Elora Ramirez is a remarkable woman, full of passion and compassion. She is the founder of The Story Unfolding (offering story coaching and the excellent Story 101 and Story 201 online writing courses I’ve been enjoying), and the author of Every Shattered Thing, which I reviewed earlier. Her writing is fire and beauty, and I am honoured to call her my friend. This particular God and Suffering story is very close to my heart, because in June 2013 I remember crying along with her. It’s a privilege to share this story with you:
[warning: contains swearword]
My husband was cooking when the roommates came home that day.
I was sitting on the couch, watching something on the TV and desperate for some type of escape.
Their youngest walked up to Russ.
“I’m sorry about the baby, Russ. I wanted one too.”
I breathed in quick and ran to my office for safety. I was past the point of hiding the tears, so quickly they came at a moment’s notice.
The apartment went quiet as I shut the door and sat down at my desk.
What the fuck, God. How is this you Fathering me?! How is this you — how is this not the one thing you know would push me over the edge?
My scribbles nearly tore through the page as I journaled and wept and forced myself to gain some sort of togetherness before walking out of the office.
It was June 2, 2013.
May 31, the baby who was going to be our son was born.
On June 1, twelve hours after receiving a text with his picture, his mother called me, telling me she was sorry and begging me not to hate her, but she needed to keep him. She needed her son.
I heard nothing from God in those moments.
When my world was crashing around me and everything I knew wasn’t real, there was radio silence on the end of the One who told me a year earlier, just let me Father you.
And I begged. I cried. I cussed and railed and thrashed and pushed against Him. I crossed my arms over my chest and curled into a ball in the corner. I questioned.
And still nothing.
The only thing I ever heard, in the midst of the journaling session I mentioned above, was a whisper I could barely make out above the roaring of my heart—
I know. This sucks. I’m angry too. And I’m here.
Without going into too much detail, my husband and I have experienced a lot of loss this year. This failed adoption placement was the icing on yet another cake of unexpected pain.
The other day, talking with a friend, she kind of chuckled and said, “you know there was a moment where the pain wasn’t even puncturing you anymore. It just kind of rolled off you in waves—like it was dripping off of you. There’d been so much there was just no more room. It was all just overflowing.”
I remember sitting in the audience during a conference a few years ago and a well-known preacher was talking of suffering—how we are never as close to our Jesus as when we are in the midst of suffering. How He’s right there—comforting us through it all.
And then he said, “sometimes? I wish I could go back to the wilderness. I miss the relationship I had with Him there.”
This concept of being in the wilderness came up recently with some girlfriends and me. I was being pretty honest with them, letting them know I knew God had some risks for me but I didn’t know what they were, it just looked like a massive mountain He wanted me to jump off of and I shrugged.
“I just don’t know if I can—my struggle is unbelief. After this year? I know He will catch me but what I feel is that I don’t know if He will after all we’ve experienced. It seems like all we’ve dealt with this year is Him saying jump! and us jumping, and then us crashing against the harsh cement because He forgot to catch us.”
They looked at me, their eyes wet with their own tears. “So how do you feel about being in the wilderness?” One of them asked.
“Bitter. Tired…no, exhausted. I wrote in my journal today that I am tired of Him saying I’m here —I need to feel Him. I need Him to touch me. I need to breathe Him in because it’s hard enough breathing on my own right now.”
And then they reached forward and grabbed my knees and elbows and hands and prayed over me—refusing to whisper the words that make me cringe.
One day, you’ll understand. One day, this wilderness will be sweet because of how close you were to Christ.
Instead, they wept with me. They whispered prayers and clinched tight my hand and said, “it’s okay to struggle with belief, Elora. I see nothing but strength in your eyes. You haven’t given up—I know it. I feel it. And I’ll sit here and believe for you until you can believe on your own.”
There’s so many things I can point to when it comes to suffering and keeping the faith. Instead, I want to look in the eyes of those who remember the wilderness. Too often, we put words in the mouth of others.
“You’re going through a horrible time—I get it—but this is where He’s closest. Trust me. You’ll be thankful for this moment one day.”
It’s called the wilderness for a reason.
More often than not, God’s whisper and presence are resolute in silence.
And we can turn around once leaving and say “this right here? This is how He met me there…”
But more often than not, it’s through a stream far below the surface of that cracked and parched earth and not in a way we can see.
It’s just the strength to thrash against Him as He holds us.
And the words to articulate how we feel.
And the bravery to tell Him how angry we are in that moment.
And the hope that when all goes quiet and our hearts are roaring in our ears, we’ll hear something—anything—even if it’s the soft rhythm of His whisper against our soul not showing us the way Home, but saying “I know. I’m here. And I hear.”
Elora Ramirez is the author of Every Shattered Thing and founder of The Story Unfolding. She lives in Austin, Texas with her chef-husband Russ and loves saying it holy & broken, midwifery of words, and coffee. You can find her on twitter, Facebook, or read more on her blog.
Over to you:
- When have you been in ‘the wilderness’?
- Did God’s voice and presence seem far away or close by in those times?