You duped me, Lord, and I let myself be duped;
you were too strong for me, and you prevailed.
All day long I am an object of laughter;
everyone mocks me.
Whenever I speak, I must cry out,
violence and outrage I proclaim;
The word of the Lord has brought me
reproach and derision all day long.
I say I will not mention him,
I will no longer speak in his name.
But then it is as if fire is burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones;
I grow weary holding back,
But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion:
my persecutors will stumble, they will not prevail.
In their failure they will be put to utter shame,
to lasting, unforgettable confusion.
Lord of hosts, you test the just,
you see mind and heart.
– Jeremiah 20: 7-9, 11, 12
There have been a few times in my life when I was completely blindsided. I thought I was living a good Catholic life of prayer and frequenting the sacraments. But then something unexpected, shocking even, happened and I was left in the aftermath of complete confusion.
The first example I can offer of feeling like God duped me was when Sarah was born. Nobody knew this little person growing inside my womb had a rare genetic condition. The doctors were stunned. Ben and I couldn’t understand what was happening. And all along, the only thing my mind kept coming back to was, “You tricked me, God! You knew this was happening and never gave me a clue.”
At the time, I played this tape over and over in my mind. There were no consolations, only darkness. And anger. I never questioned God’s existence. What I did question was why He intentionally left me in the dark without any inkling of what we were facing as a family. I didn’t want to pray, but I would scream and sob at God during the rare moments I had to myself.
Accepting the Mysteries and Unanswered Questions
There is a certain naivete we all carry as finite beings. We cannot possibly know the grand design of God’s plans for our lives, despite the fact we think we can control nearly everything that happens to us. Being in control gives us a sense of satisfaction and responsibility, allows us to feel less helpless or victimized. It’s more than a power struggle when we realize that God is, in fact, sovereign over everything, including the traumas we face.
What perplexed me the most was that God, being omniscient, knew about Sarah’s condition. Being omnipotent, He could have done something to change it. He could have at least warned Ben and me somehow! But I felt like the prophet Jeremiah, who proclaimed, “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.” He continues with a lamentation about how he has no intention of speaking about God or praying to Him anymore, because he was the victim of some cruel game of trickery.
Yet his heart softens at the eleventh verse. He remembers that God is his champion and those who are righteous experience trials in this life that are complete mysteries. That’s not a message we want to hear, myself included. Looking in retrospect, God did give me subtle cues that we would be facing a heavy cross – through dreams, a strong sense that something was wrong with Sarah about a month before her birth, asking me if I trusted Him with this child.
How Do We Trust When Everything Has Changed?
We don’t always receive such gifts. During my entire pregnancy with Joseph, I struggled both emotionally and spiritually. Unlike my pregnancy with Felicity, Sarah, and Veronica, I was constantly in a state of anxiety, wondering if the baby was okay or if we’d receive difficult news of more chromosomal issues. I didn’t know it at the time, but Sarah’s birth had traumatized me for subsequent pregnancies, and it took a huge toll on my overall health.
I begged God for a sign that things were okay with the baby. None. I pleaded that He would show me that everything would turn out well. Nothing. Day after day it was just this constant wondering, questioning, waiting. It felt like agony, even more so because my heart was longing for God to comfort me. Yet there was no comfort given.
There are seasons in life when we feel that God has completely rejected us. People tell us that He loves us, that He cares for every detail of our lives. “Just trust His plan,” they’ll say. “God knows what He’s doing.” But what happens when everything in Scripture, every word uttered by well-intentioned friends, and every possible platitude just end up hollow in your heart?
It’s Okay to Be Angry With God
The only thing that got me through those long months when Joe was in utero was to just take one moment, then another, and allow myself to be angry or afraid or anxious. Just don’t close the door to God, and don’t stop the conversation. There are simply no correct or universal answers to the depth of mental, emotional, and/or spiritual suffering that we endure sometimes in life.
When you cannot muster another prayer, ask someone else to pray for you. When you feel your strength waning, ask for help. God isn’t a liar. He’s not a trickster. He’s always good, always loving, even when it feels more like He’s chastising you than showing you mercy. Keep asking the hard questions, even when you don’t get an answer. One day you will have a chance to look back on your life and see how every detail was placed together to form the person you are still becoming.