When my father passed away, I felt as though a big chunk of myself, was suddenly ripped away from me. I felt hollow and incomplete, while confusion and doubt began to creep into my once unshakable foundation. I couldn’t imagine losing him, especially from an illness that seemed like an easy fix for a God who can do anything. I faced a harsh wilderness that lasted several years. I saw my faith slowly crumbling right before my eyes for the very first time.
A couple of years after my father’s death, I was surprised that I still felt just as “let-down”, and deflated as the day I was told of his passing. Honestly, I hated what I perceived as my wilderness experience. Often, I would pray for God to help me forget him, so that I could breathe without shedding any more tears. I remembered sharing my need for prayer during a moment of vulnerability with my Abante team. It was interesting to me that after a few of those sessions, I began to feel somewhat relieved. It was as if I could see a small cloud of hope amid my enormously devastating drought. “What is this?” I asked myself repeatedly, “am I finally getting over the dry spell in my life?” The truth is, I found something refreshing, after becoming vulnerable with my community; the beginning of my healing process.
A few months later, I was auditing a Master’s Degree course at the European Theological Seminary in Kniebis, Germany. Dr. Sims was talking about the problem with evil and suffering in the world. I asked the question, “what is your answer when a Christian suffers the loss of a loved one who was a perfect candidate for healing, yet didn’t receive their healing?” He thought about it for just a few seconds, and said, “I wish I had the answer to that question, unfortunately, I don’t. All I can say is, God gives us something special to make the journey more bearable; Time…believe it or not, time has a way of getting us from a place of deep pain into a place of great hope.” At the moment I was skeptical, but as time passed, I realized how true those words were.
Francis Chan in his book, Forgotten God, shares a story about a young man who started attending their services. He noticed the young man was obviously from a gang, he looked rough, and lived a hard life. After coming for a while, Francis then noticed he stopped attending. He visited the young man and asked him what had happened that made him stop coming. He was surprised and saddened when the young man told him that he thought church would be something different than what he experienced. You see, in a gang, you are treated not just as a member, but as family. It appears that he thought church would give him that sense of community he was accustomed to, which, ironically, is what church should be like–family. That story got me thinking about the importance of a loving and understanding community.
I have learned that there are two things God has given to us as we make our way through our own wilderness experience; Time and Community. I know now that if you can find yourself in a community that would embrace you in your brokenness and suffering; a community willing to go the extra mile for you, somehow, those relationships make the wilderness more bearable. God took the children of Israel through a journey, in a wilderness that forced them to become close with each other. As time passed, they saw their grandparents, and their parents die. They faced suffering, sickness and disappointments, however, hey also experienced victories and joy. The children grew up to face new challenges with plenty of time to ask the tough questions, meditate on the input from the community, and find that shoulder to cry on, or arms willing to embrace them.
Just like my professor expressed to me, I wish I had the answers on how to fix our suffering. So, I give to you, what has helped me the most; get with a good community and become vulnerable, allow time to heal your wounds and teach you to breathe again; to smile again. While community is my response to suffering, time is the conduit. Nothing brings more comfort than knowing and being known by those you are doing life with.