Just about two years ago, in the middle of the night, I was sitting on the steps in the garage (so as not to wake Amy or Mark), occasionally getting up to walk anxiously around, talking to God.
I was overwhelmed — with panic, with the deepest rage I’ve ever felt, with hopelessness and desperation — and with the sense that something needed to change right now. Calling on God to tell me, to speak clearly, about what to do, what change to pursue, and how.
We had moved to this state and this new job of Mark’s late in the summer, and my psychiatrist had advised me to stay on my PPD meds until we felt settled in our new home. Things had started out so well, so as the winter holidays approached I started tapering off the drugs.
And everything fell apart.
There were divisions and hurt feelings and distance in the playgroup, and it dwindled to literally nothing. I had no social life.
We were not satisfied at the church we were commuting to, and the commute was a pain and a stress with baby Amy’s schedule. We started visiting local churches again, and started attending one in particular, which was okay but not thrilling.
Everything else started to bother me, too.
The old strident voices of meaninglessness, abandonment, and betrayal were loud again, and the evidence all seemed to be in their favor. And as the pit approached, we were all fleeing — none of us wanted to face the possibility of another crisis major depressive episode. And some of us feared that if we did face the possibility, we’d be doomed — this would be our life forever, one crisis after another.
God didn’t answer me in the garage — not clearly and obviously, anyway.
A hotline person was mediocrely helpful, as were a nurse and a doctor — the doctor told me that if things didn’t calm down in an hour, go ahead to the ER. Of course the ER had nothing to do for me. And of course, our insurance rejected our claim — apparently having a doctor tell you to go to the ER isn’t sufficient authorization. Apparently the insurance people have no idea what a panic attack is.
Resuming one of my PPD meds, at a low dose, eventually brought me to a more stable place. Likewise the revitalization and reorganization of the playgroup with a bunch of new families moving in.
Was it God’s answer that my brain does in fact need this drug to work properly and counteract the wrong thinking and feeling patterns? And that my idolatry of seeking life from relationships is not healthy for me or for my relationships?
Or am I grasping at straws to vindicate God who failed to answer me in the way I requested?
And ultimately, can I know?
I press on. I believe there is good evidence that there is likely a God, and that the Bible is an authoritative source of information about him. From there, I believe that God’s character is unchangingly good and loving and merciful, and that even when he opposes me he does it out of true love and true goodness and true mercy, with great compassion, in order to draw me to himself even more, where I am most blessed. I believe that when I am not sure of his voice, it’s not my responsibility to give him one — I am to be open to see his work in and through my circumstances, but I don’t have to pretend to know that he is saying this or that to me. I believe that I can and should bring all things before him, including my desperate requests, my horror at not being answered, my fearful willingness to see his answer in indirect ways, my deeply flawed faith in his character, and my trust that he will lead me into all truth.
Shall I, like Salieri in Amadeus, infer all by myself that God’s failure to speak audibly or even in my head that night means that God has abandoned me or that there is no God, and therefore withdraw my faith and trust and set myself against him?
And neither shall I infer, like Abraham, that, since God has not moved, it is now up to me to make his promises come true.
No, but I shall wait on the Lord.