God promised never to leave me or forsake me, but then why did I feel so abandoned and alone?
I was in a terrible state of pain and weariness — one of the most difficult and exhausting stretches in my 19-year-long battle with chronic illness.
I cried out to God. Begged Him for mercy. Asked Him, “Why?” Wept angry, bitter tears. Demanded answers.
But I couldn’t seem to feel God’s presence. Nothing about my circumstance improved. In fact, it seemed to get worse at every turn.
I doubted that He even saw me in my pain. In my darkest moments, I doubted He truly loved me.
Then I went silent.
For the first time I can remember, I couldn’t pray. I don’t mean that I refused to pray. I mean that I could not.
No matter how discouraged or even angry I’ve been at God, I’ve always been able to pour our my heart to Him.
I have a bookshelf full of prayer journals — the good, the bad and the ugly spilled out on page after page. As my husband has always told me, I’m a good “pray-er.”
But suddenly I couldn’t.
It wasn’t because I was angry at God (okay, maybe a little bit). But mostly, I just felt numb. Worn down by physical and emotional exhaustion. Disillusioned by years of seeming disregard for my desperate prayers for healing. I had shot my wad. I had nothing left.
I also happened to be in the middle of planning a conference for 200 women at my church. Along with my friend and author Suzie Eller, I was preparing to speak on the message of “Live Free.”
Perfect timing. I couldn’t remember a time I felt less free. How could I possibly inspire women to live with freedom when I couldn’t even hurdle the barrier needed to to utter a simple prayer?
I want to share with you a few things that carried me through this time when I fell to my knees, but no words came:
Short cries for help.
I didn’t have the energy to pour my heart out. But as I fought pain and weariness I simply began to say, “Jesus” or “Help me” or “Lord, I need you.”
I began to truly understand my need for the truth of Romans 8:26: “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.”
I relied on the Holy Spirit more than ever before to plead my case before the Father.
Pray like David.
If anyone knew how to pray in the middle of his discouragement and despair, it was David. At times, his prayers were brutally honest.
He didn’t hold back on his feelings of abandonment and frustration with God. He questioned God’s seeming lack of activity on his behalf. I’ve always been comforted by his bold honesty.
If God included David’s rants in the Bible, I figure He must be okay with us pouring out our raw, unfiltered doubts and emotions to Him, too.
While I was struggling so much, a friend of mine — who is in a four-year-long battle with AML leukemia — encouraged me to go to Psalms and pray David’s prayers as my own.
I was amazed at how similar my emotions and frustrations were to his.
Ask others to pray for you.
This sounds so obvious, right? But here’s the catch. When we’re in this dark place, we have to be honest and real about about our doubts and difficulties. We can’t sugarcoat it.
When people asked what they could do for me, I’d simply say, “Pray for me. Because I can’t pray for myself right now. I don’t feel like God hears me and I’m terribly discouraged.”
There’s an urgency in that kind of request that helps people understand the depth of your need.
One night at my chronic illness group, that I led, I simply fell apart. I was in so much pain and was so weary. These sweet ladies put aside their own pain and our agenda aside for the evening, laid their hands on me and prayed for me. Deep, desperate, Spirit-filled prayers.
These are the women we have to seek out. Real, godly, drop-to-their-knees prayer warriors. Women who will go to their knees for us regularly and specifically.
Get trusted counsel.
I shared my struggle and frustration with my dear friend and mentor, Ann. She wasn’t judgmental or condemning. She shared in my tears and frustration.
As I poured out my pain that I felt God wasn’t present in my struggle, she said something that became the breakthrough in my battle: “Melinda, don’t you see? God has been present. Despite your ongoing health issues, He has given you the power to be a wife and a mother, to care for a special needs child, to write a book and be in full-time ministry. Consider all you have been able to do — that is the power of God working through you.”
She continued … “I don’t know why He is allowing you to go through this terrible stretch right now, but I do know this: This period of your life is anointed. God will bring victory out of this pain.”
No, He hadn’t healed me, but He had been giving me His power in the midst of my battle. I was not forsaken. He hadn’t left me.
This new perspective gave my message of “Live Free” fresh life.
Even though I was physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted, at the women’s conference a week later, the Holy Spirit worked through me to deliver a raw, powerful message of God’s presence in our pain.
In fact, I have never experienced such a tangible presence of the Holy Spirit in a room.
After I finished speaking and sat down, women streamed to the altar to pray. I noticed a young woman who I had never met next to me, staring at me. I thought, “She probably wants me to pray with her. I know I should, but I don’t know if I can, God.”
Before I had a chance to do anything, she touched me on the shoulder and said, “God told me to pray for you and He wants you to know that He sees You.”
© Melinda Means. Includes excerpts from Invisible Wounds: Hope While You’re Hurting.
Download this FREE Prayer Journal (and two Verse Printables!) when you subscribe to my weekly newsletter! To subscribe, simply enter your email address below:
My book, Invisible Wounds: Hope While You’re Hurting is available on Amazon in both Kindle and Paperback versions.
The Kindle version is $2.99 for a limited time. The Paperback version is currently $8.99 and includes a Discussion Guide perfect for both individuals and small groups. If you purchase the Kindle version, you can find a downloadable Discussion Guide by clicking here.
Every time I read Melinda Means, I feel like I’ve encountered the heart of Christ. In Invisible Wounds, she goes one step further. She shows me how Christ is holding my heart in his Hands, and how He holds me gently – every wound, every broken place – to bring wholeheartedness to my life. This book is for any woman who is hurting today, any woman who needs to know that hope is one heart-cry away.
It’s rare to find someone who will share her wounds with the kind of vulnerability Melinda does … Her voice is powerful yet tender. She will challenge you and encourage you at the same time. And chances are, you’ll laugh and cry…and maybe even find yourself nodding with a deep understanding as you read the hard-earned wisdom in these pages.
~ Carey Scott, author of Untangled: Let God Loosen the Knots of Insecurity in Your Life
Melinda shares her battle to find hope and hold onto her faith as she copes with the challenges of her personal debilitating disease, as well as the condition of her precious son. She allows you to see and feel her struggles and numbness all while being transparent about her doubts and questions about God. Her book will bring much-needed inspiration to others who have invisible wounds, too.
~ Amy Lykins, Executive Director of Business Development at Proverbs 31
Melinda understands so well this often-hopeless journey of hidden pain. To the woman who thinks no one sees—this book is for you. To the woman nursing hurts that don’t seem to heal—this book is for you. And, for every one of us (including me) who needs a God-sized reminder that only Jesus can help, this book is for us. Make sure you get two copies—someone you know needs hope while she’s hurting, too.
~ Joanne Kraft, author of The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids
In Invisible Wounds, Melinda gets real and encourages us to do the same. It’s through this realness that we can find grace from God and stronger relationships with others. Stories from Melinda’s life, her friends’ stories, and examples from Scripture all work together to help readers view their hardships as the training ground for growth. I’m excited to have this book to recommend to the special-needs parents that I minister to each day.
At some point in our lives, each of us has dealt with the fear, pain, doubts, and discouragement that Melinda writes about in this book. She describes beautifully how to address the lies the enemy places in our hearts. Melinda also helps us see that through our relationship with God and the promises we receive through knowing Him as our Lord and Savior, we can overcome these wounds. I am encouraged as I journey through her words and feel that through this book, Melinda will reach women as seeds of hope and love are planted—ones can only be found through Christ Jesus.
~ Cheryl Goss, Founder and President of Connecting Ministries
In Invisible Wounds, Melinda courageously opens the door to the inner struggles of a woman’s heart. She reminds us that God wants us to give him the depth of our pain so that He will show us His presence. With approachable wit and grace, Melinda’s words are a soft balm to our open wounds, providing healing and restoration to weary souls alike.
~ Christen Price, speaker, blogger at christenprice.com and author of Practice Hospitality and Invited (releases March 2017)