Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday: When God Doesn't Give You the Answer

I watch as he trudges up the sidewalk toward school, backpack slung over one shoulder, left shoelace untied. He looks back. I wave and smile wide, but his face is a pale, hard mask. He turns toward the school again, and I stand still as ash leaves float like butterflies to the ground. He turns to look over his shoulder once more, and I wave and smile again, my teeth clenched in false bravado.

He disappears around the corner. I shuffle through piles of limp, ragged leaves, head back to the van, a dull gnaw festering in the pit of my stomach.

One of my sons is suffering. He has been, on and off, since his grandparents died. “I’m sad and I don’t know why,” he says softly as I butter toast in the morning. He’s crouched low, hunched on the kitchen step stool, his knees pulled in tight to his chest.

I snuggle close with him on the couch while we watch Wild Kingdom on Animal Planet. Smooth his hair. Point out the clear, blue sky and the brilliant sun as we drive to school, mention it will be a good weekend to spend outdoors, maybe hiking. But all my murmurings and snuggling and smoothing don’t make a bit of difference. He’s still sad, listlessly scuffing up the sidewalk with his head hanging. And I still have the pit as I pull the minivan away from the curb.

Back home I leave my jacket and sneakers on and pick up my Bible. I want to look at Sunday’s reading before I run, so I can mull over it while I labor through four miles. I read these lines from Isaiah 25:

There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears.(Isaiah 25:7-8, NLT).

I read those words, words so fitting for the despair that jags through my stomach, words of hope and consolation. And I feel nothing.

It’s not that I don’t believe the words. I believe them in my head. But in my heart, in that moment, as I stand in the sunroom in my sweatpants and running shoes, I don’t care about the tomorrow, about eternity and Heaven and everlasting life and salvation. In that moment, I am concerned only with the now. This moment of heartache and fear.  This moment of suffering and grief. The pain of now. Today. Those words seem fine and good for the someday, but I want comfort, a solution, solace, a promise for today.

I thought about those verses long and hard during my four-mile slog. I’d like to tell you I had a revelation, that I returned with renewed hope, soothed by God’s promise of a someday free of suffering. But I didn’t.  And I know this isn’t an inspiring, uplifting thing to say, but frankly, I think that’s simply how it works sometimes. You go looking for answers from God, and you don’t always find them right then and there. That’s why faith requires faith.

I will tell you this, though. I picked up my Bible again as I stood sweating in the sunroom after my run. It lay open on my desk to Isaiah 25, where I’d left it when I’d walked out the door. I read the same verses, and then I read a little bit more, through the end of verse 9, which says this:

In that day, the people will proclaim, “This is our God! We trusted in him, and he saved us! This is the Lord, in whom we trusted. Let us rejoice in the salvation he brings!”

Do you see the word that’s repeated twice? Trust.

We trusted him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, in whom we trusted.

And this is my answer for now -- I trust him, even when I don't have the answers I yearn for today.

With Emily's Imperfect Prose:

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A Joyful Noise  – (November 5, 2012 at 12:09 AM)  

Be sure to share that verse with your son. Put your arms around him and make that verse a prayer. He is worried perhaps about mortality of his family (you and dad) including himself. Certainly he is grieving and misses his loved ones who have gone before.

Jean Wise  – (November 5, 2012 at 2:57 AM)  

I think when one of our kids hurt, we hurt so much more with them. Grief is work and a roller coaster of emotions. I do believe you found the key though in trust. Sending up prayers for you and your family!

journeytoepiphany  – (November 5, 2012 at 6:17 AM)  

Wow, Michelle this is wonderful. I know that through your trust, and even better, your son's trust brighter days are ahead...but the darkness won't be wasted...you will have learned to depend on Him.

OutnumberedMom –   – (November 5, 2012 at 6:24 AM)  

Isn't Isaiah just SO wonderful? You're right...that's why faith requires faith. We just keep trusting, and feeling follows faith. Hang on, Mom. I've seen dark days with a son and I've seen the Son burst through!

kendal –   – (November 5, 2012 at 6:28 AM)  

my boys hurting is more than i can stand....

Mary Bonner  – (November 5, 2012 at 6:36 AM)  

Faith and trust...wonderful gifts and promises, but sometimes they seem like distance visions that will never become reality. Thanks for sharing this Michelle. So beautifully written, as always.

Wanda –   – (November 5, 2012 at 7:09 AM)  

I appreciate the honesty in which you shared this Michelle. I can certainly relate. There have been days when I sought answers but I didn't hear or feel the comfort I needed for quite some times.

Nancy  – (November 5, 2012 at 7:31 AM)  

Oh, how I want those answers for today, too.

Michael Moore  – (November 5, 2012 at 7:59 AM)  

Thank you so much for sharing this, Michelle. That feeling is all too real for me... I needed to hear that this morning :-)

Lisa notes...  – (November 5, 2012 at 8:12 AM)  

I never fully trust anyone who thinks they have the answer in every "now." So I'm glad I can trust you, Michelle. None of us can explain the how and why of everything. (And those who think they can are annoying to the rest of us.)

My teenage daughter suffered with depression during the year both her grandparents died. It was a hard journey not only with our own pain but watching her with hers. It took away another piece of my innocence. I still watch her carefully, even though she recovered, in time.

I won't offer you answers, just prayers, as you walk with your son as your Father walks with you both.

Deidra  – (November 5, 2012 at 9:33 AM)  

You've described it perfectly. I know that pit and the unanswered questions and the very thin and fragile thread of faith. I know the ache, and I'm glad you've written about it here. "This is the Lord..."

Sandra Heska King  – (November 5, 2012 at 9:34 AM)  

This made my heart ache. I love you.

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 5, 2012 at 10:11 AM)  

I so deeply appreciate your prayers, Lisa. And I feel better just knowing I am not the only one who has walked through this with their child. Holding on to your story of recovery. Thank you. xxoo

ro elliott  – (November 5, 2012 at 10:13 AM)  

OH... perfect for me this morning...we too have a daughter who is in a spiritual battle...its waves pound me at times...I cry out...for answers...but yes...faith takes faith...walking in the dark...trusting the light...and what I am learning...I may not have answers to the whys...but He has never failed to give a wise word needed in the most desperate times...He is faithful...He does answer...but not always the way I want Him too. blessings as we journey this path of faith~

Charming's Mama –   – (November 5, 2012 at 10:33 AM)  

Great post Michelle and so true. There's an old country western song that say "I thank God for unanswered prayer", that line has always bothered me because I believe that God always answers pray, its just that sometimes the answer isn't the one we want or the one that we think is right so we discard it in frustration that we aren't getting our way. Anyway the point of the song is a good one and that is: in the waiting for an "answer" something better than we could have imagined in the moment came along, in His timing, with His provision.

Grieving is a tricky thing, one I know only too well.

Richfaith  – (November 5, 2012 at 11:13 AM)  

I love it when God reinforces a word to us. So sorry about the loss of your son's grandparent. Prayers & blessings, faith & trust to your son, jen

Courtney Buxton  – (November 5, 2012 at 1:13 PM)  

Oh, as a mom - this is so hard. Ugh. And hugs to you. I'm grateful for your honesty. Reading the Bible isn't supposed to be a magic cure-all, and I need to be reminded of that.

Laurie Collett –   – (November 5, 2012 at 1:36 PM)  

Praise God that He can be trusted, & that His answers & timing are always perfect! Thanks for the beautifully honest post & for hosting, & God bless!

Elizabeth –   – (November 5, 2012 at 4:20 PM)  

And some days it seems that is all we have is this intangible that is truly trangible. Trust. You call it up and stir it up in me anew. How beautiful is this picture, tender and lovely of just taking a step and another and another, then turning the corner onto the page of trust. And resting there. Looking for it large, but sometimes it is just all we can do to see it in small print. Trusting with you and hoping for your son to feel a renewed spirit of hope and joy.

Pamela K. –   – (November 5, 2012 at 6:04 PM)  

I love this post. I really needed to read this today. Thanks for sharing!

soulstops –   – (November 5, 2012 at 11:14 PM)  

yes, trusting through the ache and the gloom..that is faith as you illustrated in your post...so sorry... praying God comforts your boy and your family...Thank you, Michelle, for trusting and pointing back to Him.

Anna White –   – (November 8, 2012 at 4:21 PM)  

It is so hard when it is our kids that are sad and hurting. Holding scriptures for myself is one things, but for them something else. Prayers for him

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 8, 2012 at 4:45 PM)  

Thank you, Dolly, for your prayers and encouragement.

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 8, 2012 at 4:45 PM)  

I'm glad it helped in some way, Pamela. I was afraid it was a huge downer, but it seems like maybe it struck a chord with some readers, so I am glad for that.

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 8, 2012 at 4:45 PM)  

Wow, this is really beautiful, Elizabeth - it could be a blog post in itself. Thank you so much for this.

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 8, 2012 at 4:45 PM)  

Yeah, it's true, isn't it? I guess I sometimes approach it like a cure-all...and it is, in the long run, of course. But sometimes, right in that very moment, the answer is not totally clear. And I guess that's ok...hard, but ok.

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 8, 2012 at 4:45 PM)  

Thank you SO much for this insight, Sydney - truly, truly appreciate it. In HIs timing, with HIs provision. Yes. Thank you for that.
P.S. I cried my way through All Saints Day service on Sunday and had switched my purse before I left for church, so I didn't have my lovely Kleenexy thing you made me -- darn! But I was thinking of you and your gift in church, so that was lovely...xxoo

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 8, 2012 at 4:45 PM)  

Oh Ro, I am praying for you and your daughter this morning. So hard, so hard. Trusting...and as you say, faith takes faith. Amen.

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 8, 2012 at 4:45 PM)  

I love you, too, Sandy - and I'm thinking of you, too, in this season of grief as Thanksgiving approaches and you are remembering your sweet mom's last days.

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 8, 2012 at 4:45 PM)  

I appreciate your empathy, Deidra. I felt a little guilty writing such a downer of a post, but in the end, I think it was a good thing.

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 8, 2012 at 4:45 PM)  

Oh Kendal, praying for you and him, dearest friend. Love you...

Shelly Miller  – (November 8, 2012 at 4:53 PM)  

Those words seem fine and good for the someday, but I want comfort, a solution, solace, a promise for today . . .this is where I am today, but He's teaching me to trust in the outcome, when I haven't a clue what it will be. I've just caught up on your last four or five posts. I do love that blog - this day is dessert - it's so peaceful and content over there. And I'm constantly reading too, till my eyes tell me to stop.

Glenda Childers –   – (November 8, 2012 at 5:16 PM)  

It is so wonderful that your son is talking to you about his feelings ... which are so normal for your family in grief. Praying for your own heart as you lead your boys through this process.


Shaunie Friday  – (November 8, 2012 at 5:20 PM)  

This is a really important post, Michelle, and true to your beautiful honesty that comes through in every post! Keep your boy talking to you--even if he comes to a place where he seems to be pushing away from that, make sure he knows you're not going anywhere. Help him find ways to give voice and expression to what he deeply feels--it is so important for kids to have healthy ways to deal with their emotions. Praying for God's comfort while you work through these understandably sad feelings in your family.

Emily Wierenga –   – (November 8, 2012 at 5:27 PM)  

oh friend. yes. it's all about trust. but so, so hard, when your little boy is hurting. i'm going to spend some time praying for him tonight. love you.

Elizabeth Stewart –   – (November 8, 2012 at 5:27 PM)  

I needed this today. Thank you!

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 8, 2012 at 5:48 PM)  

Thank you so much, Jeanie. You have been so encouraging all along this road of grief for us.

Amanda Hill –   – (November 8, 2012 at 9:44 PM)  

Good one Michelle! Very honest and real.

Dawn Howland –   – (November 11, 2012 at 9:22 PM)  

I don't vouch for the historical accuracy (it's not!) but this book helped me explain grief to these boys of mine. I didn't read it to my boys but I told them the end. So we left our hearts on the ground after my dad died at 61 yrs old. My boys were 5, 8, 10, 13, and 14. Almost five years later and we have begun carrying our hearts again though we have all been changed. http://www.amazon.com/My-Heart-Ground-Carlisle-Pennsylvania/dp/0590149229

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