A few years ago I met a man named Willie who was homeless and had come in seeking help because he was ready to end his life. We explored what had led him to this point. Willie's life had been filled with trauma, mental illness, and alcohol and drug problems. Nothing seemed to work out for Willie, no matter what he tried. He didn't have anyone he considered close and was just moving through the motions every day surviving. One bright spot he mentioned was his church, though he had not been there for a few months. When he would attend he reported feeling much better about his life, gaining hope. But now at this moment he was hopeless. He said, “I don’t think God hears my prayers anymore and I don’t think he cares about me.”
Sometimes are journey's are hard and we struggle moving forward. We may even ask similar questions as above. In these challenging moment's are communities are imperative. I encourage all to find communities where they feel accepted and can share openly with them about your thoughts.
The most difficult times in our lives, we usually try to keep private. Many thoughts go through our heads when something personal is impacting us. People will think less of me if they find out, no one will understand, or I don't want to be a burden to them. Every situation is a judgement call for each individual on whether to share those experiences or not. Not every situation is appropriate to share. However when we are able to be vulnerable with someone we trust, God meets us. True community happens when we share deeply from our own experiences.
How God Works
When we feel God doesn't answer our prayers we have to ask ourselves how God works in the world. It's an important question which is dictated in our own theological view of God. How does God answer prayers? Can we only experience God in a powerful, mountain top experience? How does God show that he loves and cares about me? I know for me God works through others and the every day situations I find myself in. Discerning that spirit when it happens is what is difficult. But if we go through the day seeking God, we might just find a little nudge in the form of a thank you, hug, or unexpected encounter. Is that God working in the world?
Viktor Frankl is a Holocaust survivor who wrote the book "Man's Search for Meaning." His writings indicated when humans lost purpose and meaning they usually ended up dying within the next week of encampment. As he continued to be imprisoned he had similar questions that Willie had. Where is God? Does he hear my prayers? Is God with us? Viktor Frankl identified that God is with him in his suffering and that his purpose at this point in his life was to suffer the best that he could. This is the same bold message that I have heard from the Community of Christ. God is suffering with us during our trials and he weeps for us. He is there in our happiness but also in our suffering. If you are suffering, I want you to know God is with you. God hears and feels your pain.
The Rest of the Story
As Willie and I continued to talk about his life and suffering I was able to tell him that he was a person of worth and that he had meaning to me. That night, Willie was able to get mental health support for his current situation by going to a place which would monitor and support him. If anyone reading has any thoughts of harming yourself, please tell someone close to you, go to your local Community Mental Health Center, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. During my time with Willie I could see his mood change and his outlook go from being hopeless to having hope inspired by God’s spirit. I don’t tell you this to toot my own horn, I tell you this because it deeply impacted me that Willie did not feel God with him anymore. There are many others out there needing to encounter the healing spirit of Christ some for the first time and others just again. You may be one of those people. If you are, join our community or reach out to one near you. Find a place that is right for you, one that will accept you for who you are and help you grow into who you want to be.
I want to leave you with this quote by Viktor Frankl:
“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.”
Thank you for all those following along! We love the responses we have gotten and those sharing our blog on social media. This week suffer the best that you can and tell yourself God is with you!
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.