How to See God When He Feels Invisible
We all have days like Judas. Days when we doubt. Days when we wish God would appear to us in a burning bush like He did to Moses or let us hear His voice to make believing in Him easier-- unquestionable even.
Days like these become increasingly common as we begin to stray from that childlike faith we used to have. Add loss, hardship, disappointment, and uncertainty to the mix, and it gets even harder to see Him.
How do we trust that He's still there when our life feels a mess?
When God Feels Invisible
After a month in the ICU, I flew down to Atlanta to continue therapy. Shortly after, I had facial nerve compression surgery to try to correct the paralysis on the right side of my face, which essentially entailed a small snip to the facial nerve behind the ear to encourage growth. [SD1] My family and I recognized there were great risks in the surgery, but at the time, my right eye wouldn't close all the way and the right side of my mouth drooped down. We decided to see if he could help me look and feel a bit more like myself.
The surgery lasted seven hours, three hours longer than expected. The doctor encountered two fractures, two bone fragments, a lot of scar tissue, and an ear bone pressing on the nerve. He noted that the nerve immediately expanded when the canal was decompressed, which was great news. So, in order to regain function, he would need to remove the two fragments and replace the ear bone Surgery was absolutely necessary; it wasn't just a matter of hoping the swelling would go down in time.
The doctor had given us a clear understanding that the time frame of results varied greatly. Some patients saw immediate results, some took a month or so, and still others took a few years. Some did not see any results. I remember waking up from the surgery that morning with everyone eagerly awaiting to see if the results were immediate. I was as well.
I slowly opened my eyes as the anesthesia began to wear off. As I lay there with a huge 6-inch egg carton dome wrapped around my right ear and saw the reactions on my parents and fiancé’s face, I quickly understood that I did not see immediate return of my facial nerve function. My ear was also ringing like a loud rock concert.
Initially, I had hoped the ringing was a temporary side effect of the incision behind the ear. Or that the large egg carton taped to my head was blocking my hearing. After failing a few auditory exams, I found this not to be the case. My auditory nerve was accidentally snipped during the surgery, and I lost my hearing in my right ear.
It was shattering. It was irreversible.
"Really, God?" I thought, "Taking away my job, fiancé, house, and independence wasn't enough? Now you want to take my hearing away too??"
On that day, I was angry. On that day, God felt and sounded very invisible.
When our life is at its worst, we ultimately have a choice. We can either become jaded, cynical, and let our suffering pull us away from our faith in a loving God or we can choose to see His presence in the mess.
When God Feels Ignorable
Even when our life is at its best, though, it's so easy to ignore His presence.
“Sometimes it's not that God makes Himself invisible. It's that He makes Himself ignorable.” - Jen Fulwiler
We can see God working in our lives - Scripture, the Eucharist, little daily gifts - but we limit Him to our explanations. We think the only way He’s working is if there is absolutely no explanation of what came about and thereby ignore His presence in the mundane.
Even Jesus used an ordinary hammer and saw to help his father’s carpentry business for two-thirds of His life before His ministry began.
Likewise, when you look at the way that Christ worked, you see He used regular earthly grit - loaves, fish, and mud - rather than magical unicorns appearing out of nowhere to heal and save the day.
Just because we know the science behind medicine doesn't mean it can't be God at work.
Just because a miracle can be explained doesn't mean it wasn't done by Him.
God often uses ordinary grit of the world and has the timing or place or details be what is amazing; the impact it has on people be miraculous. It doesn't have to either/or.
Choosing to See Him
While I recovered and adjusted to life with one deaf ear, I saw Him in the mud. I saw Him in the grit. In letters, comments, and care packages people sent to encourage me. In visits from my FOCUS team and high school friends to remind me I was not alone. In my facial nerve returning to show more of my smile.
Just because we suffer, doesn’t mean that He’s not carrying us.
Sometimes Christ can simply shake our hands.
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” -2 Corinthians 4:18
Let’s trust that we are never abandoned. Even in our darkest hour, there is reason for Hope.
How have you chosen to see Him in your mess?
For more posts and talks from Ashley, visit www.mountainsunmoved.com