Sometimes, news hits like a gut punch, right smack in the normal hubbub of dancers switching classes and dance moms chatting in the lobby. Sometimes, in an instant, everything changes and falls far from normal.
You try to keep your voice chipper because she’s already cried enough tears, and you’ll let yours come later. But your voice still cracks and wavers because the heaviness of life-will-never-be-the-same-again is a lot.
In the coming weeks, you’ll hold both what you know and what you don’t yet know in the open palms of your hands. You’ll pray on your knees and with your face pressed to the floor. You’ll accidentally smudge the lyrics of that worship song that you wrote in the margins of Psalm 139, because you can’t turn down the volume of grief.
Even then, you’re not ready for the crushing details when there’s a re-diagnosis. Late one night, you hold your cell phone to your ear with one hand and, with the other, you’ll press a pen to a torn paper towel, outlining bleak snippets.
The next morning, you turn on “Worthy of It All” . . . that song you play on repeat. You place your Bible (opened to Psalm 139:8-11) next to the paper towel scribbled over with your notes. You read aloud through the chapter. You’ll insert their name and read those dear words like a prayer:
If she goes up to heaven, you’re there.
If she goes down to the realm of the dead, you’re there too.
If she flies with wings into the shining dawn, you’re there.
If she flies into the radiant sunset, you’re there waiting.
Wherever she — all of us — go, your hand will guide us; your strength will empower us.
It’s impossible to disappear from you or ask the darkness to hide us, for your presence is everywhere, bringing light into our night.
As you pray, sing your favorite worship song on repeat, and recite Scripture, you begin to feel anchored to the unchanging truth that God is good . . . nevertheless. You begin to remember that He is kind, compassionate, and present — whether the healing comes on this side of heaven or not.
He’s the sort of God who finds us there on the raw edge of all that splinters and dead-weights; the sort of God who sits with us in our pain. And though our bodies are frail and hearts are busted, His promises never waver, never break.
He is the Hope-Light in the dead of night. The Gentle Guide of tender, aching hearts. The One waiting, listening, embracing us at every turn.
If you were to pull old journals off shelves and out of boxes, you’d find records of prayers big and little answered. Not always with a yes, but with an assurance that God hears and is near.
As a kid praying about things like misplaced cell phones, retainers, and return tickets home, you couldn’t see how the practice of praying in the “now” would teach you that God can always be trusted. Through it all, you’ve learned to go to Him quickly with all your thin hopes and insistent worries, knowing that everything that matters to you weighs on His heart too. You’ve learned you have His full attention and affection. That, God holds back none of His raging love for us, no matter how He answers.
As a college student, spending countless hours with open Bible and face pressed to the carpet, you couldn’t yet see how you’d need the things that crack you wide open to remember you know God differently on your knees. But now you see the gift in seasons of stretched-out waiting, urgent praying, and good things breaking. Because grace is in the things that make you seek Him . . . and you finally see this whole time, He’s been teaching you to treasure His presence over answered prayers.
God’s goodness is steady through every bend and valley. He’s with us in the miracles and the sunrises bursting wild through dark clouds. He’s also near in the grief and groan that makes the space between heaven and earth paper thin.
Indeed, He hears . . . and He is near when your heart is heavy.