“I just don’t feel like going, that’s why,” I snapped angrily. My husband raised his eyebrows and then silently walked away. I sighed out loud.
Really, what was he thinking? Just because it was Christmas didn’t mean we had something to celebrate. Our life was far from a cause for celebration: a sick child, bills we could no longer pay, and a marriage buckling under the stress of this life. I was exhausted. Hospitals, specialists, medications, more and more testing were all piling on top of work, kids, and a household to take care of.
Life wasn’t supposed to turn out this way. This is not what we had in mind when we welcomed our child into this world. We were going to live happily ever after. Now I would be content in just feeling like we were living. More often than not, we are barely surviving.
I watched my husband load the kids into the car and drive away. Another Christmas party, another chance for fake holiday cheer. No thanks. I looked at the nativity set on the coffee table and a pang of guilt hit my heart. I know why we celebrated Christmas. I was not without faith. I did believe in God, but surely He had abandoned our family long ago and left us high and dry.
What was the purpose for our suffering? What is the purpose in watching our son suffer? Where was God when they handed down that first diagnosis, just one of many? Did God see my soul crumble and the very life drain out of me when they told us this could kill our little boy? Did He see the bills piling up? What about our shaky marriage? At a time when we needed each other the most, everything fell apart. Was God watching all of that too? No amount of prayer made any difference, our lives kept spiraling out of control. Nope, God didn’t live here and I, for one, would not be celebrating.
The house was dark and quiet. So quiet, I could hear the snow falling. The lights on the outside of the house shone in from the thin curtains. I tried to enjoy the unusual quiet, but I couldn’t. I turned on the radio for background noise; it was pre-set to the local Christian station. Our life weighed heavily on my mind. The events from this last year blurred together. It was the worst year our family had ever seen; a year that dragged us deep into the trenches and then left us there to rot.
I slowly drifted off to sleep. I must have been dreaming because I abruptly saw myself in church, sitting alone in a large auditorium. I made up the entire congregation; there was no one else. The room was eerily lit by candlelight. I sat and waited purposefully, but for what, I wasn’t sure. Suddenly the room changed. A faint whisper filled the room. “God did not abandon you my child.” A surge of anger coursed through my veins as I tried to object. “God understands your suffering my child.” “No He doesn’t,” I wanted to yell, but my voice wouldn’t work. “God has been with you all along my child.” How? When? Where? A million questions I wanted to ask, a million ways to disprove it that I couldn’t vocalize. “You are not alone my child.” My anger died down and gave way to a pain so raw I couldn’t speak as tears threatened to fall. “Do not be afraid my child.” I smiled bitterly; I was frozen in fear – fear of the future, that there may not be a future for our son, or that we were missing something that could make a difference in our son’s life. So just where was God? Where was the God who sees, hears, and knows everything? Why wasn’t He seeing and hearing me? “God was listening my child. He was right there all along; the same place He was when His son suffered, when His son died for you.” A lump formed in my throat. Full of foolishness and pride, I had no rebuttal, no way to ration my way out. I was unable to speak once again. “God has great plans for you my child and great plans for your child; have hope.” The words cut straight through to my dark, angry heart. Tears I had been holding back not just in this strange moment but for months now, spilled over as I felt a sliver of hope make its way in.
A car door slammed and jolted me awake. What was that? A dream? God himself? Bits and pieces of the radio talk program I overheard while half-asleep? Did it really even matter? I understood now. My husband and the kids came bounding in. My tear stained face seemed to startle my husband. He held out his hand and I took it as more tears fell. There was hope in my heart, however small, but it was there. Hope for our marriage, for our family, for our son, and for better days ahead. Most importantly, I let in the possibility that there is a purpose in our pain and we are becoming great witnesses of God’s faith and love. It was Christmas. We did have something to celebrate, many things actually, starting with our family. We don’t know what the future will bring, but we know that God is with us, even when we don’t feel it. We know that there is a purpose in what is happening. We know there is always a reason to hope.
May your Christmas be filled with hope, love, and joy, even amongst the suffering.