Over the last few months, I have felt an anxiety and heaviness I’ve never experienced before. It comes from a greater awareness of the world around me, of the many people who are in pain, and my seeming inability to affect change in the world. I have begun asking God ‘Where are you?’, because I cannot understand a God who watches people in agony and does not help them.
I asked God that question on January 24—the day the world, already so broken, was turned on its head and fear began to rule our lives.
At first I couldn’t hear Him. But then a picture came into my head. It was the image of a man weeping. It was God. And while I couldn’t fathom what I was seeing, I knew it was important. Because if God cries, then it means He does care for the world, and He hasn’t left us alone.
There are some brilliantly qualified people who can tell you about theology, politics, feminism, the pro-life, pro-choice debate, xenophobia, religion and free speech. I would encourage you to find those people and learn from them. I am not claiming to be one of them at all—I am a writer. But in the current political climate and in a world where so many people are hurting, one of the greatest tools I have is my pen.
If you are like me, and have been trying to find God in this mess, then maybe you will find Him weeping the corner too. He might be wearing a robe or head scarf to hide from the sun, a pair of comfortable jeans with sneakers, a band tee or a button up. However you find Him, He is there.
And this is how I found Him.
There you are. Small, frail. The most powerful figure I know, hunched over. Your shoulders are heaving. Your face it wet—or it would be, if I could see it. Instead you have covered it with your wide palms. Your calloused hands are soaked by tears.
Even when you take them down to rub your nose or clear your eyes, they are damp. Wiping them on your robe is no reprieve. They are just as soon wet, holding your sadness to your face, like you must confront it with every gasp of breath you take.
That’s how I find you. Alone. Consumed by your grief and sadness. Even as I walk through the door, the heaviness of it overwhelms me like a thick blanket. The room, normally so light and airy, is full with your groans. They pour out of your mouth like a mother giving birth to a child. When I first hear them, I go to block my ears. The pitch and depth is unbelievable. Rich in unspoken words, years of pain, and the many names etched on your hands. It speaks of hunger and thirst, injustice and hatred.
I can’t fathom what I am hearing. It is not just thunder, but the consequential lightning. The intensity of your pain is permeating me, like it darkens the room we are in. I want to leave, but I am drawn to you. My feet shuffle forward. I kneel beside you, holding my hand across your broad shoulders. I wait to see if you look up, or give me any indication this is ok. Bur your hands don’t leave your face. Your head is drawn down, and I can see your shoulder blades beginning to heave again.
I do not know what to do. So I awkwardly adjust my feet, finally crossing my legs as I stroke your back. I worry my presence is making the tears flow faster, so soon I stop holding you and just sit.
Nothing changes. The sun is fading, but your rasping continues to tumble out of your mouth. Your tongue forming words and sounds I have never before heard. You begin to rock, and after some time your body, weary from exhaustion, falls to the floor. I see you on your side and am shocked.
Sprawled in front of me, I can see the shadows of your soul tracing their way across your body. Your hands, normally so strong and able, have become pruned from your tears. They are limp, just barely holding your head up as your neck threatens to make you fall even further—if that were possible. Arms still held tightly to your body, I see the stress on your ligaments. Your back has collapsed from your persistent crouching, and now spasms as it finds rest on the floor. And your legs are drawn to your chest, like you hold some sort of immeasurable suffering in your heart, and your body is fighting to keep it inside.
All the while your continue to weep.
I must stop you. I cannot bear to see you like this, so I try to coax you up. Your hands push me away.
“Let me be.”
I stop, stunned. Angry, hurt, resentful. Frustrated my attempt to heal has proven futile. But I don’t leave. I am concerned for your safety. So I push myself away from your body and sit on the couch. I can see you here without touching you.
I leave you, your sobbing broken up by intermittent wails of agony. At one point I am concerned you are injured. Your body is so twisted and frail, but the sound recedes. And you simply rock.
Backwards and forwards. On your knees now. Backwards and forwards.
I watch, waiting. For anything to change. For some indication that I can do anything useful.
Hours later, your face clammy and pale from exertion, you get up. Slowly, you walk to the other side of the couch. You ease yourself onto the cushion, and I nearly fall off in my haste to get you a glass of water.
“No.” I am indignant this time. I don’t care how stubborn you are, I refuse to leave you alone like this.
You say it with force, and I have no choice but to sit back down.
“Please,” you say. And for the first time since I arrived, you turn to me, your eyes meeting mine. “Let me be.”
There is something in your voice that allows me to trust you. Your face is still streaked with tears and your eyes are resolute, yet pleading.
I realise you have been in control the whole time. That in your grief, you have purposely chosen to mourn with a privacy and ferocity I have never seen before. That instead of being controlled by your pain like myself, you have stopped and truly experienced it, allowing it to consume every fibre of your being. Not simply ‘working through it,’ but dwelling in its angst. In doing so, you have become broken.
I can’t speak. Not because I don’t want too—but now I have nothing to say. I realise what I am witnessing is far more sacred than I anticipated. That in my years of knowing you and sharing our home, we have never met like this before.
“I know,” I reply. “Is it your shoulders? Your neck? Did somebody upset you?”
I reel of possible reasons for your agony, and make a mental note of who I can hold responsible for each incident that caused it.
You stare at me again, this time your gaze penetrates my thought process and I know you know about my judgement. About my urgent need to fix you, because I can’t cope seeing you like this. That, in fact, I don’t know if I can exist in this heaviness for much longer, and I am thinking about making an excuse to leave.
Fresh tears come from your eyes, and you hold out your hands to me. Instinctively, I go to hold them, but stop when I see what it scrawled across yor palms.
Names. Dates. Cities. Laws. Words no man should ever repeat. And then, somewhere in the midst of it—my name. Me.
You are weeping for me.
“Let me heal you.”
You speak through your tears, and I begin to trace my name across your palms, unable to understand the content I am seeing. Still unaware of the pain your hands bear witness to.
I look up, and realise I have begun to cry too. Fear, hatred and pain come crashing out of the vault in my chest—my pointless attempt to control my own emotions and keep it together.
This time, you draw me close and hold me. Huddled over, I begin to sob. At first it is muffled, and then I start moaning, filling the room with a diluted version of what it heard earlier. I have no words, but you don’t seem to expect them. You just pull me to your chest and let me weep.
Soon I feel your chest heaving up and down, and when I look I see your face lit up with tears. You are crying for me. For the world I cannot understand and want to save. You are feeling my agony so I can let go of it. So I can take hold of your love instead—the love scrawled in agony on the palms of your hands.
You don’t want me to be plagued by my own darkness anymore—the darkness that fills my soul with anger and fear and frustration.
“Feel it all.” You say to me. “Feel it all, and I will make you whole again.”
“Feel it all and then there is work to do.”
So we sit, and my friend, the Great Griever and I, dwell in our cloak of darkness until it lifts enough for the light to shine through the window ledge.
And then we get up, and go to work. Because there is much to do, and many hands to welcome with the Great Griever’s love—and I want to meet them all.
If you feel alone, please reach out and ask for help. Find a 24/7 hotline in your country here.
The Day that I Found God is a song from Switchfoot’s album ‘Where The Light Shine’s Through’. When I was searching for a name, it was the only one that felt right. You can listen to the song here.