Saturday, January 7, 2012

When You Feel Forsaken

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” 
~ Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)

I did not feel that earlier today. I felt lost, angry, ill, attacked. I felt forsaken. I couldn't feel God with me. I couldn't feel Immanuel.

I am on day #3 of tapering off of a massively addicting psychoactive drug. I don't remember if I talked about my trials of withdrawal last year or not. I might not have felt safe to share it or I might have felt ashamed.

I'm writing about it now, though, because it is playing an integral part of my faith walk.

Withdrawal from anything is difficult. It can easily be a playground for the devil, for the great attacker to attack you at your most vulnerable. And that is what he did to me.

I was sitting on the downstairs couch wrapped in a blanket, crying to Husband; my head was spinning and felt fuzzy; I heard a strange whirring whenever I moved. I kept feeling like I amounted to nothing, like everyone would be better off without me. I kept picturing our master bedroom and the scores of pill bottles that lined the shelf.

I knew this was not me. I knew this was the withdrawal. My body and mind wanted a drug that made me sicker just being on it. I knew and Husband reminded me that I would be so much healthier off of it. I'm off two of my four psychotropic medications (DON'T try this alone; I'm doing this under the watchful eye of a doctor) and I have become so much more alive. I knew what was me. I was a child of Christ. I had Christ in me.

In the wretchedness of withdrawal, however, my positive identity goes out the window. I cried to Husband, "I can't find God right now!"

And that was worse than the nausea. Worse than the head spinning and whirring. Worse than the body aches. Not feeling God is quite possibly the worst feeling I can ever have.

The ironic (but quite possibly purposeful) thing about this is that Jesus understands this feeling. He, too, did not feel God present at a most critical point in his life:

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

Matthew 27:45-47

 Husband assisted me to the upstairs bedroom and drew down the blankets. I crawled in, feeling like some kind of bear hibernating in a cave. Husband turned the lights off, turned the white noise machine on, drew the curtains, told me to rest. I felt guilty. He assured me he would take care of things tonight. I cried harder, "I don't feel God!"

I asked for the little glass cross I carry in my pocket. It was lying on my nightstand. He retrieved it and placed it in my hand. He kissed me on my head and I asked if he'd say a prayer for me. 

I still felt forsaken. But I was able to ask for prayer. 

He prayed that I would feel better, that I would know that, even during the worst of it, that God was surely with me, right beside me. 

When he left, I fell into a deep sleep.

I opened my eyes and my heartbeat quickened when I heard our dog's frantic bark. He does that whenever someone knocks at or comes near the front door. Our bedroom is right off the living room so I can hear everything that happens. I knew that my younger stepchildren had just come home from the neighbor's house. My oldest stepdaughter was also at a friend's house. We wanted the kids to be away from the tension in the house. I heard Husband shush my loud stepson. I listened to them microwave leftovers, heard the moving of wooden chairs across tile floor. 

I laid there for a few minutes. I felt profoundly different. I scanned my body: I still felt achy, but not nearly as bad. I scanned my mind: free from attacks and feeling better. I squeezed the tiny cross that had remained in my palm even while I slept that hour which felt like a day. I knew that if I wanted I had permission to stay in the dark bedroom and rest the entire night. But I began to miss the kids, Husband, and so I gathered the light blanket around me and came out of the cave. 

Husband was surprised to see me. My younger stepdaughter turned and smiled, saying hello. My loud stepson said his very loud hello and although it rattled through my pained head, it was a welcome sound. I smiled at Husband. 

Today was a scary day. I rarely feel so alone; I rarely feel the lack of God. I quote now an email I received upon waking up from a dear long-distance friend who has three children with physical illnesses:

"My inability to help is often overwhelming. I would do anything to alleviate my kids' suffering, pain, fear, frustration, weariness, but can't. I can only quietly walk beside them through the tough spots, knowing God is good even in the midst of it, that He will use this in their lives and mine all for His great glory as we open our hands and willingly accept what He is allowing, even while we don't understand. I don't think we have to like what God allows, but we do have to accept it and allow Him to work in us through it."

And I understood it then: God had never left. He just doesn't do that. I had looked away from His love. He had been with me the whole time. I was too blind to see it. Christianity does not say that God will take pain away or keep us from experiencing it. God will walk with us, though. Do you not think that He looked upon His Son with a broken heart? He knew Jesus' sacrifice and crucification had to happen to make the world open its eyes.

Jesus felt that his Father had forsaken him. But Jesus knew better. He did not die feeling the lack of his Father's love. The ultimate love was Jesus' death.

God with us. I certainly felt my Immanuel after the hour nap which felt like a day.

I know that I will face these road blocks again. And I just may become blind again. But that is what the Bible is for, isn't it. It's His love letter to His children.

So when I feel forsaken...

Well, maybe  
Maybe that's the point  
To reach the point of giving up
Cause when I'm finally 

Finally at rock bottom  
Well, that's when I start looking up  
And reaching out...
~ "Strong Enough," Matthew West

Simply put, I am never forsaken.  

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” 
~ Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)

He goes with me - through withdrawal, into caves, into fearful sleep, into dangerous places, He goes with me. 

a great article about thinking that God has forsaken you can be found here.

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