By Rebecca Vickery
Saturday night I was talking to God about my apprehensions regarding going to Church. Again. The previous Sunday, I spent about ten minutes of the service crying in the restroom. And an additional 10 minutes crying outside of the restroom. I don’t like be a mushy vulnerable mess. Panic attacks in public places are a new thing for me. My medications make my own behavior and mobility unpredictable to me.
I had all the excuses. I had already written to the Thursday night Bible study leader informing them that I was withdrawing from the study. I felt myself pulling back from the few life lines I had left, even withdrawing from the Celebrate Recovery chats. I felt invisible in some ways, too visible in others.
So I told God, “I don’t want to not want to go, but I don’t want to go.” I expressed my feelings to my husband, and he tried to convince me I should go again anyway. This was becoming a familiar dance for us. At one point, I started weeping, and my husband fell asleep. “Well,” I asked the Lord, “Now what?” My desire not to go hadn’t gone away. And then I got the gentle nudge from the Lord.
The devil, your enemy is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
I was allowing the enemy to drive me further from the fellowship I desperately needed. I was reminded of a conversation I had with the Lord earlier in the week.
Still wrestling with the lonely, I was lamenting to Him. “Why did I have to be perpetually alone?” God reminded me of Elijah. Elijah had fled from Jezebel who with her cohorts was hunting down and killing the prophets. Elijah cried out to God. “I have been zealous for you, and they have killed all the prophets. I and I alone am left.” I picture Elijah here so human and vulnerable.
Elijah felt desperate and alone. Boy could I relate. Yet, God didn’t say, Elijah, don’t be an idiot. Instead, the Lord meets Elijah where he’s at. A great mighty wind comes and shatters the cliffs, but it says God was not in the wind. And there was an earthquake and a fire. But God was not in those either. After this, Elijah hears the still small voice, a whisper.
God asks Elijah what is wrong. He listens to His reply. There is such patience and tenderness demonstrated in this exchange. He tells Elijah what he needs to hear. God Himself had preserved a remnant. Elijah was NOT alone.
Even in this, God showed tenderness to me in my frailty. He gently reminded me of His character. He restored my resolution to go to Church where I might cry. Where I might have panic attacks. Where I might be so obviously broken and messy. He would be there with me. He would be yet again reminding me that I was not alone.
My Bible Study leader approached me almost as soon as I entered the doors. She hugged me and asked me to consider trying again. Because of the Lord’s reminder to me I agreed. I cried, and it was ok for me to do so. The Lord met me in the prayers of His people (as He had done the week before, even when I just wanted to disappear.) He met me in warm embraces.
He met me in the kitchen when a panic attack required swift retreat (all the while being aware of how ridiculous it felt to seek solitude when the rest of the time it was solitude I dreaded most). But two of God’s people were there. They were not be content to let me have my panic attack in “peace.”
They were patient and loving, encouraging me to let them walk with me in the midst of it. They were the hands and feet of Jesus. They even walked me in and partway up the aisle when I was ready to try again.
Dear friends, it is so easy to believe the lie that we are alone. Sometimes we miss the ways that God does communicate His love to and for us. Sometimes the lies of the enemy feel so loud that it is like surround sound speakers playing terrible cacophonies of the refrain “You’re alone, you wretched, wretched human. And why shouldn’t you be? Just look at you.” That’s a lot of refrain, but you get the idea.
Alone we are vulnerable. Weak. We need others to remind us to fix our broken gaze so that we are no longer looking at all the obstacles, or the snares and entrapments, but looking to the One who can take us by the hand and lift us up when we stumble to present us blameless before Him at the end of this age.
Our momentary suffering does not always feel momentary. When we are in the thick of things, it can appear to be the ONLY thing there is. Suffering. Sorrow. But Jesus said we would have trouble. He also promised to be with us in the midst of it. Sometimes, we are called to walk forward in faith to be reminded that in spite of what the devil would like us to think, we are most profoundly NOT alone.