*Note: I wrote this years ago to a hurting friend, a penpal from another country. It was a very special letter, so I hope he wouldn’t mind. I put it in here with the thought that it might help someone else out there, who doesn’t have someone to confide in. The language was simpler than my usual style so I spiffed it up a little bit. You can still hear the faith and security in the voice of that very young woman/girl. I believe it’s an important message for any hurting person to hear.
I will tell you two things that happened to me and I hope you will understand. I have tried to tell a couple of people about them, but they didn’t really understand.
The first is difficult to explain. Perhaps it would even sound ridiculous to most people. Maybe only God understood what it would mean to me, but that is the important thing—He understood. It will be easier for you to understand if you feel the way I do about God’s creation. Looking at the green of the trees against the sky and the delicate, fleeting beauty of wildflowers means so much to me. When I’m in nature I feel so much closer to God and so much more at peace. This often makes it very hard to live where I do. The desert can be very harsh and the imprisonment of our cinderblock wall suburbia can be incredibly bleak. It’s especially discouraging for someone who loves gardening the way I do. Working in the garden with my hands in the earth, helping things grow, is like feeding my soul. Yet it often seems pointless to try and garden in this harsh climate with dirt like cement and a brutal sun. Even my best efforts often had disappointing results. (I’m telling you this because it’s important for understanding my story.)
I was going through a difficult time during my first years in college—the dark valley, really. I can’t quite explain why. I only know that I was drained and hopeless every day. Back then I never suffered from insomnia, so at least I could sleep. But when I woke up it was like everything hit me again. For a few blessed hours I could forget…and then I had to face another day. Most of the time I just wanted to give up and die. Sometimes I would come home from school so exhausted and desperate that I would take all my clothes off and lay deathly still in bed, wishing I had the guts to swallow a bottle of pills. That’s how bad it was. I couldn’t trust God at all. I didn’t believe His goodness was for me anymore. I was very bitter and tried to shut Him away.
One day life seemed so utterly bleak—such a dark pit without even a pinpoint of light—that when I came home I just fell to my knees and cried. I begged God, “Let me go.” It seemed impossible to believe anymore and I was too tired to even try. I begged, “Let me go.” I didn’t just mean I wanted Him to let me die, do you understand? I wanted Him to let me go—completely—and drop away into the pit of hell, because I just could not believe anymore. And then the phone rang. I couldn’t answer it. I couldn’t care less who it was; I just stayed on the floor. But after a little while I got up and, I’m not sure why, listened to the message. It was from my mom.
Now this is the part that no one can truly understand. Yet even now I can hardly speak or write about it without getting choked up. I wish I could make people understand! It was such a stupid little thing, but it meant everything. Only God knew what it meant to me. I listened to my mom’s excited voice telling me, “I was talking with a lady at work and she has all these violets. They’re growing into her lawn and she has too many. She invited us over to dig them up, and put them in our garden.”
It sounds rather silly, doesn’t it? But it was violets! I love these tiny little forest flowers with their little purple faces that smell so soft and sweet. Only God knew how much I loved them. It sounds so insignificant, but it meant everything to me. When I heard that, I just fell to my knees and wept because I knew it was from God. It had happened right then, when I told Him to go away forever. It was like He said, “No! I will not let you go! Not ever!” It was a message sent that only I could understand—nobody else.
The other time God made His love so vivid to me was after He had pulled me out of the pit of depression (and E.D.) again a few years later. I was walking along in the forest talking to God in my head and thanking Him for all the times He had rescued me. I was thinking of how far I had fallen, down into that pit of despair. I thought I had hit the bottom down there in that dark mire. I was thinking of this and I heard His voice. I swear it’s true. It is the only time I ever heard it—just once. It wasn’t loud, but I knew it was Him. I was thinking of how far I had fallen and this soft voice in my head said so clearly:
“I never let you fall that far.”
And I realized it was true. I had thought it was completely unbearable, but…in a flash, my mind’s eye could see my hand as I was falling and then a great hand caught it and held it tight, to keep me from falling all the way down. I have seen people fall all the way down and some of them never came back up, but God didn’t let that happen to me. I had told Him I hated Him even, when I was in that much pain, but still He wouldn’t let go. I think of these verses for that:
“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.” (Psalm 37:23-24)
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains; from whence shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:1-4)
“For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, but the wicked stumble in time of calamity.” (Proverbs 24:16)
I hope you understand why I wanted to tell you that. Lots of people say idiotic things to you when you’re hurting. They can’t seem to speak to you in plain human. They lapse into sickening Christianese and say things like, “Well, you just need to have more faith. You need to pray more. If you were reading your Bible everyday like you are supposed to, I’m sure you would experience more joy.” Scarcely anyone has the honesty to say, “I can’t imagine what you must be going through. I am so sorry you’re hurting. I don’t know what to say. I don’t have any answers, but just please believe that God is still there. Because He is.”
Very rarely do people have the courage to be authentic enough to say, “I don’t know.” I would have given anything to have heard that when I needed it. But no one ever said it to me. So now, more than anything, I would like to be able to say that to someone else when they need it. I would like to be that friend that I never had because then the pain would have been worth it, to help somebody else. It wouldn’t have been a waste at all.