On staying in the storm

There have (hopefully) been times in all our lives when things have felt smooth-sailing when the storm has ceased and everything is peaceful for just one moment. When we wake up and feel like, I can do this. We can pull on our church jeans and cardigans and thank God for everything on Sundays because everything feels good like it lines up the way that it should be. Maybe those days come rarer for me because when they come, I live in permanent anxiety for when they end and the storm comes back again.

And when the storm does come back, full-force, with all the grief and losses life can sometimes bring to you, it’s not so easy to praise the Lord anymore. Forget going to church, it feels impossible to get out of bed to brush your teeth. Sometimes, it’s paralysing, feeling as though you’ve had a bad day, which turns into bad weeks, and months, and then you feel like everything is always bad. In the middle of the storm, to even say the word “faith” feels like a curse on my lips. I’m drowning in the ocean, waiting for days to pass so that I could close my eyes and sleep again when it got dark. Hey God, I’d think quietly several times a day, where are you? I had grown up well-versed in the testimonies of other Christians, who shared bravely about how they had overcome their hardships with the love of God, with miracles that they knew came straight from Him. I watched sermons, read books, and studied the lives of other Christians, wondering if there was some sort of formula I could replicate to receive some part of God’s abundant supply that everyone kept talking about. While I did, it felt like my relationships, school life and mental health was swirling at the bottom of a toilet, going nowhere. I don’t know how to convey the feeling of such hopelessness into words–it just sits in your chest and grows like a seed of hatred. It consumed the way I looked at everything until I knew nothing else.

“Paul went through a storm,” one of my favourite pastors preached. It was in the middle of the pandemic, and I was sitting alone in my bedroom in the middle of the night falling asleep (timezone difference). “Do the biggest storms make for the best stories in our lives? I think sometimes they do.”

I was listening now. I wasn’t in the mood to try and squeeze the best story of my life out of all this awfulness, but I was unquestionably in a storm, which was enough for me.

“It is staying with the broken to get the blessing. When my heart is breaking, it is important I abide in God’s love so I can experience His greatness in greater measure. Don’t run to a relationship to solve loneliness that is a compromise of your character. Don’t run to something because you’re lonely, that is ultimately going to put you in a condition where you end up with no hope. Ask Jonah if some storms can be avoided; he went through a storm because he had an appointment, God said he’d rather take Jonah through a storm than have him waste his whole life.”

There were big, fat, cheesy tears rolling down my cheeks. The storm sucked. It utterly sucked. There was no other way of putting it. I was twenty, and so very lost. Life stretched before me like many different diverging paths in the woods, but I was exhausted of thinking and choosing.

“I love what the angel said to Paul. You can’t die in this storm, you have an appointment. Have you ever watched a TV show and known that the same guy in the first episode is going to be there for all the next seasons? When you have a word from God concerning your life, it can be simple. He said He’d never leave me nor forsake me. So I’m not going to die in this storm.”

It was simple. I didn’t know where the storm was taking me, or when it was going to end. I didn’t even know what good was supposed to come out of it, what life-changing lesson I was going to take away from it and put it in the testimonies I hoped I could one day tell my children. I saw my life in days and planned to get through them. I was, and am, fighting so hard to get through them. But these were powerful words that resounded in me, which I held close to my heart. I repeated it to myself on the nights I lay in bed, swallowing the rising anxiety, trying to sleep. I repeated it to myself as my feet touched the cold floor on mornings I finally got out of bed. I repeated it to myself on walks and runs and everything in between.

I’m not going to die in this storm.

And for now, that’s good enough for me.

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