It was May of 2016, somewhere around 10:30 p.m. It was another night in the brutal nightmare that had made up the last year-and-a-half, and it was during that time when I began to secretly self-medicate.
We’d spent the previous year seeking medical answers non-stop, during which time I’d also given birth to our third child. Only three months after my baby boy’s birth, my husband underwent corrective brain surgery, losing his job and our health insurance immediately after.
Though I’d graduated college and worked most of my adult life, we’d chosen to make sacrifices so I could remain home while our children were small. We had worked so hard trying to establish a good footing for our family . . . but in a matter of weeks, everything had been reduced to a pile of rubble.
By this point, Chad had been officially diagnosed with ALS, and I was already so depleted from the grueling journey to the diagnosis that I began to spiral quickly. My life was falling apart. I felt obliterated, alone, and utterly hopeless. I was on the brink of complete despair.
On this particular May night, once everyone was in bed I laid down outside, sipping from the can in my hand. This had become my go-to posture. My place of escape was to look up at the stars and try to calm the fear tyrant inside me.
Chad was dying. I felt like I was too.
The presence of God felt completely withdrawn. Gone — just like the life we once had.
What had gone so wrong? What grave sin had I committed to cause this level of destruction?
As tears began seeping out the sides of my eyes, I tried to talk to God but couldn’t speak. All I could do was keep taking one deep, labored breath after the next. A stream of shandy-laced saliva converged with a stream of trauma-induced tears, forming a river of fluids that ran out the sides of my mouth, down my neck and shoulders, soaking the back of my shirt. Lord, how did I get here?
As I rolled my body upward in a grand attempt to stand, I realized the six-pack I’d purchased was now gone, right along with my balance. My fingers collided with the red brick that literally keeps my home together. I somehow managed to fumble my way through the French doors leading to the interior of my basement and ended up face-down on the carpet. Face-down, as the reality of what I was facing surged through my body.
I felt angry that I couldn’t take care of my growing children and dying husband while staying on top of the bills and the housework. I felt guilty that I couldn’t do it all. I felt shame thinking that I’d probably somehow caused it all — and to boot, now I was drunk! God, You’re definitely punishing me, I thought. Maybe if I’d had more faith, I reasoned. Maybe if I had attended more revivals, hosted more children’s ministry activities, or worn looser fitting clothing? Maybe then I would have earned a good, happy, and picturesque life.
I had tried to live up to the standards of being a “good and faithful” Christian, but my mistakes were many — too many, I feared.
At that moment all I could mutter was, “God, please send help. I can’t do this by myself for one more day.”
The next day it was around lunchtime when an unexpected text came through: “Hey Lori, I wanted to let you know I’ve had it on my heart to help you with the kids while you care for Chad.” I couldn’t believe my eyes. HELP was here. Help that would come almost daily for the next six months.
I was so broken in that season and continued breaking. But later I could see that it was in that moment of failing and falling face-down on the carpet that God met me. It was in that moment of breakdown that He lovingly came near and consoled me.
As the days and weeks progressed, I began to see that not only was God providing help to me through this woman, but He was also comforting my children.
At the time, most people didn’t know that Chad’s mother was diagnosed with ALS only a few months after he was. This meant the grandmother our children deeply loved was now being simultaneously claimed by the same disease that was claiming their father.
But God knew ALL of this, and because He is El Shaddai (God ALL-Powerful), He’d already begun working behind the scenes by sending this woman and her husband to become surrogate grandparents during the very same time my children’s biological grandparents were being pulled away.
Friend, God is with us in the hard and He’s with us in the easy. He is with us in the ugly and He’s with us in the beautiful. He is with us in our good decisions and He’s with us in the bad ones. He is with us on the mountain and He’s with us in the valley. If you find yourself fallen, face-down on the carpet, He is right there with you too.
In the moments when your t-shirt is stained with shandy-laced saliva and trauma-induced tears . . . and in the moments when you have carpet-burned cheeks and a prayer of desperation on your lips — yes, God is with you even then.