[guestpost]NOTE: For timely news on Michele’s surgery, treatment and healing journey, you can find regular updates on her Facebook page. [/guestpost]

I’ll never forget the first time God answered my prayers.

It was a silly prayer, really. I was no more than four or five years old, living in Arizona with my parents and three-year-old brother. To my delight, a favorite aunt and uncle had come for a short visit.

Even then, I loved nothing more than a house filled with family.

I remember sitting on the floor savoring the adult attention and conversation. Utterly and completely happy.

Until my dad interrupted my bliss and sent me to bed.

Fuming in anger, I stormed to my room without so much as a backward glance. Until I realized I’d failed to tell my aunt and uncle goodbye. Then, devastation. By the time I woke the next morning, they would be gone. No hugs and kisses goodbye. No promises of another visit.

Nothing.

That’s when I started to cry. And prayed pleading prayers for God to give me one more chance, to send either aunt or uncle to my darkened bedroom, to say goodbye.

It only took minutes. Bedroom door opened, and my uncle slipped to the side of my bed. Something he didn’t typically do. Something he had no way of knowing I needed. With an “I’m sorry!” and hug, he slipped back out as quickly as he came.

That’s when I knew.

God was real.

In a girl’s dark bedroom, God transformed from a Sunday-school fantasy into close-enough-to-touch reality. He wasn’t something reserved for Sundays and holidays. He became anchor, compass.

Friend.

Everything changed that night. It was a good thing, too, because life turned out to be far more complicated than a five-year-old’s regret. The teens were tough, my twenties even more so. There were countless heartaches and losses, difficulties and unknowns. Each time, I prayed big, believing prayers. Because I knew God was real. And he cared enough to answer my prayers.

Which is why these past few weeks have nearly broken my heart.

I’ve always tried to be honest with you, and I plan to do the same today. Before I do, however, I need you to do something for me:

Promise me you won’t try to “fix” this, fix me.

What I’m about to say will cause something deep within you to protest. You’ll want to comfort. Or gloss over. Or attempt to change my mind. I get it, I really do. But resist the urge. I don’t need pep talks or platitudes or promises you can’t keep.

Today I need to weep. And if that makes you uncomfortable, it’s okay to move on.

{By the way, this is true for most grieving people. Don’t believe me? Give Job a read. You’ll see what I mean.}

You ready?

I’m in a dark place.

And by “dark” I mean a consuming, oppressive black hole of confusion, pain, and deep disappointment.

I don’t understand God right now. I feel abandoned, rejected, unloved.

Now hear me when I say this: I still believe in Him. How can I not when I look at the moon and stars, the snow-capped mountains, the intricacy of the human body, the delicacy of a blooming flower, and the faces of my sweet children? Everywhere I look I see evidence that our world is not one giant accident.

The earth sings to the tune of a Composer.

So, yes, I believe there is a God.

But he feels far away from this Colorado girl right now.

I feel like I’ve been been punched in the stomach more times than I can count. Cancer three times. Three traumatized children with broken hearts I can’t mend. A dad who died far sooner than the doctors imagined.

And that’s just the big stuff.

Heartache after heartache. Loss after loss. I keep picking myself back up, keep fighting and believing and praying. I’m the five-year-old girl crying prayers in the dark while watching her bedroom door.

But the door doesn’t open.

This is a hard place for a believing girl, a wrestling place. The cement under my feet has turned to sand. Mine are tough questions, unanswerable ones. I know this. Of course, I could pretend like everything is fine. I could deliver you a nicely packaged, pollyanna-post filled with a bunch of plastic assurances that everything will be alright.

But it wouldn’t be real. And I believe the circumstances warrant both the real and the wrestling.

A few years ago, my friend, Tonya, spoke Isaiah 45:3 over my life:

And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.

I didn’t understand it at the time, not fully. Now that I’m camped out in the dark, I’m holding on to it with both hands. I’m doing it for me, but I’m also doing it for you:

For the woman who can’t figure out why her marriage fell apart.

For the parents who beg God to save their addiction-ravaged child.

For the family who lives paycheck to paycheck and can’t figure out how they will manage Christmas this year.

For the pastor whose ministry is about to shut its doors.

For the dreamer who is weary of all her dreams being dashed.

For the widower who doesn’t know how he’ll endure the holidays without the love of his life.

Because I love you, because I share a bit of your grief, I refuse to gloss over my own. Your questions and tears are worthy of more than my poor attempts to mask my own.

My friend, I don’t understand God. Boy, I’ve sure tried to to unravel him, to manage him and package him and turn him into something I can hold in my palm.

But God has proven far bigger than my palm can contain. He is beyond my control. He is beyond my attempts to manipulate. This both frightens me and comforts me.

Yes, it’s been a dark week. I imagine this will not be the last.

But I’m learning true faith dives into the dark. Perhaps even thrives in it. Because it is only here that belief in a God we can’t comprehend or control can really be called faith at all. 

For now, even as I wrestle, I’m searching for the secrets, scanning like a woman desperate for the treasures hidden here. And, although there is a big part of me that’s afraid to believe, terrified belief will only birth more disappointment, there remains a hot, vibrant, still-burning spark that believes—just as much as that five-year-old girl—her God is real.

And He still answers prayers cried in the dark.

[reminder]Have you ever wrestled with your understanding of God? If so, share your story. [/reminder]

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