in the pain, but then I am reminded: Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. (Psalm 84:10). Thank you for this reminder that God is always speaking. He is always there….always faithful….even through the pain. Lifting you up in prayer!
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Teresa Netz says
This touched me this morning. At the moment, my life is easy. But I think I may be just self righteous enough to think I’d earned it. I needed this word….Words of grace… under any circumstance…. and that it has nothing whatsoever to do with me.
Debbie Lewis says
Having recently taken a Bible Study course about when to speak, when to be silent and how to know the difference; we wrote ourselves a little note and gave it to the class hostess. I just received mine in the mail and have been waiting to open it, until I felt inspired or in need. I will now find it and read the note I wrote to myself and I do expect that I will learn something about me from it. God is on time, swift and accurate. I love the song that has words that says, some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.
Wow, I read your fabulous writing after pleading with our Precious Lord to help my life be easier. Thank You for your transparency in your journey and for sharing your incredible gift as a writer!
Thank YOU for being so transparent in your incredible writing. You are a gifted writer. I don’t think my first comments went through to be published????
Once more your words have reassured me. I am not alone in my needs and our Lord really does hear me but remains silent waiting for me to be faithful to his commands.
My husband John recently saw the consultant and his eyes are not yet ready to have the cataracts removed so the fumbling with the reading must go on, his eczema is still causing him to itch and scratch until the blood comes. However I have now had a basal cell carcinoma removed and no further treatment is required, my heart condition is being controlled and this morning I stood outside my house and a car pulled up and a nurse got out to attend to an ill person who lives close by, we stood for a minute and then smiled at each other and I realised that she was the one who had come to remove my stitches… she enveloped me in a big hug and we embraced as if we were sisters…. and yet we had only met that once for her medical attention… but, thank God, that is what we really are isn’t it… sisters in Christ.
I will now wait and be patient in His time for I know that is what I must do.
Blessings and love to you and all reading this.
Brenda May xxx
Brenda- so sorry to hear about your husband’s issues. Praying for a quick healing for him and for you. Side note – have you had him checked for food intolerances? Most skin issues are due to what is going in the body, and aren’t surface issues. Regardless, I pray for peace for you both during this time of struggle! May God’s grace be plentiful!
Thank you Kim,
No I haven’t asked for a food intolerance test as I honestly hadn’t thought of that, I take care with the soaps, the washing powders etc. etc. and year after year the doctors have given us differing tablets, ointments, lotions and antibiotics none of which heal for more than a couple of months. John is reticent and a quiet person and I have often wondered how he really suffers as he never complains. But perhaps I will try. It does affect us both I think me mainly because I can do nothing more for him and I am 88, he is 90 next week and our time together may be limited. Bless you for your suggestion with no family I do feel alone sometimes. Brenda x
In a community such as this, we are never alone Brenda! You have your sisters in Christ praying for you. Reach out as needed and ask for the prayer so we can be community together! Blessings to you both!
Brenda may says
Thank you for these comforting words, I would welcome prayers for us both because sometimes the brave, tough face I present to the world hides a child crying for her mother, knowing Christ is there but too tired to ask for anyone’s help. Even in my church my friends have grandchildren and busy lives. X
Alia, I definitely know how you are feeling. Some days it seems that it literally takes everything in me to even get out of bed. When there are people waiting on me, when life feels like such a mess and I cannot bring myself to the surface to breathe. Life is tough and it keeps moving on whether we are ready for it or not and you are right, God is always there even when there is silence. It is in these moments that we need to sit still, breathe and be reminded that He never gives up on us. He will never leave us. Our little human heart wants instant results because this is the world we live in. We need instant gratification/confirmation at every turn and when we don’t see it soon enough, we start to lose our hope, our faith in the one true person, God. Lord, thank you for loving us unconditionally. I know I am not worthy of anything nor do I deserve His love yet he continues to pursue me day after day. Just seeing this kind of love on me brings such a huge smile in my heart and this is when I know I must wait. Thank you for sharing this and to let me know that I am not the only one who feels this way.
Donna Henry says
So, so good, Alia. Thank you. <3
Good morning Alia.
Thank you for being so open and honest.
I frequently suffer from the disease of “I’m the only imperfect person/Mom”, for I don’t do this right, my kids have so many issues, or my marriage isn’t perfect.
I pray our Father bless you abundantly today with His loving arms.
Love from your sister, Maggie, in Rochester, NY
I so agree with you! Life is hard, Life will be hard.
Its been years and years of feeling like nothing goes well for me, and I have asked God what it is that I am not doing. I have gotten angry because I dont hear from Him, ranted to my friends and family about my issues and those of my family. But I’m learning that He still loves me, He still cares for me and at the end of the desert time, God is good, was always good.
I pray for all the sisters who feel like God is silent in their troubles.
Theresa Boedeker says
This is so beautiful and true. How often have I expected God to ride in and rescue me and give me a movie star ending. But life keeps going along. God is beside me, rescuing me in ways I can’t even imagine.
Niki Hardy says
Oh so true! As a pastor’s wife it’s easy to think my obedience should keep me exempt, like a get out of jail free card. But life happens. Stuff happens, hard stuff and no one gets to skip it and you’re right, God speaks through and in it all. Even if we can’t hear Him. Thank you for sharing you story so vulnerably and allowing us in.
Cassady Schulte says
Thank you, Alia. It never ceases to amaze me how we always expect a different outcome – we are always secretly holding out hope that once we “learn our lesson” about weakness and suffering and lack and how these are things God loves to use, He will leave our self-sufficiency and selfish pride alone for awhile and go chip away at someone else’s life with those tools. But God is after His glory, and these are the ways that His glory is most clearly on display.
Kathy Cheek says
I think it is amazing that you finished writing your book through all of the struggles, maybe there was an invisible grace going on that all the troubles were drowning out.
God’s silence is often calling us to a deeper faith to believe He is still there, He is always with us.
Beth Williams says
God never promised us a rose garden down here. He said there would be trials & temptations. We all go through seasons of testing & hard. He is ever faithful to bring beauty from ashes. Think about Job. He lost everything in a few fell swoops. Not wanting to give in-he prays & talks to God. Asking him why. In the end God restored his wealth 10X over. Those trials we face. They build up our faith & have us trust Him more. There are several friends that have been through such trials. I’ve asked God how much longer must they suffer? Why them? When does it end? God is patiently teaching us lessons in these trials. He put me through a trial a few years ago & through that my faith has matured. I asked God “what must I learn”? I think He quietly told me patience young lady. Having gone through that trial I am able to help others in the same situation.
Thank you so very much for being honest and transparent. The pain, the anguish, the doubt, the gamut of emotions you penned are palatable and as I read them my mind recalled my own memories and people I love who have all felt the same thing. It’s refreshing to read it because it reminds us that we are not alone . . . oven when God seems silent. It’s so easy to feel completely alone, to get tired of sharing. Sometimes, I’ve felt numb after so many blows but somehow the Lord always refreshes me, especially when I make time for the stillness. Life is hard. You have a gift and I am so thankful you preserved to be faithful to it despite all you’ve endured. Hoping you are coming into a time of rest and abundance blessings very soon.
Nancy B Roe says
Yes, love all this! That ubiquitous white space of silence may be the loudest and most powerful after all. Because here is the dead honest of where we are.
Thank you Alia for showing me that even though we think God is silent, he really is speaking to us. I really needed to hear this today. I have been struggling also with health issues and it really hit me when you said another doctor bill and medication you can’t afford. I have so many doctors that I’ve lost count at 5. I have so many bills that I can’t pay and wondering if I’ll ever be able to pay them. I also totally agree with you about the financial stress and life stuff, the stories we don’t tell, trials we don’t share and when it rains, it floods. I live paycheck to paycheck only because my husband spends a lot of money on beer and his tobacco. He spends so much on it a month that I could pay so many other things or be able to treat myself to something. I also don’t have the money I need for supplies to start my own small business because of his drinking. I have prayed about all of this and this is when I feel like God is ever so silent. My dream hasn’t completely died, but it’s on the verge because I don’t know if God wants me to do this since I haven’t heard a peep. I get so discouraged about everything and feel so alone. I don’t know how to handle any of this anymore. Sometimes I think God has forgotten all about me and the things I keep praying about.
Sue Beneke says
Gina, My heart goes out to you. I know several believers that have dealt with such things with their spouses choices. Usually, they either aren’t Christians anyhow, or out of fellowship and trapped in the carnal life. it’s hard to watch them do this stuff. I can only tell you what I do for our trials ( my husband and I ). Actually we deal with things differently. We have a son who has deserted his faith . Its a different situation, than what your saying… but REALLY hard. To top that off, we haven’t seen him in a lot of years. It isn’t because we are estranged, because we aren’t. It has to do with his lack of ID and finances. I practice certain things to keep my head up. Thankfulness, gratitude , and read books, that have testimonies and encouragement of returning to faith, praise ( when I don’t want to or am sad about this), renewing my mind.
Your writing gripped me and I couldnt let go. God definately is with you to write what I have felt, experience(d) and wrestled with but have not been able to formulate in words. But you did for me and others. Your spirit in part was wrestling with God and hold on til you receive your blessings. God is faithful and for sure He is there with you and when this time has passed and life becomes steadier, more mellow and less harrowing, then you will miss this intensity of God’s prrsrnce . This is not to say that we only have the Lord’s silent intensity whilst suffering, no. It is just how it is in this season.
Thank you Alia for your words. They really spoke to me today. I know what it is like about doctors appointments that you can’t afford and all the bills that have come for 2 hospital stays. I sit and wonder if I will ever be able to pay them. I can also relate to the financial stress, stories we don’t tell, trials we don’t share, and when it rains, it floods. This is how I feel all the time. My husband spends about $300 a month on beer not to mention his tobacco. I live from paycheck to paycheck because of this. I also want to start my own small business and I can’t buy the supplies I need because of his drinking. I feel abandoned all the time. My life seems so lonely, so meaningless and how will I ever get through this month without breaking down at payday. I ‘t afford anything, not even to be able to go and get my hair styled or have a mani-pedi or buy yarn which is my lively hood. I don’t know if I can take this anymore. I wish I knew what God wanted me to do or how to handle all this stress.
Melissa Ens says
God’s definition of what his favor is and our definition of what it should look like aren’t the same, are they? I have seen so many truly great, faithful believers go through absurd (that’s the perfect word!) numbers of trials and it does not match our expectations of what God’s grace and love “should” look like! (My own book’s worth is being written, as well.) We don’t help anyone by hiding our suffering. I don’t like that. And I don’t mean we dump on everyone, everywhere. But what if our suffering is not only where God meets us, but where OTHERS will meet God, as well?!? Wow. Sounds like 2 Corinthians 4:7-18. Grace and supernatural strength to you, Alia. Thank you for trusting us with your story.
Thanks for the reminder. There have been plenty of times I have pulled out a devotion I had written months or years ago only to feel like God was giving me a good spanking but laughing at the same time. God bless you.
Nancy Ruegg says
I suppose if we heard God’s voice every day, loud and clear, we would not need to live by faith. But since God values faith (Hebrews 11:6), he often requires us to stay the course without constant feedback. That’s exactly what you’re doing, Alia. And your story is obviously ministering to many others, indicated by the comments you’ve generated. And based on that scripture (above), your Heavenly Father is pleased.
Thank you for your words of honesty and encouragement. I felt I was reading words from my own life, just begging for a little relief. Yes, I have read your words and thank-you for the voice in the silence that tells me that God is with me and His silence speaks volumes.