My breathing got faster . . . shallower. My heart raced and so did my thoughts. Not wanting to wake my parents, I grabbed my heavy green blanket and stole out to the hallway. Not the regular hallway. The one by the front door that no one else used.
I leaned against the wall, my bare feet flat on the cold floor, my knees scrunched up into me. I pulled the blanket tighter, fighting the all-too-familiar panic attack — alone. I didn’t want to wake anyone up. I couldn’t text friends because they were asleep. Often in my life, the battles fought at night have been the loneliest.
But then footsteps sounded. My mom’s slippers hitting the hard wood. I stayed silent. She walked by, but didn’t look down the hallway. I debated. I could call out, but then she’d be burdened by my struggles. She’d miss out on sleep.
The footsteps sounded again and her phone’s flashlight bobbed down the hallway, back into her room. Now I felt even more alone, hopeless for support and help. Maybe you’re feeling invisible right now, too. It might not be a panic attack in the dead of night. Maybe you’re a caregiver, sacrificing your needs and dreams for someone you love. Or perhaps you’re a mom, striving to juggle everything and everyone, doing work that no one sees.
Maybe you’re a college student or missionary, facing the loneliness of living far away from family — watching birthdays and adventures happen on Facebook . . . without you. Maybe you’re a bridesmaid watching your best friend covenant herself to a new best friend, while you don’t even have a date. Perhaps you’re on the other side of that happy occasion, signing papers you never thought you’d sign, alone in a bed you used to share. Or maybe you’re smiling and hiding your way through waves of an aching, clawing grief . . . invisible to the people you know and every passerby.
I remember one morning, standing in front of the bathroom mirror. I looked into my own eyes in shock. My face looked . . . normal. My smile didn’t seem fake. Yet my mind and body were screaming out in pain from the chronic illness ravaging my body. How on earth did I look so put together?
Invisible suffering hurts because God did not design us to be invisible. He designed us to be seen. And in the seeing, loved. That is in the very fiber of our being. The fact that we all feel this core desire so acutely points to the reality of our design. Even in Scripture, we see this yearning.
In Psalm 142, David cries out, “Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.” Feeling invisible, David begs God to see him. Does your heart cry out just like David’s?
That night in the hallway, I didn’t speak up for my mom to hear me. But I did start whispering to my God. I tried to ask Him to come close to me. I tried to ask Him to be with me. But mostly all I could manage was, “Jesus, help.” Because when no one else sees, God does. Though everyone was asleep, this remained true for me: “He will not let your foot slip — he who watches over you will not slumber” (Psalm 121:3).
Friend, He sees you. He sees the behind-the-scenes work you do. He sees the pain you hide. He sees the burdens you bear without complaint. He sees. And there are sisters who see, too.
God gave me such a sister. One day, while staying at a friend’s house, another panic attack hit. No one noticed my unobstrusive disappearance. In a tucked away corner I tried all the tools my counselor had given me to calm myself down. But Esther noticed — and Esther came looking for me. She walked into the bedroom. I heard her pause as she looked around. I thought she was going to turn around. But then she stepped further in. She saw me. She didn’t say anything. But she slid down the wall and sat next to me. She was there. And I was not alone.
Like God, she not only saw me, she saw me and entered in — when I let her.
You are not alone in your invisible suffering. I know that truth is so hard to hold onto sometimes. But today I’m wondering if you’ll do something with me. Will you take a deep breath, choose to believe this truth, and be brave with me? Will you vulnerably pray, “Jesus, help.” Or text your sister in Christ, “I need a listening ear.”
I know it’s not easy. Before Esther, there were so many unseen, desperate days. Even when I prayed “Jesus, help” it didn’t magically mean I felt seen. But eventually, God met me in the quiet, and my sisters started to sit with me.
It might take time. But they are there and they want to be with you. And when there is no one, there is God. He is present in our invisible suffering. So let’s keep hoping and keep believing in the truth. Together.Leave a Comment