This September will be four years since my cousin Peter died. It was a dark and stormy night when he was hit, and the driver didn’t see him in the crosswalk. When everything first happened, I was shocked and so worried. At this time, we weren’t sure what was going to happen, there were so many factors in play. I just remember that the province was supposed to put a light at that crosswalk way before this terrible accident happened, and they hadn’t. Thinking about that now, makes me wonder if the province had done what it was supposed to do, would things be different?
So why mention this now? Why talk about this significant moment in my life right now, almost four years later? I suppose it’s because in those days between the accident and Peter dying, part of my heart broke, but also, it was the start of something else; my unrelenting anger with God. Peter and I were thick as thieves as kids. Whenever I was at my grandparents, Peter and I were attached at the hip, whether we were having adventures outside, adventures with books, or adventures in video games. We were really close, so when this happened, there were no words that could have truly described how I was feeling. There was deep sorrow and grief as well as the feeling of needing to be strong for my aunt and my younger cousins. I remember standing there and holding Peter’s sister after he died, and then after that, as the elevator doors shut on my way home, a deep sob escaping while I said, “It’s not fair.”
To me, and to everyone who knew Peter, it wasn’t fair. This was a loss that ripped me open and destroyed me in a way. It was my first real significant loss in my adulthood, and the fact that he was just weeks away from turning twenty made it feel worse. That all said, it also started this anger inside of me with God. I was furious. I felt like I prayed so hard, felt like I had so much faith that God was going to perform a miracle in this situation. I had dreams that Peter was going to be okay, and so I held on to that.
When he passed away, and my prayers weren’t “answered”, I refused to have a relationship with a God who would let this happen. Who would let this pain ripple through my family, letting this great loss hurt every one of us. Sitting at Thanksgiving dinner that next weekend, I didn’t feel like I had anything to be thankful to God for, because He took someone I loved so much away. I still believed in His existence, but I just wanted absolutely nothing to do with Him. I still went to church with my family, and “participated” but there was no communication with Him, I refused to have a relationship and I wouldn’t volunteer my time to the church. I literally only went to appease my parents, because it wasn’t worth the fight.
I would sit there, pretending like I was paying attention to the sermon, being polite to the people who had watched me grow up in this church, and then leave. I didn’t want to be there at all, and I would sit there and think, “There is nothing here for me. I don’t want to be associated with a God who is like this.” It was purely out of my selfishness, my desire to have what I wanted to happen, like I was the one in control of everything. I wasn’t going to follow along with Him and let my heart get absolutely wrecked like that again because what I wanted to happen didn’t happen.
In those three years of living in anger at God, I had some more hard times. One of them in particular, I can see now, that He still had His hand on my life. Despite how I was feeling about Him, He was still there, protecting me. I had gotten myself in to a bad relationship with a guy who wasn’t respectful. Who demanded more of me that I was willing to give, and looking back on it now, I’m thankful that I could clearly see God’s hand, protecting me. He not only prevented me from giving into what this guy wanted, He also gave me the strength to walk out the door when this guy tried to manipulate me into changing.
So how did I get to where I am now? Again, it was another moment I can trace back to God, simply having other plans for me and my heart finally softening enough to listen. Last summer, there were what felt like quiet whispers in my mind telling me, “You should be a counselor and youth camp.” Over and over. I had seen a facebook post from someone attached to the PAOC (Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada) that I was friends with write about how desperate they were for counselors. I was at my family cottage, and the whispers kept coming, “Apply to be a counselor at camp, you have the experience.” It was all true, I did have the experience, I had been a young adult leader at the youth group for a while, I spent a lot of time volunteering in children’s programs and Sunday school.
Something in my mind got me to push the anger I had felt for God to the side, and I truly prayed for the first time in years. I said, “God, if I see a new post today from Jim about them still needing youth camp counselors, I’ll apply.” I didn’t think that I was going to be okay to go, I had just spent the previous three years refusing to have anything to do with God. Sure enough, there was a new post on facebook, and I kept my promise. I applied to be a counselor and got it. I was nervous that I wasn’t going to be a good enough example for the girls that I was leading, but I was trying to rebuild my relationship with God, so I was going to try and have faith that He brought me there for a reason.
I’m still not sure what the actual reason is, maybe it was for the girls I was leading, maybe it was for me or both, whatever it was, the short time that I was there (I went home sick, anxiety, yay!) made an impact. After that, I started to work on that relationship. There was a job that I had wanted earlier in the summer that I applied to, and didn’t get and so I went to a job that I didn’t absolutely love but paid the bills. I applied again, this time for a seasonal position in the early fall, and I prayed, “If this is where you want me, it will happen. I won’t be upset, because it’s your plan, not mine.” and I ended up getting the seasonal position. Then when seasonal ended they kept me on as a permanent, and I’ve been quite happy in my current job, and feeling like I’m there for a reason.
There are things that I’ve learned about God as I came out of these seasons of anger. Sometimes things are not going to go how you want them to, they’re not going be the things that you want, and it’s okay to be angry with God sometimes. He understands that we are human, that we can’t see the big picture (though some of us like to think we can) and that we will never have a flawless relationship. The thing is though, that the anger is totally on us, it’s our own inability to hold onto to the faith that God has something better in store, that He has a plan for everything, and it’s also up to us to choose not to be angry anymore. God doesn’t shout at us to come back when we’re angry, He is soft, He speaks in whispers. He even speaks to us through the people He places in our lives. It’s completely up to us to listen for it, and to answer when we hear it, otherwise we lose out on this great relationship between the creator and the created.
Things will almost never, ever go the way we plan. We will lose people we love, a father, a mother, a brother, a sister, a friend, and we will ask God, “Why did you do this to me, why did you take this person that I love so deeply away from me?” We may never get an answer to the question, but we have to realize that it’s not up to us. There is a reason for everything, and we don’t always see that. Sometimes things that happen to us happen because of our own disobedience, that we want to do everything our way and I’m still very guilty of this. There are things that I want in life, and sometimes I think I can do it on my own, and do it my way, because my way is clearly the best way. Then it crashes and burns, and I have to realize that it was my fault.
Then there are things that happen and it’s not because of us, it’s because of other people’s free will to choose, and how it affects us. I read an interesting article a while ago about a woman who was praising God in her divorce, and I thought it was an amazing perspective. It helped me put some of the things that I had been feeling at the time into perspective and helped me find a bit of peace. She talks about her husband and his infidelity, and how she did everything she could to save her marriage. She realized that though it takes one to walk away from a marriage, it takes two to keep it together, and her husband decided to walk away. She questioned God as to why He would allow her to marry a man who would cheat on her, and then not work when she was willing to. Then she realized that even though it was in God’s perfect plan to keep the marriage together, that we as humans have free will, and her husband had chosen to exert his free will to walk away. (You can read that article here.)
Sometimes things happen because another person is exerting their free will to choose, just like how we get to choose, and like how I chose anger. It feels like this weird contradiction, that God can have this perfect plan, and He knows how everything is going to happen, and then sometimes this perfect plan doesn’t play out perfectly. It’s hard sometimes to wrap our minds around the idea, but it’s like how God is the beginning and the end, when we try to look at it, how can something be the beginning of everything, but also the end of everything? Because He is everything, and in everything, and what we’ve come to understand as humans is so limited, where He is unlimited. That’s where I struggle and where my anger or my lack of faith comes in, it’s because I have such a limited view of things, I can’t always see the big picture.
Right now, there are some things that I thought might be God’s plan for my life. Maybe they still are, maybe they’re in His perfect plan, or maybe they aren’t, but it’s all dependent. It’s dependent on my obedience, and it’s might even be dependent on the obedience of someone else. I feel like I’m stuck in this cycle of trying to hold on to the faith in God’s plan for my life, and trying to not to be too concerned about the things that might hurt me. All I know is that I am actively trying to not make anger my first response when I don’t get what I want, or what I think I want. That I’m trying to live through faith, and learn from my past experiences, especially when it came to the seasons where I was infuriated with God. I’m trying to love the people around me, love the people who hurt me, and actively pray for the plans put on my life.
So, here’s to a life where my anger won’t rule me anymore. To built faith, for loving everyone around me (though I jokingly say I hate people, I work in retail, and most days I genuinely enjoy my interactions with people), and continuing to pray for the plans put on my life. For going to God first when things don’t turn out the way I want, or when I’m hurting. For renewed faith, for strength, courage, and dignity. Praying to be like a Proverbs 31 woman and for whatever is to come next in my life. Whatever it is, I look forward to it.
Faith is the art of holding on to things in spite of your ever changing moods and circumstances.
– C. S. Lewis