Just over two years ago, I boarded a plane to go and see my father who had just been admitted to the ICU. My brain somehow didn’t let my heart know that he was dying, even though when I look back now, I can see all the information I had then pointing toward that very fact. As soon as I landed, I received a text from my brother that clued me in on the seriousness of the situation and I rushed to the hospital as fast as I could with my 7 month old baby on my hip. I saw him before I entered the room, tubes everywhere, machines beeping and buzzing, my family — his family — surrounding him. His hair, gone; his skin, yellowed. I held onto his hand and focused on him, it was all I could do to help guide him from this life here on earth to the next.
Five months prior, I received “the call”. The bad news. Yes, the cancer is back, and yes, it is terminal. My heart broke, I sobbed for a whole day, but I was determined that I would not lose my faith in God. No matter what happens, God is still good. I clung to the summary of Daniel 3: but if not, He is still good. Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego were literally faced with death if they did not bow down to another God. They were to be thrown into a furnace and burned to death. They were sure that their God would rescue them but they said even if He doesn’t, we will not bow down to these other gods.
Yes, I told myself, this is me. I am strong in my faith. I will not waver.
Fast forward to the day of my father’s funeral, already I find myself doubting what I have given my life to. Is this really true? Is this really worth it? I spent the next two years wrestling with these thoughts, which sounds neat and tidy written like that but my mind was an incredibly tangled web of doubt, self-doubt, depression, fear, and so many horrible thoughts.
“Where are you God?” I would cry out. I heard stories of other’s difficult seasons, and many were coupled with the phrase, “but I felt the Lord’s arms around me the entire time.” Hearing this made me especially angry. I could not feel my Lord’s arms around me. Why had he abandoned me in the most painful time of my life?
I tried morning quiet times, worship nights, praying (like, once a day), journaling, therapy — and still I could not feel God. Every time I had a shred of faith in my heart, I was suddenly filled with 10x more doubt.
This past summer, I re-read the book “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence. I had read it during the one semester of bible college I took several years ago, but had seemingly forgotten every word. If you have not read this book, I highly recommend it, but I can sum up it’s simple yet powerful message right here: pray all the time, think about God all the time. If you find yourself not thinking about God, don’t worry about it, just starting thinking about Him again.
This simple practice has been changing everything for me. Though these things are not bad, you do not need some amazing worship experience or quiet devotional time to feel God’s presence. You “simply” need to pray continually, as Paul instructs in in 1 Thessalonians. Here I was waiting on some magical, epic experience, and yet the Lord was able to meet me at the kitchen sink while I did dishes, while I drove in my car, while I changed diapers, any time. These are all things I knew in my head but, for whatever reason, I had forgotten.
What does it mean to have “eyes to see”? Jesus uses this phrase a couple times (Mark 8:18, Matthew 13:15-17 (which is actually a quoting of Isaiah, Luke 10:23 to list a few). Jesus uses this phrase when he’s talking with his disciples and alluding to the fact that they can see the things of God, or the way that God is working.
I no longer have any guilt or shame over what I experienced the last two years. Slowly, I have been able to feel God’s presence again, and while I don’t want to give the impression that I have been instantly healed of my pain or have everything figured out now, I now have eyes to see that God really was there the whole time. His heart was broken over His child’s pain, and He was holding me, even if I couldn’t feel it (I can unpack more of this at a later time but it’s not what I want to write about today). In Deuteronomy 29:4, we learn that the Lord had not given the Israelites the eyes to see or a heart that understood or ears that heard. They didn’t yet understand that the Lord did have the overall power in everything that had been happening. I feel like that’s what the last two years have been for me — a wandering in the wilderness, without understanding, without trusting that God had it in His hands.
Now that my eyes are opening up to the truth again, I chose to write for the next thirty-one days on having eyes to see. I have had small tastes, and I want to dive in, practicing His presence, and having eyes to see the way God is working.
Proverbs 20:12 says “Ears to hear and eyes to see — both are gifts from the Lord.”
Do you feel like you have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to understand? If you don’t, you simply need to ask God. And keep asking! James 1:5 tells us “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart.