It was after 9 pm. I had unofficially “clocked out” for the day. I say unofficial because you’re never REALLY off the clock as a parent, but by 9 pm the kids were all settled in bed for the night. The clothes had been picked out for the next day, the last prayer had been said, the last hug had been given. I’d given extra kisses, helped with a last minute homework question and sung the last lullaby.
I sat on the couch, snuggled under my fuzzy blanket, and had just opened my book to enjoy a little bit of quiet time – when it happened. One of my daughters came to the top of the stairs.
“I don’t feel good.”
Part of me – the impatient, tired, slightly cynical mom who’s heard every excuse in the book to get out of bed-time – wanted to roll my eyes and hurry her back to bed. But when I looked at her face, I could see the tears she was trying to hold back. And when I looked at her body I could see that tense, hunched over posture she gets when something is hurting her…so I closed my unread book, got off the couch, and walked back upstairs.
It was the same complaint I had heard many times before. The kind of complaint that causes genuine distress but that there’s nothing much to be done for it. We’d been over this before – there was no medicine I could give her to take away the pain, and everything we usually try was failing miserably.
I tried singing to get her to lay still and let her body rest, but no luck.
I tried giving her a warm bath to help her relax, but nope, that didn’t work either.
I tried deep breathing and talking calmly about what she was upset about, but that seemed to make it worse.
She was so incredibly worked up that sleep was impossible.
Finally, I asked, “Did you pray about it?”
And she said, “I prayed over and over for God to take my pain, but He just won’t.”
And I thought to myself, Oh baby, I know how that is – and it’s a hard place to be. It’s hard to hurt and hurt, and to pray and pray, and to get no relief. It’s hard to believe that He can and feel like He won’t. It’s hard not to give up in defeat, figuring He’s not listening or doesn’t care. To throw your hands in the air and think prayer just isn’t worth it.
So we sat quietly for a minute, me holding her hand and her holding in her tears, and I told her this story.
A long time ago there was a woman named Hannah. All she wanted in life was to have a baby. She tried and tried and prayed and prayed to have a baby.
But God said, not now.
She was so upset that she couldn’t have a baby that she couldn’t eat, she could barely sleep, and she cried all of the time. One day she kneeled down and she cried out to God. She poured her soul out to Him. She gave Him all of her sadness, hurt and pain.
And God didn’t give her a baby that day, either.
But after Hannah had prayed, she got up and her whole face had changed. Instead of being dragged down by pain and unable to eat, she went away and ate again.
And I told my daughter that sometimes I think God wants us to want Him more than we want relief from the pain. Sometimes we have to pour our soul out to Him and ask Him to hold it close because that’s the only place true peace is. Sometimes instead of pointing at our pain and asking God to fix it, we need to turn into Him and ask Him to just be with us while we’re hurting.
So in that darkened room, with the soft glow of the nightlight and the soft hitching sound of her breathing, my daughter closed her eyes. She took a deep breath, and she prayed for His presence instead of her pain.
And then she slept.