“Are you alright?”
“Not really. I don’t think I’ve been for a very long time.”
In all truth, I was struggling to find the words to write this month. These days I usually stalk around with a storm crackling about my head and coined the term, “bitter, party of three” for myself and my closest friends onboard—who am I to be giving advice? Clearly I am struggling to embody the “fruits of the spirit” here, and I tend to doubt many people come to see God’s light in my dull, pain-stricken (or furious and frustrated) eyes. Try as I might to reach for God’s presence, quite often I feel very far away indeed.
However, that’s not to say He’s not there.
And also not to say He doesn’t infuse each day with small doses of grace. And it is most definitely not to say that He doesn’t throw us lifelines, even in our most challenging times.
When you’re at your lowest, your most beaten down and defeated, who’s there to pick you up?
Sunday school would say the answer should immediately be God, but on a more material level it’s hard to picture the Divine Spirit rolling in to offer hugs. I read this once, though, describing divinity—“It depends on how you look at it. God can exist in a much more tangible form. For the hungry, God is a plate of food. For the dying, someone who comforts them. And for the orphaned child, God is a woman’s warm embrace” (Kim Baldwin).
And Cheryl Strayed, the author of Wild, wrote this to a Christian mother suffering through her daughter’s severe illness:
“if I believed in God, I’d see proof of his existence in that. In your darkest hour you were held afloat by the human love that was given to you when you most needed it … what if you allowed your God to exist in the simple words of compassion others offer to you?”
Much like there is no cookie cutter answer to why we have to struggle and why we hurt, there is no cookie cutter answer to how God works. His beauty and compassion manifest all around, and even we, too, can unknowingly be that helping hand, that “instrument of peace,” as St. Francis phrased it.
For me, I know my challenges will not end today. And somehow I doubt whatever aches in your own lives will stop tomorrow, either. But that’s okay.
A) because “God has given us a spirit not of fear but of power and love” (2 Timothy 1:7)—I highly recommend reading “Invictus” by William Henley or “Man in the Arena” by Teddy Roosevelt—and
B) because when all else fails, when even that indomitable spirit seems to falter, just remember. God is with us.
He is here, in the crannies and nooks, in the grit and grime. There may not be an altar or rituals or ceremony; there may not be verses or holy books. But He is there, nonetheless.
He is there in the soft wind caressing your bruised face; He is there in the random acts of kindness by strangers, when a friend sits with us in silent comfort, or when the dawn continues to rise each and every single damn day, despite all the madness that has passed before.
It’s simple, but it’s also complex beyond reason.
In the midst of all of our pain, God is with us.
Always. Sometimes we just have to work to see it.
About Brett Beeson
Brett Beeson, officially, is a Lieutenant JG in the United States Navy, currently attached to DDG54 Curtis Wilbur out of Yokosuka, Japan. She graduated in 2014 from the United States Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science in Arabic and a minor in Spanish. Unofficially, she is the “evil twin” (one of Jory’s twin daughters), that annoying-friend-who-won’t-stop-calling perpetual questioner, ice cream enthusiast, scribbler, roarer-of-laughter, and eternal student of God’s amazing mysteries. After extensive travel in Morocco and Oman, she has become passionate about furthering her/our understanding of the Middle East and Islam. To enjoy more of Brett’s writing, please visit Randomness with Brett.