Sobbing, I flung myself on the bed, pounding the pillow and screaming at God. “Why did you make me this way?”
It was a gorgeous day and I had gone outside. A few minutes later, I ran into the house with a severe allergic reaction, just like always. Medicine doesn’t help. The allergist claims I have no outdoor allergies. There doesn’t seem to be any hope that things will improve. I sit inside, a virtual prisoner of my own home.
I couldn’t bear to stand at the window and watch my children play in the backyard. It was unfair. Depressing. Senseless. The little joys of life—sunshine, warm days, pushing my child on a swing—were beyond my grasp. “Why, God? Why have you taken away things that make life fun? Isn’t it bad enough that I’m bipolar? Do I have to accept this as my fate in life–watching other people enjoy life while I can’t?”
If this sounds rather melodramatic, maybe it is. I know I’m not nearly as bad off with my illnesses as many other people and I’m grateful for that. My problems sometimes overwhelm me, though.
Recently, David Weiss wrote a magazine article about his struggle with schizophrenia. He recounted a conversation with a psychiatrist that resonated with me:
“Doctor, it has been three years. Will I ever get better?”
He paused for a moment and stared at his notes.
“David, you need to think about what level of better you can live with.”
“What do you mean?”
“Just that you need to accept that you will always be this way.”
The hardest part of my diagnosis as bipolar was accepting that, barring a miracle, I’ll always have this. I’ll always need medication. I’ll always have people stigmatize me; it’s happened before, it will happen again.
As a Christian, this tries my faith. In the middle of depression, pain is the only thing that exists. I can’t see God—hope—the caring people around me—anything other than pain. I still believe in God but he’s invisible, silent, intangible.
Weiss described a conversation with another psychiatrist:
“You believe in God?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
He sat forward, this tall Mexican man. He didn’t meet my eyes, but asked, “Why?”
Why? Why do I still believe in God when he won’t answer my questions?
I want logical answers to my pain. I want God to work like a mathematical equation. I liked math homework because I knew when it was finished. After I solved X+Y=Z, checked it and found that Z-Y=X, I turned in my paper and expected an A.
X (my pain) + Y (my prayers) = Z (God’s answer)
The equation never works. I throw in square roots or fractions or imaginary numbers, thinking that since God is so complex, I need to try different spiritual methods to grasp the answer. Hasn’t worked. I’m left studying the chalkboard with numbers and symbols scribbled on it, choking from the chalk dust, looking at an equal sign that is never followed by an answer.
At this point, a good Christian is supposed to say, “I don’t have all the answers, but I know the One who does.” At the risk of being labelled a heretic, I won’t say that. It’s clichéd and unsatisfactory to someone in anguish.
I want to know the answers to my pain, and I want them now. I want my “Why, God?” questions answered: why I’m bipolar, a friend has chronic pain, another has children with severe medical problems, yet another grieves the loss of a child. Why people I know have suffered through divorce, rape, sexual confusion. Why some never have their hearts’ longing for a husband or child satisfied. Why the broken-hearted are rejected by the seemingly unbroken.
I want answers. I don’t have them. Sometimes it feels like God doesn’t have them, either, as if he’s in heaven scratching his head, saying, “Huh, I guess that didn’t work.”
When I’m on the other side of depression, I feel ridiculous for thinking this, as if I’ve imagined there isn’t a sun simply because the clouds covered it for a few days. But in the moment, it feels as if the sun is unreal and God is unseen and unheard.
I once read some words that were scribbled on the barrack walls in a Nazi concentration camp:
I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.
I believe in God, even when he is silent.
In spite of heaven’s silence, one person found the courage—audacity—to declare her faith in this silent God. Maybe she needed to remember her long-cherished faith, and felt compelled to cry out:
I still believe. I don’t know why. I don’t understand. I don’t feel like you do, either. You don’t make sense. I don’t love you or like you right now. But I’m still hanging onto you. You’re the only thing I have left.
I listen to the silence and still believe, even when God is silent.
If you believe in God, have you ever experienced a time when he was silent?