First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on January 11, 2022 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/embracing-god-when-it-feels-like-he-s-not-there
You are loved. You matter. Don’t give up. Do not be afraid. These words heal and have brought me comfort many times. I need to hear these words now as much as I did a few months ago.
I believed a lie that I could do it all on my own effort.
I was doing everything in my power to juggle projects and relationships. God said, “Let me help.”
“No, I got this.”
I burned out and got sick. I was overcome with psychosis and mania. Though it’s not all my fault. Things just break down. Especially when I have a chronic mental illness. My mind is a marvellous and complex organ. The medicine wasn’t working enough for me to have balance.
In the emergency waiting room my body trembled, and I fell to the floor shouting, “I can’t do this alone anymore!”
Later my prayer to Jesus was “I can’t do this anymore. I am giving you all my projects, plans and problems. I’m stepping back. Jesus, you have the relief I need. I don’t have the answers. I can’t do life on my own. I need you, Jesus!”
Two nurses and my mom helped me off the floor into a wheelchair to take me to a more calming room. They looked me into the eyes and said, “Lisa, you’re going to be okay.”
They held onto my hands and shoulders as my whole body was shaking hard. I changed into a hospital gown and lay on a mattress on the floor of a small dark room. I was scared, shaking, and hoping for peace.
One of the nurses who took my pulse was very kind. I asked her if she had seen the Chosen series, because I felt a bit like Mary Magdalene from the first episode. Though my experience was very different. When the emergency doctor came in, he checked my vital signs. I asked him if this feeling was what jumping out of an airplane feels like.
“I’ve never jumped out of an airplane.”
Even though I didn’t feel Jesus’ presence at that moment, looking back I know he was with me in the hospital. He was with my mom and me as we checked in. He was at my side when they brought me upstairs to give me a room. And he has never left. As Father Fernando Ocariz, prelate of Opus Dei, said in his Christmas message, “God is looking at us lovingly at every moment. We are constantly accompanied by God’s love.”
Yet I still can feel abandoned. This is when I need to hear those healing words. You are loved. You matter. Don’t give up. Do not be afraid. This is where confidence in his love for me is tested.
When things are going well, I believe – without a doubt – in his love and kindness. It’s in times of darkness and trial that I am tested and find it hard to hold on to hope.
This new year will unfold in unknown ways, and I want to trust God through it. He cares for me and you with his very own life. He came to us as a baby at Christmas and promises to give us lives of joy. That is why I hold onto belief that good things are coming. That the best is not behind but ahead.
Hope doesn’t have to look like you have a smile on your face all day. It is the quiet certitude that the God who created the heavens and earth sent his son and will take care of our needs.
My experience in the hospital is proof of healing. I have come out of that place with more self-compassion, tenderness, and love.
I am working on changing negative thoughts into positive thinking. I am taking the medicine prescribed. I am doing therapy. I am attending Mass and confession. Everything that can help my body, mind, and soul heal, I am doing.
I am letting God help me with my plans and goals this year. I can. I can. With you. With you. I won’t give up. I believe.
“For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken” (Ps 62:5-6).
Lisa Rumpel’s podcast, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience, is available on popular streaming services.