“God takes care of me.”
The words come so easily for her, reflexively, even. In their wake sparkles a warm chuckle and then a smile, intimate and sure. She knows the One whom she has believed. I strain to smile back, pretending I’m privy to this secret, too, that I believe just as concretely.
Even though she was speaking to me, I feel as though I’ve eavesdropped on some tender exchange between lovers, or the murmurings of a nursing mother and baby. I don’t know what to say and the white noise machine just outside her office crackles benignly in the silence.
There is something so scandalous in the stark, simple declarative, a fragrance of brazen familiarity with the One who created all that is, the One who calls into being that which is not.
They stir my soul, these words, and not comfortably.
I leave our session that afternoon mulling my therapist’s words, turning them over and over again and feeling out their dimensions.
I know the truth is this: her words made me squirm because I’m not sure I can say them. I try, and I grieve over how foreign they sound on my tongue, how haltingly they come and how tentatively they step as they do. I want them to be true. Intellectually, on some level, I assent to their truth. But my limping, cynical heart protests, gives them a hard side-eye.
Still, I flirt with the wild hope that I might make them my own. Could it be true? Absolutely, really, truly true? Could I ever say it with such resolute faith? God takes care of me.
It’s easy for me to encourage others, to rhapsodize about God’s love to you. When my husband and I were writing to and then visiting a friend in prison last year, I could feel my words flow on the current of the Holy Spirit. “You are so precious to God and I know He will bring good out of even this,” I would write. And I really did know it. It hummed in my bones like electricity, this certainty of mine on his behalf. My hand cramped as I bore down hard on the page with my pen.
Then the panic attacks I began having last June devolved into panic disorder and suddenly God’s nearness seemed to dissipate. In His absence was a yawning void, a everpresent existential threat, a hovering wave of doom that refused to break on the shore but just kept riding high and tense. I couldn’t see God, couldn’t feel Him. I even wondered whether all His goodness had been nothing more than a wishful figment.
“When I felt secure, I said, ‘I will never be shaken,” the psalmist cries in Psalms 30:6-7 (NIV). “Lord, when you favored me, you made my royal mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.”
I’d prayed often to trust Him, but now as the invitation – command, even – to trust when He’d seemed to have vacated the horizon of reality arrived, I balked. One sleepless night at 2 a.m. I paced around our garden, the pea gravel paths crunching beneath my feet, providing an uneven rhythm to my repeated recitations of Psalm 23. I hoped my neighbors weren’t awake to see me looking like the terminal basketcase I feared I was becoming.
I felt forsaken, as though not only my family and my small town but the entire world slept while I drowned in sorrow beneath the groaning weight of the world’s fallenness. But that was when God’s presence finally reappeared. It was subtle, quiet, calm: a refreshing mist for my terror-parched soul. I was still in the valley, but I could feel Him walking alongside me, reminding me that He’d already borne it all and rose again to reign forever and because of Jesus, redemption was the final word.
I remember: sometimes the paths of righteousness that He leads us on for His name’s sake take us straight through the valley of the shadow of death. But even there, He takes care of us.
I walked with a friend recently one evening through the fields next to her house. She thinks in poetry, I think in prose. As the setting sun cast its gradient on the swaying grasses, coloring the high Kansas grasses with a tropical spectrum of blues and yellows and purples, she talked about a letter she was writing to her brother.
“Genesis never says anything about God creating color,” she said. “Maybe His light comes through all things, creating the color. And our trials and sufferings show us the fullness of who He is, revealing the full spectrum of colors we couldn’t see otherwise.”
Her rambunctious 4-month-old puppy pounced after a butterfly while her old black lab sniffed the air for things living and dead and then bolted away through the grass. The sun finally sighed beneath the horizon and I pondered these things in my heart, along with and perhaps in light of the phrase I’d been turning over for days now: God takes care of me.
I am learning to turn childlike, to say it with guileless surety. Try it out on your own tongue, friend. Does it come easily? Bless you. Does it come hard and halting and flavored with tears? Bless you, too. But say it, and say it again, because it is true and with time we will know it. God takes care of me.