By Natalia Ibarra '24
Illustration by Helena Suh
“For I am the Lord, your God, who grasp your right hand; It is I who say to you, Do not fear, I will help you.”
Isaiah 41:13 (NABRE)
Tears were streaming down my face as I whispered, “Why, God?” I was on the floor curled up, heartbroken. I had expected to see my best friends, to dance at prom, to walk the stage at graduation, to celebrate my high school career. But none of that was going to happen now. A global pandemic happened and there was nothing I could do to have the life I expected, I wanted. I was miles away from the people and place I loved—and I couldn’t understand why.
God didn’t help me understand that day. So I fell into myself, a never-ending free fall. I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t breathe. I was on the floor but couldn’t land. My cheeks dried and breath steadied after hours. When I finally got up, I washed my face and sat down to do homework. I didn’t have anything else to do. I repeated this routine for weeks. I expected this to stop one day.
I knew I needed help, so I reached out to my school’s health center and was referred to the counseling office. I set up a virtual appointment. “Therapy will help me,” I thought. “It’ll fix me.” I set expectations that I hoped to achieve: I’ll stop crying. I’ll get out of bed. I’ll start laughing. However, after my first appointment, I was told I couldn’t see the school’s counselors anymore. My state’s medical restrictions prevented me from receiving virtual therapy. The help I was relying on was now gone. I knew that I needed to get better, but I didn’t know how.
“For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”
Matthew 19:26 (NABRE)
A few days after my one and only therapy session I decided to clean my study. I put my hair in a messy bun and started sorting through the piles of paper that had built up. While I was cleaning, I found some journals. They had a navy blue cover and were lined. They were also blank. I usually would have stored them, but I didn’t. Instead, I put one on my desk. Later that day, I got an unexplainable urge to write so I grabbed the empty journal and a pen. And I started writing.
I started writing a letter to God. It wasn’t my initial instinct but I trusted it. This was the start to a series of letters. Letters I would write every day for a month. Letters I still write today. Letters to God.
“Lord, you have probed me, you know me.”
Psalm 139:1 (NABRE)
Through these letters, I experienced healing and renewal.
I leaned into the Physician that “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3, ESV). The sorrow that had taken over my life the past few months slowly faded away. It was replaced by an understanding and trust I had never experienced before. I began to understand that God had a plan for me and that I needed to truly trust in Him.
Before the pandemic, I thought I trusted God. Clearly, I didn’t. When my life changed completely, I didn’t go to Him. I stepped back. I was angry at Him. I didn’t want to understand why the world had to suffer. I didn’t think there was a good enough reason for what had happened. I didn’t realize my lack of trust in God until I started writing. It was in my letters that I confronted my doubt in Him. I broke it down and built trust in God. It wasn’t easy, and I’m still working on trusting in God fully. One step I’m taking now: embracing prayer instead of anger. I pray for strength and understanding because I know God has a plan better than mine.
A few months after I started writing those letters, I looked up to Heaven and asked, “Why, God?” And while getting ready for work that day, I got an answer. Between washing my face and putting perfume on I began to understand that those months of sadness, confusion, and anger were meant to bring me closer to Him. Yes, they were difficult, almost impossible at times, but they had a purpose. I looked at myself in the mirror and smiled.
Amidst all the pain I experienced I know that some have suffered worse. My experience and what I have learned is valuable but this pandemic has also impacted millions of lives and that can’t be ignored. I also want to acknowledge that receiving help here on Earth, like therapy, is good and should be pursued, but if it fails God will help you where you are. I wasn’t sure he would until a few months ago when he took me into his care. I was so broken when God put on my heart to write to Him but He was there to help put me back together. If these months hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be where I am today, seeking to understand more of what God has planned for me and how to truly trust in Him. I can’t think of a better place to be. God will meet us where we are, we just have to open ourselves up to Him.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely; In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NABRE)