It felt like quicksand.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get out. Over time, I blamed myself. The more I did, the worse I felt.
It’s an awful place to be, to be mad at God.
I had rationalized what had happened, talked myself through as if I was counseling someone else. It would work for a little while, but the heart-head disconnect always brought me back to a place of grief, and then anger.
From asking “How could this have happened?”, I began to ask the unspeakable, “God, are You really good?”
After all the extravagant, amazing things God had done, I could not believe finding myself in a place of pain and bitterness. It was stifling. Even worse was the guilt that weighed like a 6-tone hippo, and the frustration of not feeling able to talk about it. I did not want pat answers or worse, Christian comfort talk. There were simply, no words.
Perhaps, we have all been there before.
Then, in the darkness, a ray of light shone in.
Knowing how excited I had been to experience my first real Autumn (since I had grown up in tropical Singapore), Cliff had planned a surprise trip for me to see the changing leaves, in all their colorful, spectacular glory, at a place near our current home called Muskoka, over our wedding anniversary.
Awe-inspired by the magnificence of the endless landscapes of gold, red and violet leaves, I remember thinking about the huge window at our home which overlooks a little forest and said aloud, “Oh, I can’t wait for all the leaves to change into beautiful colors back home.”
Cliff, not wanting me to be disappointed, jumped in quickly to manage my expectations. “They may or may not,” he said. “Remember last year?”
In the States where I was studying the year before, I had gotten all excited about Fall, only to find that the leaves in our neighborhood simply changed to an ugly brown before falling. And by the time I had lifted my head from beneath my pile of books to see daylight again after my exams had ended, the trees along the roads had become as bare as bones. I had completely missed Autumn.
So, Cliff had a point. After all, in that forest behind our home, we had noticed that the trees either remained green or had turned a homogenous yellow. Unlike Muskoka, the florid reds, dazzling purples, and golden yellows against the lush evergreens just did not happen here.
As I took in the magnificence of the breathtaking trees over our wedding anniversary, I said aloud for the first time, “I resolve not to be angry at You, God.” It felt silly, bizarre, futile even.
But something changed. The day we arrived back from Muskoka, something changed. As I walked into our living room, I stood in awe of what had happened.
Right there, in that square of a window we had in our living room, was a red tree, a violet tree, a yellow tree and a green tree all glowing incandescently under the sun.
There and then, I had goosebumps, because in that entire forest behind our home, was only one red tree. And there it was, in that window of ours, to create a beautiful multi-colored picture of Fall.
As tears built behind my eyes, I suddenly felt ridiculous. That for all my rage against God for my inability to comprehend or process what had happened over the months, I was immediately undone.
Yet, I know it was, is true- that in spite all I had been struggling with, in spite of all the theology I had been grappling with, in spite of all the accusations I had hurled at God over the recent season, He was, is, and always will be good.
He cares for us in ways so deeply, and so specifically, that no one else could understand.
I am learning, that even as we grope through the darkness, we are never alone. He is always with us, always caring.
For every situation, He gives us a ray of hope, a red tree to remind us that He is, through it all, good.
He does not give pat answers. He simply, shows up.
If, like me, you’ve experienced pain or disappointment, if you’ve felt defeated or hopeless, don’t give up. It may take some time for you to see, but God has never left you, and He has had your red tree right there, all along.
It was there, green, before Autumn came, it was there before the mess happened. It was there, because He knew it would mean something to you, when you needed Him the most.
May you see your red tree, soon.