You may have heard the story of the “footprints in the sand.” In a dream, a woman walked along the beach with the Lord, and scenes from her life flashed by. There were two sets of footprints, hers and the Lord’s, throughout most of her life. Yet she became distressed because she noticed that during some of the lowest, most trying times of her life there was only one set of footprints. When she asked the Lord why He would abandon her during times of great trial, He responded with, “Those are the time that I carried you.”
This story/poem has gained so much popularity that if you simply Google the word “footprints,” half of the results refer to it. I think this says something about the human experience we all go through suffering, we have all felt abandoned in one way or another, and we are all thirsty to know we are not alone.
Have you ever blamed God for suffering or trial? Maybe not for specifically inflicting the suffering, but perhaps you have blamed Him for being absent, for not doing something to change it. Do you identify with the woman from the story? In verses 1217 of Lamentations, we find similar sentiments. In fact, in all but one of these five verses, the woman specifically blames the Lord for inflicting her pain and suffering. She says, among others,
“He caused my strength to fail.”
However, turning from what seems like anger and frustration, her tone becomes more humble in the last part of the chapter. She says,
“The Lord is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word,”
and she begins to see more clearly through the eyes of God. Many years ago, I received a great piece of advice. I had just arrived at college and was having a difficult time, and a young woman told me, “Just be honest with God. Sometimes I get mad, so I will go to God and pray and tell Him how mad I am even if I’m mad at Him.
Don’t worry, He can handle it. But it’s better than not going to Him at all.” I realized how much truth there was in that statement, and ultimately it took away the fear of being “perfect” or “put together” for God. He does not require this of us, but for some reason we still get it in our heads that we must always be happy with Him or we’re not good Catholics. So I began going to Him in prayer no matter what I felt like, and the beautiful thing is that God changed me (even during the times I was secretly hoping He would change!).
That piece of advice has stuck with me ever since. Because of this, my favorite part of the passage from Lamentations is when she proclaims, “Behold, O Lord, for I am in distress, my soul is in tumult, my heart is wrung within me, because I have been very rebellious.” She is real and honest and acknowledges that she is empty, in tumult, and distressed because of her separation from Him. When I read this, it does not sound awful. It sounds beautiful because of her authenticity.
God desires that we be authentic with Him. He knows every hair on our heads, every thought in our minds, every good desire in our hearts. But He also desires surrender. How can you better surrender your life to the Lord so that you allow Him to carry you through trials? How can you be more authentic in your relationship with Him? How can you remove duplicity in your life by admitting your sins and reaching out to God?