If I've wrestled with anything in my faith and relationship with God, it's the fact that my emotions don't measure my intimacy with Him.
Have you ever driven somewhere and not known how you’ve gotten from point A to B? Such was the case this past Sunday on my drive home from church. I’ve made the 30-minute commute thousands of times over the years, and yet my vision was blurred by anger and tears. Apathy and emotion. Depression too deep for words.
Nothing was inherently wrong, but I felt a void. A deep grave of sadness oozed from my soul uncontrollably. During the sermon, I penned these words in my journal. Half ashamed I couldn't focus, half relieved for the pen's mastery in my right hand:
"Why is my soul so downcast? My heart so low? How can I get out of this pit? Have you left me? Are you still here? I need your power. Lord, where are you? Please take this darkness from me. It's so overwhelming. So deep, dark, and lonely. God, help me. Forgive me. I need you. I feel so lost. Embarrassed. Ashamed. No reason to be down, so why am I? Why am I numb? Help me look to you. I don't want to live this way. I feel selfish and broken. I'm so sorry, Lord."
Can you hear the pain?
Can you visualize the confusion?
The desire to be heard and seen?
You're Not the Only One Suffering
When I was little, my mom would have Saturdays when it was a struggle to get out of bed. She would tell me, "Amber, I just feel sad," as she'd burst into tears. Hours later, I'd go check on her. Either sleep eluded her, or it was all she did that day. I didn't understand it then. I'm starting to understand it now.
For those who suffer mentally, clinical anxiety and depression are a vicious cycle. One keeps you awake at night while the other begs you to never wake up. Both bring great turmoil, confusion, pain, and apathy. But as I sat in church this past Sunday, there was one thought that kept forcing its way into my mind:
"Does anyone even see me?"
Yet, the harder I gripped the pew, the lonelier I felt. I sunk into the seat and kept my head low. Maybe if I looked preoccupied, no one would suspect a thing. It's a confusing revelation desiring to be seen and unseen at the same time. Wanting someone to reach out a helping hand, but desiring to hide in the shadows as well.
Have you ever felt unseen? Just waiting, wishing, praying for someone to really see you?
Ask if you’re okay?
Ask anything so they might see you for you and not who you’re pretending to be?
Anything but the strong girl with broken and hollow eyes still fighting?
Does Anyone See Me?
Friend, I want to remind you today that no matter what you're facing, I see you, and so does God. And even when it feels like He's disappeared or doesn't care, keep clinging to that which you can't see.
If I've wrestled with anything in my faith and relationship with God, it's the fact that my emotions don't measure my intimacy with Him. Nor do my good works, deeds, or diligently followed Bible reading plans. My faith as a child has matured, but it's also been shaken. I've never known so many questions, confusions, and doubts as I do now. But one thing is certain: He still sees me and loves me the same.
I will not pretend to know all the answers. It's obvious that I don't. Yet, if I can make one less person feel alone, seen, and heard, I've fulfilled what Christ has asked of me.
A Familiar Story
In a familiar story, Genesis 16 recounts Hagar's radical encounter with God when she feels unseen, unheard, and abandoned.
As Sarai's servant, Hagar is forced to sleep with Sarai's husband, Abram. Note: this is before Sarai becomes Sarah and Abram becomes Abraham. Clearly, this is not the plan God had in mind for any of them. God had promised Abram that Sarai would conceive a child (Genesis 15), but they'd waited so long that faith began to dwindle. Taking matters into their own hands, Hagar became pregnant, only to become a quick source of strife.
"So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.” “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her" (Genesis 16:3-6, NIV).
It's one thing to feel unseen when those around you don't know you're suffering. It's another to feel unseen when those around you ridicule you for who you are and what you're experiencing.
Hagar was told by Sarai to sleep with Abram. But as soon as she does, she's cursed by the woman who told her to in the first place. I can't fathom her confusion and pain. Her desire to be seen by someone in this act of injustice. The mistreatment it would take to force her to run away.
But as Hagar stumbles into the wilderness, she's seen by a strong, loving, and powerful God she can't physically see. And as the Scriptures provide, she's not rebuked for running away but encouraged to face her adversities with God's power and strength. She is seen. She is heard. She is encouraged. She is loved. She is validated for the desert road she's walking through.
"The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered. Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count" (Genesis 16:7-10 NIV).
Strength in Validation (Being Seen)
Although Hagar may not have faced clinical anxiety or depression, she certainly knew what it was like to face hard times and feel utterly and deeply alone. Today, I want you to know that God sees and cares about your story, just like He does mine. He doesn't condemn you for what you're experiencing, and regardless of what those around you say or how they make you feel, you are known and seen by He who is greater. Regardless of our ability to see Him with the naked eye, He cares.
"The angel of the Lord also said to her: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered. So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael" (Genesis 16:11-16, NIV).
In Your Weakest Moment
In her weakest moment, Hagar was seen and known, and her faith and relationship with God grew abundantly. Not only did He bless her, but she received a fresh touch and view of His presence. He became the God who sees her, and the same is true today.
We may not physically feel His presence or emotionally connect with Jesus every single day. But faltered feelings don't invalidate Who we know to be true. He's still the God who sees me in my joys and my sorrows. In my anxiety and depression and in my laughter and dancing. And He's still the God who sees you.
On the night of my deep pain and anguish, my fiance wouldn't leave my side. And after sharing some ugly truths in my heart, he looked me square in the eyes and said, "Amber, I see you and love you the same." As I held his hand and later soaked in the words of Scripture, I fought the temptation to feel ashamed and alone. God was speaking through him and the Bible to show me He's still with me. He loves me. He cares. He's not leaving. And I'm confident He's still with you.
Keep holding onto hope, sweet friend. He sees you. He whispers in pain. In the darkest nights and brightest noondays. And you are seen regardless of what you're battling.
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