Seeing God at Work in Dark Times
I write this today with my heart filled with hope. It feels good, though tentative, as if it may break in an unexpected moment. Life recently has offered little certainty for us as a family, there have been countless questions, so many unknowns, a lot of waiting and, in all that, hope has at times dwindled away to a distant memory.
A year ago my husband and I began to be worried about our daughter, there was nothing we could put our finger on, but something was not right. Our concerns grew, but she insisted she was fine, that is until the wall she was holding between us came tumbling down, and with it an outpouring of pain and emotion that we were not prepared for. Alarm bells immediately rang in much of what she shared, but we took each day as it came, gently encouraging her to share and allow us to find her the help she needed.
Sadly, once that wall had come down, she was no longer able to hold it all in as she had, and within a few weeks had spiralled down into a very dark place. Our once happy, kind and peaceful daughter had become a shell of herself, hysterical for hours at a time, awake all night long tormented by intrusive thoughts, unable to function, needing support and help to do the most basic of daily tasks. I cannot describe it from my daughter’s perspective of course, but as a parent, we found ourselves in what I describe with no sense of exaggeration, as a living hell.
There seems to be so little support for parents of mentally ill children. We’ve self-educated, read, watched, and asked questions. Google has been a good friend as we’ve sought out advice on how to help her, from those in the know. We’ve liaised with her school on why she can’t do her work, or why she’s late for the 27th day in a row. We’ve been up all night with her, sat with her, encouraged, soothed and spoken words of affirmation. We’ve also been angry and cross, have shouted at her and each other, and then fallen into a pit of guilt.
It has been the darkest of times, and I’ll be honest, I’ve regularly questioned where God is at work in this. I’ve asked how could a loving, kind & compassionate Father let his child suffer like this? I’ve found myself wondering if there was some kind of behind-the-scenes Job-style plan that I could not see. I’ve been so angry at God I’ve wanted to smash every piece of crockery in my kitchen.
But still I prayed. Oh, how I prayed. I’ve prayed more in the last year than ever before. Those prayers have been more desperate and with fewer words than at any other time in my life. I’ve cried out to God in anger, with tears streaming down my face and in words I’d not repeat in company. I’ve clung to God by the tips of my fingers, often simply whispering: please, PLEASE, help her.
Because despite all the questions and the ‘whys?’ How could I not? When all is stripped away, what is there left, but God?
I turned to the word and I read that Job in his anguish; the Psalmist amidst turmoil and grief; and Mary on watching her son die, could still trust and know that their heavenly Father is present and faithful, so then I had to hold on to the same. I’ll be honest it’s not been easy, but we have sought God every day for our precious girl, knowing she’s just as precious to God. We’ve prayed and worshipped with her each evening before starting on the trauma of the bedtime routine. We’ve reminded her of God’s abundant love for her no matter what. And in all that we’ve been able to see the tiny specks of light in an overwhelming darkness, in ways unknown to us ever before.
It seems ridiculous to say but we celebrated that because she was so sick, the local CAMHS prioritised her getting treatment, meaning just a few months wait - practically a miracle in my eyes. We were overjoyed when her psychologist assessment agreed she needed to see a paediatric psychiatrist with some urgency. We laughed and cried with tears of joy when she was prescribed medication. We have thanked God that even though the cost of her therapy is extortionate, we are blessed that we can actually afford it.
People say it’s a choice to hold on to God in tough times, but that seems far too simplistic. Perhaps it’s more like desperation? Hope? Or even the last resort? I think for me God has been the lifeline that has kept me going through all this. I know we’re not alone, I know God shares all our pain, that Jesus’ love for our suffering daughter is abundant, and that the Spirit is guiding us all forward.
So why is my heart full of hope today? It’s really as simple as our daughter having had a good week. We have had some good times together, we’ve laughed, had fun and made some small steps of progress. I know there will be more weeks of crisis ahead. There may be calls to emergency services. There will be tears and anger and not understanding. But I also know that my God is faithful and is with us in it all