The Stories Left Untold
Words by Allyson Karnowski // Image by Emily Magers
A few months ago, I heard a sermon about God’s faithfulness. The pastor spent over half his allotted time in front of the crowd telling story after story of God turning the worst of situations into the best, healing godly people from diseases, changing diagnoses and test scores, watching drug dealers come to Christ, and flipping marriages around. I love hearing these stories; something in me thrives off them. I want to hear more about God’s promises, ways his faithfulness shines in our deepest fears and failures. I want to hear more stories of hope. I want to hear more about the goodness of God.
I can’t help but think, though, aren’t we skipping some stories? I mean, I know the stories where God radically changes lives are the ones that stir our souls, but what about the others?
What about the stories when you’ve prayed for years on end for God to heal your mom, your uncle, your son, or your grandma from disease and they still pass away? Or the stories of depression getting the worst of people? Or the stories of friendships falling away? What about those types of stories—why don’t we tell them? Isn’t God still faithful when our prayers are answered differently than the way we’d like them to be?
As I gripped the pew that Sunday under my tightened white knuckles remembering my parents’ failed marriage and months of unanswered prayers, tears welled deeply in me. I couldn’t help my thoughts drifting to: God, why?
It stings to type those words and admit I questioned my Maker that day.
Why couldn’t my parents have been named in the stories that Sunday, telling of God’s faithfulness in their many years together, their grand reconnection, their rebuilt marriage? Why, instead of our story being told from the podium, were my dad and I both staring straight into the church’s carpet, knowingly remembering the hurt we experienced?
I think, (and yes, I am biased here) that these stories need to be told too. Our stories of changed directions, broken families, painful memories, need to be spoken because as I’ve reluctantly learned—God is still faithful in those situations. And that’s what’s often forgotten in the somber stories. God was, and is, faithful all along.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Heb. 10:23)
The day my mom moved out of my childhood home, I couldn’t be there to watch. Instead, I stationed myself in one of those giant, puffy chairs that suck you inside them, perfect for wallowing in my own self-pity.
My dad called me that evening. We talked, or rather he talked and I cried. I cried out of sadness, frustration, uncertainty. I created reason after reason why I actually deserved to sink further into these feelings.
My ramblings and tears were cut off as my dad gently spoke my name. “Calm down,” he then said. Calm down? How could I possibly calm down? Why wasn’t he madder?
“You know what?” he asked as I stubbornly held onto my anger, believing that nothing he could say was going to make the situation better. “God is still good.”
Now, I don’t know what brought my dad to that point, but I do know that his words took away my bitterness and my excuses. God is still good. He was still faithful, even on that heartbreaking day. Faithful in his love, in his peace, in his sustaining strength, in his grace.
When we are in the midst of trouble, it often seems as though we will be in this low forever. We fall deep into our pain like my day in the engulfing chair. In those times, it’s difficult to see the light; it’s difficult not to point fingers, but to instead be pointed to the truth.
God is still faithful when someone dies.
God is still faithful when we think our prayers fall on deaf ears.
God is still faithful in the unexpected.
God is still faithful in a divorce.
After all the happy-ending stories and the spreading of uplifting hope that Sunday, my eyes were focused on the floor beneath me as the sermon ended with promises. Promises from God—not that our stories will always miraculously turn how we would like them to be, and not promises that our lives will always be happy and without pain in this world. There were promises, though, that our God remains faithful.
“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.” (Deut. 7:9)
“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you.” (Is. 26:3)
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:22–23)
As I listened to verse after verse, my grip loosened and my heart softened as I finally lifted my head. God is faithful; he is in control; he is, and always will be, good.