“For God alone my soul waits in silence and quietly submits to Him, truly,
For my hope is from Him.”
— Psalm 62:5 AMP
I have the privilege of hearing the life stories of many people. I’m rarely bored as I sit listening, even to the worst of story-tellers, because every narrative is different, and every person has a specific sentiment about their own history. Some tell their story like they’re reading a list of ingredients, “This is what went into the cake sitting before you today,” they imply. Others jump around so much, I’m left feeling like I just watched someone playing “Whack-a-Mole.” And then there’s the person who leads you through a forest, crumb by crumb; I desperately want to halt their progression and ask, “What kind of flower was that?” or “What’s that hiding behind that tree?” But I don’t want to miss the next crumb – so I hold my questions.
When someone finishes telling their story, we practice holding it in silence for a few minutes. There’s something holy, not only about the story, but also about how the storyteller has experienced the retelling of a tale they know all too well. A barrage of questions, while displaying interest, does not allow for “Selah,” the pause that permits reflection and respect due the story.
In those few moments of silent reflection, I find myself voicing to God in awe, “You already knew all of that. You saw it all happen first-hand.” But every so often, for some particularly heartbreaking story, I want to add, “What were You doing? Why that? Why them?” Although there have been a few times when I’m left feeling so angry that I want to personally call up the parents and share a few words, only once have I had to excuse myself from the room, weeping as I walked away.
At the heart of that story was a tale of callous betrayal and abandonment. Abuse by one parent, the death of the other, cruelty at the hand of the stepparent. As the storyteller told us later, there had been an attempt to talk about the earlier abuse, but they were cut off cold by the parent. There was no connection in the relationship and no hope for reconciliation before that parent’s death. And now there were only memories. Their question for us, “What am I supposed to do with the memories?”
Many of us were raised to have an unquestioning belief in authority. This happens in both homes and churches. But in the Scriptures, we see times when people close to God’s heart pour out their questions and doubts to Him. “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” was David’s cry in Psalm 13:1. From a prison cell, John the Baptist sent others to Jesus to ask Him, “Are you the Expected One … or should we look for someone else?” (Luke 7:19) And then there’s Jesus on the cross, crying out to the Father, “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34)
Crying out to God in distress, fear, anger or even doubt feels decidedly different than questioning His sovereignty. Most of the time our struggle isn’t, “Is God worthy to be in charge?” More often the struggle is, “How do I reconcile my experience with God’s sovereignty,” and then coming to grips with our feelings of dissonance about the situation. Maybe you share the storyteller’s feelings of uncertainty, “What do I do with the story I’ve been given?” or David’s feelings of weariness (How long, O Lord?) or John’s question, “Are You really Him?” or even Jesus’ cry to the Father, “Have You, too, forsaken me?”
Are you processing something about your own story that is difficult to reconcile with God’s goodness to you? Eugene Peterson once said that the most dangerous thought a Christian can have is, “God is good … to everyone else but me.” But you are not alone if you are struggling with feelings of dissonance as you think back over your story. You are not alone if you have memories that can never be made right. You are not alone if you have forgiven but can never forget the abuse perpetrated upon you. You are not alone.
You are not alone because your story is not over, and the Author of your story desires to be present with you, inviting you to share your story with Him. “For God alone my soul waits in silence and quietly submits to Him, truly, For my hope is from Him.” The Father is inviting you to bring your life, your story, to Him and wait in silence for Him. He knows it’s useless to hope that one day you’ll wake up and have forgotten the past; He knows it’s useless to hope that one day you’ll wake up and your abuser will suddenly take responsibility and be sorry for their behavior; and He knows it’s useless to hope that one day you’ll wake up and it just won’t matter anymore. He knows all that already. But he also knows you, and He offers you the hope of belonging. Our hope cannot rest in trying to change the past – our hope can only rest in the fact that we belong to the One who is writing our future. That hope is sure and steadfast.
ACTION: Take some time to contemplate your own story. What questions go through your mind as you reflect on your past? What feelings do those questions surface in you? How can you express those feelings to the Author of your story? If you have never done so, find a trusted friend or mentor and take an hour or so and share with them your life story and then talk with them about the memories that came to your mind as you were sharing. Ask them to pray with you and for you after you share.