The crash from the apartment upstairs shook my ceiling and bolted me awake, heart thumping and sheet clutched to my chest.
The clock on my bedside table read 2:27 A.M.
I sat in the dark trying to slow my heart and sharpen my ears to listen to new sounds, new indications of what was going on above me. Was there an argument? A break in? My mind immediately went to the worst scenarios and started planning for how to assist.
A voice raised and I heard another bang!
My breathing became more shallow to try to make sure my presence wasn’t heard. Silly, of course, since I was one floor down and there no indication anyone was concerned about either disturbing me let alone worried if I heard their activity.
As I closed my eyes and waited, I heard raised voices…
…and then laughter.
All is well. Just some 20-somethings screwing around after a night at the clubs.
And yet, for me, sleep would likely not come for the rest of the night. I was awake with my demons again. Sure, I would likely doze for the next few hours, but my “spidey” senses had been sparked into action.
Now I realize my childhood was not the stuff of horror stories. I wasn’t raised in the inner city, leery of gunshots and drug dealers at every corner. Nor was I beaten so severely I was hospitalized for my injuries or worse yet, forced to live with broken bones to hide the abuse. Compared to that, my life was idyllic, and yet to this day I suffer from PTSD issues stemming from nights like this when the loud bangs led to screaming, throwing of drink tumblers shattered against the wall, glass shards embedded in the wall for years to come and me, cowering in my bedroom praying that the battles outside of my door would stay there.
Sometimes these things ended as quickly as they began. Drunken voices trailed off down the hall as my mother and stepfather made their way to the bedroom to sleep off some of the bourbon from the day. But sometimes the rage came through my door, dragging me from my bed to take care of some forgotten chore or another. Rarer still, but even more frightening,the door would open quietly, softly, the figure of a man – someone my mother trusted and confided in – would enter to create nightmares in a completely different way.
To this day, despite the years of therapy and work, raised voices make my heart stop in fear. I know in my head that a raised voice doesn’t lead to crisis; that some people just talk loudly out of necessity or habit, but in my heart still resides that irrational place; that basic instinct that has been honed by the fight or flight response over the years and is not convinced the danger has passed. Part of the reason is that despite all of this work, I still managed to marry two me who, in their own ways, helped reinforce those feelings of fear and trepidation. Though I managed to escape the place where my nightmares began, I spent years finding others who would use manipulation, lies and emotional abuse to keep me off balance.
So here I am, a blogger professing faith and confidence in the Lord and in His grace and mercy still haunted by decades-old memories that still have power over me in moments like this. Why is this? Shouldn’t I, as a person of faith, feel secure in the grace, mercy and power of my Lord? Certainly those who don’t believe think that should be the case.
I understand. I have fought this battle for a long time and have heard many atheists angrily shout their belief that the fact that these things happened to me in the first place was absolute proof that there is no god; that a loving god, like the one I profess to believe in, would not allow his children to suffer.
Perhaps they’re right.
But I don’t think so.
As the news blatantly proclaims every moment of every day, nobody is saved from suffering. From the youngest to the oldest of us, the headlines scream the horrible things men and women are able to do to one another out of greed, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or pure evil. But the thing is, God never said that we wouldn’t suffer. Even Jesus, who lived a sinless life and was God had to suffer. He suffered temptation, starvation and dehydration for 40 days in the desert, suffered criticism and anguish throughout his ministry, suffered the loss of friends and family due to illness, injury and abandonment, and then suffered untold fear, pain and physical pain at the end of His life. Jesus came to this earth so that He could experience sufferings from our human perspective in order to give us a true representation that with faith, all suffering could be conquered, not that with faith we would be saved from suffering.
See the difference there?
Faith provides each one of us the ability to call upon the Lord and receive His peace in times of fear and strive. Even in those dark nights when I am awakened by every day sounds that remind me of not-so-ordinary circumstances, my prayers for peace are answered without question.
Perhaps more significantly, unlike some people that may shame us for our fears and insecurities urging us to “get over it” or “move on”, God doesn’t mock or shame us for being afraid of the things in our lives that we find challenging. In my life, God doesn’t ignore my cries for peace due to my inability to dismiss those noises for the innocent things that they are. He loves me, understands my fear and walks with me through it.
This, my friends, is just a tiny glimpse into the peace Jesus promised His believers; the peace that passes all understanding.
God doesn’t need to know why we need comfort because He isn’t going to try to explain away our feelings of distress or shame us out of expressing it. Our God readily provides peace to us not only because He already knows what our struggles are, but also because He doesn’t need to know why. We ask and He provides.
Even more importantly, God also gives us the courage to head into the fearful circumstances of our lives. He is that still small voice in our heads and hearts that tells us that we can move forward despite the seemingly insurmountable odds. He does not promise we will always win because the reality is that we won’t. What He does promise is that when we reach out in faith and ask, He will provide the peace in our heart to acknowledge the fear, the courage and strength of character to try despite the understanding that we may fail, and the ability to reach out in faith when there is no visible rope to grab on to.
Here’s to hoping that if you, like me, have demons that go bump in the night, you, too, have the faith to reach out for peace and courage.