How Inviting God Into My Trials Opened a Way Out
By Adelaide Mitchell
Hear Him Louder Essay Series: Adelaide's Story
Nine years ago, I was walking in the woods behind my house in Tallahassee. The afternoon sun was waning and my infant son was sleeping in his wrap against my chest. I was walking with Him, too—praying, listening. Suddenly, I felt a presence to my right. With my hand on my baby’s head, I turned my glance and there, in the grey, lifeless setting of the still-wintery woods was one solitary cardinal with his remarkable red feathers standing in stark contrast to the sullen branches that surrounded him.
Before I explain the significance of that cardinal, I need to first describe the dark weeks that led up to that moment.
A Thorny Start to Motherhood
Little Henry was placed on my chest at 1:00 in the morning in a dark hospital room with just one lamp near the delivery table and a handful of people.
He remained in the same spot on my bare chest, precisely where the midwife placed him, for what seemed like twenty minutes. He seemed impossibly delicate, so I hesitated to maneuver his tiny form. All I could do was nervously kiss the top of his gauzy, warm head.
The Lord had sewn a seed in my life—the seed of motherhood. But like the parable of sower who sows the truth of God’s word, Jesus warns us that if the seed is sewn among thorns, what he calls “the cares of this world,” the thorns “choke the word, and it proves unfruitful,” (Mark 4: 18-19, ESV).
As someone prone to anxiety, I found myself wrought with fears as I held this fresh life in my hands and was being trusted with it; these fears were the thorns threatening to choke out a blooming, thriving motherhood.
Frantic Laments and an Important Reminder
If I could describe my state of mind in those early weeks of motherhood in one word it would be “frantic” or even “desperate.” I was suffering from intrusive thoughts about my baby getting hurt.
Rather than asking God for help and listening for directions, I would try to fight these thoughts with all of my own reasoning and logic. But the darkness would whisper back, "Still, it could happen."
During this time, the extent of my prayer life was a series of laments and desperate demands: Why, God? Why is this happening? Make it stop.
I sought out a Christian counselor, and she reminded me: I was still good, even if dark and scary thoughts broke through. Suddenly, I felt worthy of healing.
Of course, I know that we are always worthy. From the instance God creates us to our final breath, we are worthy because we are created as His precious beings.
Why had I forgotten that? How had I gotten so off-course? Why had I allowed the evil one destroy the beautiful gift God had given me?
I left that appointment feeling a bit like the invalid near Bethseda before Jesus finds him and asks him a simple question: “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5: 6, ESV). I never actually asked for healing. I complained. I demanded it stopped. I took matters into my own hands. But I never open up space in my prayer life for God to direct me to healing.
A Different Kind of Prayer
Newly reminded of my worth as His child, I began a true dialogue with God again. I abandoned the bitter, desperate laments I had been hurling at God, and replaced them with space to listen for His guidance.
I stopped asking, “Why, Lord?” and began asking, “What now? What do I do next?”
He led me to medical resources and to long prayer walks in the woods behind our house. With my son wrapped tightly against me, I would walk into those woods, my boots pressing onto fallen leaves, and my heart pressing into Him. I would ask Him questions and listen for answers.
The Afternoon He Met Me
This brings me back to the cardinal. I don’t think I will ever forget the feeling that overcame me when I saw that cardinal looking directly my way in the barren woods.
It stood with such stillness—such steadfastness—and yet such presence. I knew it was sent for me. I felt God in that moment. It was as if the cardinal was sent to remind me of the nearness and constancy of our God even when our surroundings appear bleak.
Don’t forget me in your trials, He seemed to say. I am here. I always will be near you.
Eyes full of tears—absolutely overwhelmed by this visceral message, I kissed my sleeping son’s head just like when I first met him, except this type of kiss was not as a frantic substitute in the midst of fear. Those kisses, that afternoon, meant we’re going to be okay.
Space to Listen, Room to Bloom
The thorny fears that I had been unintentionally feeding began to dry up and fall away. The seed of motherhood that God had planted finally had room to bloom.
I began seeing cardinals everywhere: several in the trees that arched above my head while I pushed the stroller down our street; one perched on the wooden cross that stood outside of our neighborhood church; and one—as unlikely as it sounds--on the cover of the bible study packet that I gripped in disbelief when I joined a local young parents’ group.
I always loved my son, but now I was able to enjoy him, and motherhood, in the way God intended. I learned to turn my face toward Him in difficult times, to invite God into them. I still have seasons of anxiety, but I’m learning to listen to His directions, to allow Him to guide me out.
Whenever I visit those woods, and walk through its quiet paths, I feel its sacredness as a place of rebirth for me. There He met me and has sustained me since.
The Hear Him Louder Essay Series is a guest writer series where God's daughters share their stories of hearing God’s whispers in their every day. It’s meant to serve as an encouragement for the times when God feels far and seems quiet. When we read each other’s stories of how He meets us, it reminds and reassures us that He is near. May this series be an invitation for us to listen for His voice together.
Don't miss any posts in this series! Subscribe to receive notifications for each new essay, posted every other Thursday. When you subscribe, you'll receive a link to a FREE five-day devotional (45 beautiful pages!) called, “Closer: Five Days to Hearing God Louder.” Each day features teaching on one posture and a guided journaling section to help us practice taking steps toward hearing God louder in our every day.
Learn more about each of these five postures:
1 | Seek: If I Seek God, Will I Really Find Him?
2 | Know: Will God Speak, Even to Me?
3 | Expect: Can I Expect to Hear God?
4 | Listen: How Do I Listen for God?
5 | Connect: Is God Really Right Here?
New to this series? Check out the rest of the series!
Interested in contributing to the Hear Him Louder Essay Series? The call for submissions opens in January and June. To submit an essay outside of those windows, contact me.
Adelaide has been transplanted several times, but currently finds herself in the soil of central California (figuratively, of course). She lives in a house of full of boys with a husband and three sons, so she compensates by snuggling up to her two female pups, Lady and Lucy.
She is an educator at the local community college and is blogging her journey through the entire Bible at thestoneandtheoak.com.
She recently became a blog contributor for The Joyful Life Magazine, writing about DIY projects that glorify God.