I wanted to give God the middle finger. I probably would have, if he had been sitting in the car seat next to me.
Most people call it rock bottom, and I never wanted to say mine was as cliché as sitting in a dark parking lot at midnight with my forehead turning red against the steering wheel and my hands shaking from crying so hard. But that’s exactly what it was—that place where I felt broken, shaken, alone, hands smashing the dashboard and every doubt about life coming out.
A junior in college, and things didn’t make sense. I couldn’t think of one thing that was going right.
God, what’s the point?
God, why in the hell is this happening to me?
God, are you even listening, do you even care? I HATE MY UGLY LIFE.
There was silence in that car, except for me screaming at the sunroof. God wasn’t in the flesh to defend himself and I let him see the worst in me come out in shaking sobs and bitter questions. Why did I deserve for my life to fall apart? If God loved me, why did I have to wade through so much mud in this life? Why were the cruel, half-hearted, lazy, trash-talking jerks of the world moving forward and I was stuck in a trench twenty feet deep?
I never knew the floor could be so low. I never knew pain could be so real. My honeymoon with life was over, and now I was crawling on my elbows and just waiting for another bomb to go off. So this was….suffering.
Anyone who questions the existence of God—which we all have at one point or another—will always come back to that age-old predicament. Why do horrible things happen? Why would a good God allow for a bad world?
Even if I sidestepped my own struggles in life and chalked those up to circumstances or some grander scheme of the universe, I could spend hours on the pain being dealt at this moment around the world. Death. Genocide. Rape. War. Disaster. Hunger. AIDS. Disease. Ya, explain that. If God is so big, so powerful, couldn’t he just stop it?
It’s one of the most important questions of life, I think, because pain is the forefront of our minds all the time. Whether we realize it or not, pain has touched every single one of us. It’s a language that surpasses ethnicity, background, country, culture, or opinion—one that everyone on this planet understands and speaks fluently.
After years of being asked about pain and either passing it off or answering the questions vaguely, my own struggle brought forth a search for answers. Until suffering wrecks your world like a train crashing into the glass surrounding a snow globe, its difficult to grasp how problematic pain is. What we all have wondered, lying face down tasting dirt, is if God really is good and what the point is.
A few years ago, I sat on a porch swing next to a girl I had only just met and in between popping jelly beans in my mouth, I listened as she spilled out to me her past. Her addict parents that didn’t want or love her. The people who had abused her when she was still a kid, locking her in the garage because she was afraid of the dark. Being told, again and again, that she would never amount to anything.
How could those horrible things happen to a precious little girl with big brown eyes who never even got a chance? It made me angry—still does.
But today, that girl is a really good friend of mine, and she isn’t that hurt, scared little girl anymore. She’s a gutsy, courageous, awkward, beautiful person who has stood up in front of other people and explained how the horror of her past has somehow created a bright future.
It makes me wonder if there really is a point to all of it. [clickToTweet tweet=”What if your pain is creating a story that someone else will desperately need to hear?” quote=”What if what you are going through right now is creating in you a story that someday someone else will desperately need to hear?”]
The greatest pain in my friend’s life has become her greatest passion—helping other young girls who have been abused and neglected. Because she knows that suffering personally and she speaks that language, she is able to connect to others on a level that no one else really can.
I think that our pain is the same.
Imagine putting fifteen years of practice and work towards a dream and having it not pan out. When I sat in my car and cursed the sky, I had come face to face with the death of my college basketball career, my first major failure in life. I was trying desperately to understand why, after so much sacrifice and dedication, something so important to me could just disappear in front of my eyes. And dealing with that permeated my world—my life seemed off track somehow, my purpose in question, and I had no one around me to talk about that with or suffer with. I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning.
The truth is, six months later that still doesn’t really make sense. I don’t know why I ended up at a college to play basketball and ended up warming the bench for three years and never getting to see everything I had poured into that come to fruition. I don’t know why I had to suffer through that alone. Someday I might get to see something good from that pain, but I might not.
It’s hard to compare the death of a dream to play basketball with divorced parents, depression in deep lines against soft skin, broken hearts, teenage alcoholism, war, and abuse—I’ve seen friends and family and strangers battle the gritty and the gruesome. But pain is pain. And it sucks.
Every person you have sat across from at a table sipping coffee, every stranger you have passed on the street, every crowd you have found yourself in the midst of, knows what it’s like to suffer. They are fighting just as hard against life as you are.
Wouldn’t that unite us more than any sort of difference in opinion could move us apart? We all come from different places but can stand firm together during the low points and battle against our common enemy.
Because we do have a common enemy…and believe it or not, it isn’t God.
As much as I wanted to say that he had abandoned me to endure in those helpless moments, I never was falling apart in the silence and the screams alone. He wasn’t there in the flesh in the dark, sitting next to me in that car seat last November. Often times, he seems silent or absent in the torment. But he promises us this—that even though life is going to be hard, he will be with us. He will weep when we feel crushed, he will break when we feel broken. He will feel our pain. And if you believe the narrative of the cross, he also innocently suffered just like we so often do.
Suffering is the true enemy—it’s gross and it always will be. But I look back to rock bottom and I realize I have come a really long way since then, and you can too. Maybe, even if the pain is ugly, the person you are after the fact doesn’t have to be. Maybe your scars can become a part of your story.
“We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, ‘I survived’.”
-Chris Cleave, Little Bee