Monthly Encouraging Words
Barbara Fiscus, M.A., CCLC | February, 2022
My Hope for Healing
How do I begin to relate all that has happened since the publishing of my last MEW? I wrote a partial edition back in October in the middle of my mess, but it never made it through my self-editing process. It was raw and honest, but lacked something--perhaps clarity or focus. In any case, I didn’t have the wherewithal to bring it full circle. I apologize for any confusion my silence may have caused. Hopefully, this edition will help clear things up.
About mid-September, I began a very difficult journey that took me into some dark moments. I was stressed mentally, emotionally, physically and, perhaps most difficult of all, spiritually. In the thickest part of the storm, I couldn’t see clearly right in front of me, much less have the vision to inspire or encourage anyone else. Now, almost four months later, the crisis has passed and some healing has occurred. However, there is much left to do, not only because the wounds still remain to some degree, but also because I sincerely desire growth. I want more than simply the passage of pain; I want health.
On the night of September 20, my dad was admitted to the hospital. Although his condition didn’t seem serious at first, over the next several days, everything accelerated. What began as concern soon turned to worry, then worry to fear. My mind reeled as I struggled to understand the medical terminology, and to logically assess the seriousness of the situation. I wanted to be mindful not to allow my emotions free rein, but to remain positive and grounded in reality. The problem was, things were happening so fast that I couldn’t seem to get a firm hold on what, in fact, reality was. I tried to coach myself to stay calm and think rationally. I am all-too-familiar with the rapid speed at which one negative thought can spiral into an eddy of fear, and I tried to grasp onto any branch of hope I could find.
Unfortunately, circumstances continued to escalate, and with them, my anxiety. As fear increased, my appetite decreased and I stopped eating as regularly. Of course, that only compounded the stress: my body felt weak and shaky, my thoughts became more clouded and confused, and my emotions were unstable. I booked and canceled several flights, plagued by indecision. Finally, the situation reached a tipping point and it became clear: it was time to go. I purchased a ticket less than two hours before departure. Thankfully, the adrenaline fueled me with enough energy to pack a suitcase. My husband took me to the airport. I spoke to others as little as possible as my emotions were so near the surface that almost every interaction prompted tears. I put in my earbuds before takeoff and retreated into a world of worship music for the next several hours, only pausing to change planes in Seattle and to briefly use my phone. My mom had arranged a ride for me and I arrived at her door just before midnight.
When I left home, I had no idea how long I would be gone. Days turned into weeks with every morning beginning with a call to the hospital. Our time was spent researching, consulting with others, talking about everything, crying and praying. I supported Mom and she supported me. Mercifully, many of my strengths were her weaknesses and vice-versa; we balanced each other out and both felt blessed by the partnership.
Unfortunately, as wonderful as Mom’s love was, there was deeper need that was left unmet. It has been said there is a God-shaped hole in all of us. Well, mine felt like it was gaping. It was so scary groping my way blindly from one day’s crisis to the next. I prayed for wisdom and guidance. I prayed for a healing miracle. When I thought about what my dad was going through—since I knew he believed in Jesus as his Savior—I even yearned at times for him to be released to Heaven, though I could never bring myself to pray that prayer. When these prayers seemed to fail, I cried out to God to please comfort me. I knew that if I could just feel His presence, I wouldn’t be so afraid. David wrote, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me” (Psalm 23:4, NKJV). I did fear evil because I didn’t sense God with me. When my pleas for help were met with silence, the pain felt unbearable. My chest and shoulders literally ached with longing. I felt ignored, unloved, even rejected by God. It was early in the morning on my birthday when I wrote in anguish, “Do You see me? Do You hear me?”
I felt both profound sadness and bitterness. I wondered: why was God refusing to respond to my pain while He pours out love to others? What about the promises I had just read about God being “a shield for all those who take refuge in him,“ (Psalm 18:30, ESV) or that He was “near to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18, ESV)? How could I reconcile His Word with my reality when He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, ESV), yet I felt abandoned? What conclusions could I draw when Jesus said, “Ask, it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7, ESV) but, despite my earnest pleading, the door seemed firmly shut?
Because these questions demanded answers, and logic dictated that God could not be at fault, I turned the blame inward. I concluded that either God was being unresponsive to me because I had failed to invest enough in our relationship, or maybe He was responding, but I couldn’t hear Him for the same reason. Paul wrote, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6, NIV). Perhaps this was my natural consequence for spiritual laziness—that God was holding back from me because I had failed to more passionately pursue Him.
Of course, I know this doesn’t align with what we are taught about the character of God and, in fact, sounds much like the voice of our enemy. I think I was just so exhausted by the perpetual state of stress that I didn’t have strength to “resist the devil” (James 4:7, ESV). Some days, I was so weary from fighting for my dad that I didn’t have the strength to fight the battles in my mind. I just wanted Jesus to defend me. I longed for His rescue, and I ached from what felt like His indifference. I yearned for Him to pick me up, sit me on His lap and rock me to sleep.
At the beginning of the fourth week, although things with Dad weren’t getting much better, at least they seemed to have stopped getting worse. I finally felt it was time to go home. It was good to get back to my husband, church and friends, but life definitely wasn’t back to normal. I felt like I had PTSD after everything I had just gone through. And because the crisis wasn’t over, each day still began with a conference call between my mom and the hospital to get the latest update on Dad’s condition.
On the fifth day of being home, my mom called in a panic. She had just arrived at the hospital and the rapid response team was with my dad. At first, they wouldn’t even let her in the room with him. The doctor came to the phone and briefly explained the situation. It was clear from his words and the reaction of the nurse who was with Mom that this was the beginning of the end of Dad’s life here on earth. I called my brother, my husband, and my kids. By that time, the hospital staff had stabilized Dad and allowed Mom into his room. I set up a Zoom meeting and everyone in our family had a chance to say goodbye to this great man and to thank him for his love, his leadership, and his impact on our family.
It has now been almost three months since Dad passed. I have cried and talked through many emotions. While losing him has obviously been difficult, I have peace in knowing both that Dad is now happy and free in Heaven, and that I will see him again in eternity. This hope has helped me tremendously and is the reason I believe I did not “…grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13, ESV). Or at least, it was easier to endure than it would have been without both my faith and the knowledge of my dad’s. What a great solace it has been for me to know we have the promise of forever in Christ!
The wound that has taken longer to heal, however, has been the sting of rejection I felt from the silence of my heavenly Father in my time of need. I will say that I am grateful to have felt similar pain in the past, as I learned through previous experiences that God can redeem hard situations and bring beauty from ashes. This alone helped to give me hope—even if it was tenuous at times—and encouraged me to try to be patient as I waited for the healing to come.
Another source of hope has been a song that God highlighted to me near the beginning of this ordeal with Dad and consistently repeated throughout. I heard Promises by Maverick City Music either in my head or my ears time and again. More than once, I woke up with it going through my mind. While different lyrics stood out at different times, the recurring theme was that of the chorus, “Great is Your faithfulness to me.” The repetition of the song was so uncanny that I couldn’t deny it was God, yet I struggled to understand what He meant: faithfulness to do what? This was especially difficult since I couldn’t see evidence of Him being faithful to me with the “promises” I was reading in His Word. Nevertheless, the message was a consistent thread that became a rope to hold onto. I later wrote, “I am hoping this trial will come full circle and I will see in the end…what that [song] meant and that You truly were faithful even when I was faithless (2 Timothy 2:13).”
Though I am far from full circle, a few things have happened that have begun my process of healing. About a week and a half after my dad passed, a friend (with whom I had not discussed my situation) intercepted me as I was leaving church. She related with urgency that God had given her a message for me at the beginning of service. She took ahold of my arms, looked very intently at me, and reported, “God sees you!” I was stunned! She expounded on her message, but I honestly don’t remember anything else. Those first three words had hit their mark. It was the answer to the desperate cry of my heart I had written in my journal weeks before!
The very next evening was the weekly meeting of my life group. We gathered each Monday to watch and discuss The Chosen series, which depicts different events from the life of Jesus. That particular night, one of the shows highlighted the story of Nathanael from John 1:43-51. While I had seen the episode months before, this time it was especially moving to me when Nathanael cried out to God, “Do you see me?!” And like me, he was answered with silence. When Jesus later met Nathanael, He said to him, “When you were alone and in your lowest moment, I saw you.” I took this as another message from God that, not only had He seen me when I was crying out to Him at my mom’s place, but that He still saw me, struggling to trust Him, desiring a new, intimate relationship with Him, and pushing through my fears to pursue Him again.
The third step of my healing came nearly two weeks later. I was in church listening to our associate pastor give a sermon he entitled, “Being vs. Doing.” He began by quoting a section of Scripture I had recently read. That got my attention. He went on to speak about the importance of spending time simply receiving from and being loved by God. My heart ached because I had wanted that so desperately in the middle of my trial but had found God’s presence so elusive. Our pastor made reference to two more Bible passages, one about which I had recently journaled, and the other about which I had recently read an article. Finally, he related a personal story, after which he inquired how many of us had ever asked, “God, do you see me?” and gotten silence! I cried as he continued to speak to other thoughts and emotions I had experienced in my valley and with which I was still struggling. I could barely wait for him to finish so I could go forward to talk with him and receive prayer. I sobbed as I revealed to him my relatability with the “Do you see me?” question, as well as how God had answered it through my friend, The Chosen episode featuring Nathanael, and now through his sermon. As I was talking, I suddenly became aware of the “coincidence” that this pastor’s name is also Nathaniel! This was further confirmation to me of God’s intention to communicate to my heart.
Interestingly, at the beginning of that service, we sang the worship song, Reckless Love. The lyrics rejoice in God’s passionate pursuit of us. I felt a stab of bitterness. I felt much more like I had been chasing Him, and to no avail. I couldn’t relate to the words and felt jealous as I longed for God to love me like that. I sat down and wrote, “show me how You’re pursuing me, Lord.”
It wasn’t until later that I realized God had not only used Nathaniel’s sermon to put to rest the answer to my question of being seen, but He had also just answered the request I had written less than an hour earlier. He showed me He was pursuing me by repeatedly speaking specific words of reassurance to me. Perhaps just as beautiful was the fact that He did so not a result of my “doing,” as Nathaniel had preached. He had pursued me not because I had done anything to deserve it, but simply because He loves me.
I think again of the song, Promises, that God gave me during my storm. It seems the chorus, “Great is Your faithfulness to me” was a seed He was planting in my heart. Even though I can’t yet see the result, I have more confidence that it will someday bear fruit. I want to be faithful to water that seed with my prayers and study of God’s Word, but even if I fail, I need to remember He still loves me. Even when I can’t feel or see or hear Him, He still loves me. Even when things hurt, and even when the darkness is scary and lonely, He still loves me. A friend recently reminded me that Satan’s original temptation was to convince Adam and Eve that God was withholding from them (Genesis 3). That message is as much a lie today as it was in the Garden of Eden. God created us in His image (Genesis 1:27) and desires relationship with us. He sees our “nakedness”—the bare truth of what is in our hearts—yet His desire is that we would not be ashamed (Genesis 2:25).
As I look at the new year ahead, I feel hopeful. It is a spiritual truth that life springs from death. While I still occasionally grieve the loss of my dad, I also rejoice for the new life he is living. Similarly, while a part of my faith died in the storm I endured—or perhaps, it was just part of my concept of God—I now rejoice in the hope that a new, stronger faith will replace it. I am grateful that God is such a good and patient Father, always ready to restore us (Luke 15:20-24). The turning of a new year is a great time to embrace a fresh start and begin to dream again. “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)!