What do you do when prayer feels like its failed?
Is there a coming back from the way it makes you feel, the deep abyss so quick to catch us in those darkest hours?
There are defining moments in life. Not just one, but many, when the decision to believe is like leaning over the edge of a cliff. When belief feels like chance, like the possibility of falling over that cliff is just as likely as turning around and walking away.
I was in a parking lot when Lisa called. Jake was gone and with him, every prayer lifted up in faith. And it wasn’t just his death that was devastating but the hope that had been collectively poured and prayed into Bret and Lisa’s life just burst and shattered. Where does hope live in the absence of a hiding place?
Because isn’t that what we do? Store up hope in the deepest parts of us. Tucked away and buried deep so it can’t be stolen or carried away to Heaven?
When a friend suffers it’s a unique kind of hell. Loving someone as an extension of yourself means taking on their suffering without being able to call it your own. There is a deep sense of failure because when she doubted you encouraged. When she worried you reminded her of all the ways it would be beautiful. When she agonized you said not this time while silently making it an oath you’re weren’t qualified to make.
Like we can pray away God’s plan when it doesn’t mean a happy ending.
And when the unthinkable happens, when that baby, so loved and cherished, is suddenly and inexplicably gone, faith feels like it fell over the cliff without giving us a chance to catch it.
And we feel guilty because we prayed and if praying meant completely trusting God’s will, then doesn’t that mean we prayed him gone? That I prayed him gone? Maybe not but it felt that way for a very long time. Because I trusted God and God ultimately brought him Home.
In the months that followed Jake’s birth I considered every way to make sense of his death. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that there will never be an answer good enough this side of Heaven for why he’s not here. And I believe that if God stood in front of me at this moment and told me in His own words, I still wouldn’t be able to understand it. And that’s okay.
I don’t want there to be a reason simple enough that I can understand as to why Jake isn’t going to celebrate his first birthday.
I need God to be bigger than that. I need faith to be stronger than that.
I’ve told Lisa that my biggest fear in this life is to lose one of my children. It used to wake me up at night, the thought leaving me breathless. But then Jake died and instead of becoming more fearful God used this little boy, a forever son, to break that fear wide open with truth.
God is good. God is love and God is. our. hope.
Watching Lisa grieve has not only been hell, but it’s also been painfully beautiful. Walking beside someone you love, choosing to stand next to them in the pit, brings intimacy and perspective. And she blessed me along the way without even knowing it. She let me fumble over my words when I felt pitifully unprepared to support her. She was vulnerable without apology.
Most importantly, even in the grieving, fist shaking rage that can swallow a person whole, she pointed straight to Jesus.
One year later I still stand on the cliff but I’ve learned choosing faith is easier when you’ve scaled a rocky, vertical wall. Somehow it doesn’t seem as steep, the climb exhausting both doubt and fear along the way.
Even now, Jake’s death still leaves me deeply sad. But even now, God uses his life as a reminder that perfect love casts out fear. That Heaven is not a waiting room but a resting place, safe in His arms.
God reminds me through Jake that friendship is just another word for family.
That even in death, there are miracles.
And with God, there is always HOPE.