December 5, 2020

I Miss You: A Lament

alone.jpgHow long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?

Psalm 13:1-2

I miss you, God.

It’s like you’re not around.

I see your world. I’m with your people. I’m surrounded by books about you. I read about you and talk about you. I teach others about you.

But I miss you.

I believe you’re there. I believe the Bible. I believe in Jesus. I don’t doubt your existence at all.

I miss you.

You. Not your people, or songs about you or books about you. I miss you.

I don’t miss all the theology in the books, the blogs and the lectures. I don’t miss the points of all the sermons. Or the answers to questions.

I have all those. Far more than I need, to be honest. But when David says, “Why are you hiding from me?” I know exactly what he is talking about.

I am missing you, God.

All of the activities that go on where you are talked about don’t bring you to me. Nothing that’s said or done in church fills this empty place.

When I pray, I feel like I’m talking, and that’s all. I don’t feel like I’m your child and you are there delighting in me. I feel you are far away.

It’s like you moved on and didn’t leave your address. It’s like we lived in the same house, but you’ve moved out without telling me where you went.

I cried out to you last night. Over and over. I want you to hear me. I don’t need to get your attention. I believe you’re close by. But I can’t see, sense or feel you. I feel alone. Like I am talking to myself.

I am starting to resent those who know you are close to them. Why am I different?

When I knew less, when I was considered young and ignorant, I felt you close to me. Then I grew up, and now I’m in the middle of life. It feels like I have lost you along the way. Somewhere in the crowd I let go of your hand, and now I’m alone. I’m calling out, but there is no answer.

There are people who will ridicule me for saying I want you. They will say I’m too interested in emotion. I don’t care what they say. This isn’t about my theology. My theology is as good as I can make it by all my efforts at study. No, this is about being able to stop and say “God is close to me. God delights in me. God is my friend, my father, my ever-present Abba.”

Where did you go? Why did you go away? Did my sins make you go away? Are you teaching me something? Are you taking away your presence so I will walk on, by faith, without you? Is this the “trough” C.S. Lewis wrote about? Will there ever be an explanation?

I’m weary of explanations and answers. I’m worn out with principles and illustrations. I’ve heard talking for what seems like an eternity and it doesn’t bring you closer to me.

When this happens, I hear voices telling me I shouldn’t need to feel you, and I shouldn’t even want to feel you. They will say I’m not reading and believing the verses. They will tell me I’m not trusting.

I may not be trusting you as I should. It’s harder and harder to trust you in this loneliness. It’s hard to turn away from this emptiness and tell myself you are real. I believe all of the right things in my mind, but my heart is aching to have you close to me again.

You’ve seen my tears. I don’t suppose they impress you. Maybe they are selfish, or sinful. I just don’t know anymore. Those tears are my way of saying I want you again. I want you in the way I experienced you before anyone said “Heâ’s smart” or “He knows about God.”

I miss you so much.

Please come back to me. Please tell me what to do. Please.

Comments

  1. This prayer reflects a period I experienced about 10 months ago when I was kicked out of ministry and fired from a second job. My identity was crumbled around, there was blankness all around me, and I was listless, depressed, very disoriented and utterly at the end of myself. What was worse, I knew God deep down but didn’t feel Him for months.

    Thankfully I am on the other side of that blankness, but it is so hard to imagine life in the clearing when you are in the midst of the Black Forest.

    May you find light in the midst of the blankness, feel in the midst of numbness, and a deeper understanding of the furious love of Yahweh.

    understanding,
    -jeremy

  2. These kinds of times are so hard. Half the advice you get is to press on and keep demanding Presence, the other half tells you to be still and wait, and all you really want to do is crawl into His lap and sleep for awhile, if only you could figure out where He went to.

  3. Micheal, my heart aches for you. Your writings helped me through my darkest nights of the soul. I wish I could do something besides pray for you, my brother, but pray I will.

  4. I know you don’t want meaningless cliches, but. . . after the Psalms, try Hopkins.

    http://www.bartleby.com/122/40.html

  5. Michael, I think you and Wezlo are on the same page. I think what he meant was that “Bible-based”/Evangelical Christians are offenders in the sense of being ignorant of lament themes in scripture.

    Aside from that, just…thanks.

  6. Michael, they are “offenders” in that Evangelical Christians seem to have no concept of a Lament while claiming to be “bible-based.” I’m not sure you read me correctly…

  7. Thank you for writing this. This is such a hard thing to articulate and you’ve done a wonderful job here. I remember feeling like God was ignoring me, just not talking back. Maybe He was listening, I couldn’t really tell. As they say, hind sight is 20/20 and I think that God was just letting me “chew” on some things for awhile. I was reminded of when the Israelites were told by God not to move until the “cloud” moved. Once it moved, they also moved. I don’t belive there was any explanation as to why the cloud stopped moving. Faith will get you through. It’s all we have in these difficult times. God bless.

  8. BJ Ellul says

    I’ve been reading this blog for some time. Never replied, but now I feel compelled. I’ve been reading because you have absolutely been expressing thoughts and concepts that I have been pondering and embracing for the past year. And your post here captures exactly what I too am feeling. During this recent time, I’ve been finding my hope in a belief that the feeling of God being close to me that I had previous to opening myself to more in-depth, soul-searching Scripture study and faith introspection was a feeling more about me than about God. Now I’ve come to be in a position where I see and understand and (hopefully) experience God for who He really is – a God so much more than about me and my feelings and my desire to have a God who I can use as a warm blanket, or stuffed animal, or close companion on the paths I choose to walk. He’s a God is far more than I can expect, imagine, or hope for. For me (and this certainly may not be your or other’s situation, only mine), I’ve found that I was worshiping and believing in a god who I could put in my pocket and carry with me and so he felt like a comforting wad of cash in my pocket. Once I really decided to put aside all the cliches, trite thoughts, assumed theologies, etc. I discovered He isn’t comfortable, He’s not a wad of security cash, and He doesn’t fit in a pocket or belong there. So the closeness isn’t quite there, but the assurance of His greatness that somehow because of Jesus includes even me . . . therein is my hope that helps assuage some of my wondering, fretting, and confusion. Some of it, anyway. Thanks again, for your honesty and your faithfulness.

  9. Thanks Michael, I wish I had the intestinal fortitude or titanium spine to write something like this to my congregation, especially the leaders. It often seems they read a different Bible and pray to a different God than I do. Pain, suffering, lament, even empathy are for other people. You have given words to my life story.

  10. Wezlo: Ahhhhhh….pardon me. My mistake. Thanks.

  11. J. K. Terberg says

    This is not an essay. It is like a letter and more similar to verse. I’ve noticed that people who comment on postings on this site tend to respond as if everything on this site is an essay. This posting is written in first person, but I’m not going to assume that it has been written only to relate what the writer is presently experiencing. Perhaps it is written to identify the feelings a lot of us have. -Seems to me it is an attempt to parallel some of the Psalms, which I think it does well.

    Many verses in the Psalms have been set to music. Almost all of this music is praise and worship songs. In these songs, evangelicals have chosen the ‘happy’, ‘positive’ scriptures.

    The writer of the Psalms set the dark stuff to music too. Christians do a good job presenting the bright side but generally don’t do much of anything with the negative, and setting the negative content to music is rarely done. I think that if David was alive today writing the Psalms, the dark content would be represented by wailing blues and grinding hard rock. The Psalms show us that it is ok to be blue and grey. Let’s be real and honest as to how we are feeling.

  12. Dee Collins says

    Dear Michael,
    I cried when I read this. At times, we have felt the same. Thank you for sharing your heart-I believe God is happy to see how deep your love runs for Him.

  13. Coming across this post today blew me away, because I relate to it almost to its entirety… so very strange….. for the last few days, I have been praying/pleading with the Lord David’s words from Psalm 13 (“how long, oh Lord, must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart…”) My “song” right now, too, for the time being is Shane and Shane’s, “I Miss You.” Crazy, crazy…. Thank you so much for the post. May He restore to you the joy of His salvation and quickly answer your prayer, for His glory and His Name’s sake…

  14. Brian Pendell says

    Mike,

    My heart goes out to you.

    I know a problem *I* have , as a baptist, is that I tend to have a very strong intellectual grounding in the faith but am a little weak in the spiritual part. The things of the world tend to crowd out the Quiet.

    If you’ll forgive an ignorant suggestion, may I suggest some Merton? Though I haven’t read him, from your description he may be just what you need now.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.

  15. Rob (an heir to the Kingdom) says

    Amen, Bro. I have had thoughts like this recently. I will be so relieved when we are forever in God’s presence and that separation you talk about is gone.

    I haven’t been a visitor to the site for very long, but I have been blessed by your thoughts. I will pray for you.

  16. Michael,
    Thanks for writing where you are. My prayer is that Jesus will do something to you. Whatever He does will be interesting.

    There’s that story about St. Teresa, who was praying (read: complaining) and Jesus said “I always treat my friends like this.” And she said “Then it’s no wonder you have so few.”

    If it never really happened, it should’ve.

  17. Fr. Mike Creson says

    Michael, When it’s hurting it’s real. Sometimes I don’t know what to do in this universe, except to show up. God is tough on the mind. Knowledge seems to increase our desire for more intimacy with God. Yet that intimacy does not seem to come in knowing more, but becoming less. St. Teresa of Avila speaks of 16 years of feeling distant from God. Her soul was dry. I have spent some time in that desert, hoping for just a trickle of grace to get me through the ‘dark night’. For me I just want authenticity in my life and ministry. Still got work to do on all this. Ministry is still exciting, but too much work takes us away from facing our deepest concerns in prayer. Excellent post.

  18. Thank you Michael. Thanks because you have walked with me through my darkness, and never have you insulted me when my own reality has been all struggle and confusion.

    Brokenness and darkness are such unwelcome guests, so utterly confusing and yet – somehow – so easy for bystanders to understand.

    Advice is overrated, what else can I give?

    My reply might not get posted since I’ll end with qouting someone else, but what kind of pathetic person replies to a post like this just to get their comments posted? Yeah, just pass on posting this, and I hope it is a blessing to you.

    WHEN NEW LIFE COMES
    O Holy Father,
    Make us ever mindful
    that
    As surely as
    Each new day
    Begins at midnight,
    So
    The coming of new life
    in us
    Follows
    some
    deep
    darkness
    of
    the
    soul.
    -Amen-

    Harold E. Kohn, Adventures in Insight, p.41.

    Oh, and in the darkness, I call Dan who makes me laugh and who listens to me and who loves me and cares for my soul. So if you haven’t already, you ought to give Dan a call. Finally, to guarantee I don’t get posted… all you really need to do is join my church and then you’ll be better. *wink*

  19. You’ve seen my tears. I don’t suppose they impress you. Maybe they are selfish, or sinful.

    I don’t think they are, bro:

    Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. — Matthew 5:6

    Sounds like this is exactly what you are doing. Only trouble is that this verse doesn’t end with “right away”.

  20. P.S. Not trying to give an easy answer, but this just popped in my head.

    I haven’t yet read John Piper’s “When I Don’t Desire God (How to Fight for Joy)”, and I realize that it’s not exactly the same thing, but there may be some parallels there that may be of help.

    And for anyone else (since I’m sure Michael knows this already), all of Dr Piper’s books can be read online here.

  21. Michael, NP – I feel your pain. Try picking out hymns in most Protestant hymnals for a series on Ecclesiastes. Sigh.

  22. Michael,

    With these words, you truely spoke my heart

    Thank you.

  23. Michael,

    Thank you for your honesty. It is honest posts like these that keep brining me back to you blog. It is of some comfort to know that I am not the only one out here in the desert.

  24. I’m crying with you and for you as I read.
    The “for” you is not pity, but rather, a small part of how we carry one another’s burdens–I hear your heart and your pain and I cry.
    The “with” you is that your pain expressed is not far from my own experience of pain and I’m thankful for the connection in the pain.

  25. How not so strange- a mutual blogger we both respect Dan Edelen posts of tsunami crisis afflicting him now.
    In my talks with God I suddenly blurted out ” I Hate your cross!”
    In my usual analysis of everything theological, I asked how God had changed-from then, when favor was upon me in times past, to now as things are being stripped away that I took delight in.

    This is your journey; YOU have to figure it out.

    (*sigh*)

  26. I believe Western churchianity is too tidy. It’s refreshing to know that there are others who are OK with the struggle that we must face in following Christ. Some days it feels like heaven reflects back my prayers and other times it feels like we’re sitting in the lap of our Father.

    I’m finding that it’s OK to struggle. It’s alright that everything isn’t tidy. Because behind it all God is accomplishing in us what he wants to. Our Father’s love expressed in Christ is enough.

  27. Found on a wall in the Warsaw ghetto after WWII (or so I remembering being told.)

    I believe in the sun even when it is not shining
    I believe in love even when not feeling it
    I believe in God, even when He is silent.

    I, too, have walked when God is silent, and can only pray that your period is short

  28. Wow. I have to be honest and admit that this whole thread, comments and all, has been so disheartening.

    I have never heard from God. Never. I have put myself prostrate on the floor and begged for him to reveal himself as it says in I don’t know how many verses, and received nothing.

    I have fed my doubting self bit by bit using the testimony of others who have, so they say, felt his presence.

    But it’s never come to me. I’ll be 42 next month. Isn’t it way beyond time for me to start living my life according to something, anything, that provides literal proof?

    When I first read Michael’s post, I was like, hear hear. I thought you all would come flooding forth with testimonies about how God is real; how you really DO feel His presence, even though I never have, despite my begging.

    Instead, no one can find him. Comment after comment, person after person admits he can’t find God.

    I’m starting to think that we’re fools.

  29. Joshua Manning says

    Marcia,
    In an age where everybody claims to have “talked with God” and use that to justify any gut feeling they have, a life of honest doubt guided by faith is not negative.
    I’ve heard the best way to hear God is to shut up. Go to the woods for a few days, or the mountains, get “vocabulary” from the natural world, and go to your Bible. You’ll hear something. It won’t be as overt as you think. God is utterly quiet most times. He’ll land as light as a feather but bend less than iron when He guides.
    I think the main thing we get in this life from God is mental vocabulary from nature and life, and that gives us images when we read the Word. For example: anyone who sees the grand canyon knows what glory is when they read the Lord is glorious. Get vocabulary, and believe Scripture. You won’t get a direct audience with God, but He’ll be there. Now there may be dry patches, which is what this post was about….but maybe we are fools…even fools are wise from time to time

  30. Marcia, while I will admit to not having read every last comment, the majority of them don’t (IMHO) reflect the idea of no one being able to find God.

    Rather, what I see is a lot of people who are honest enough about their faith to resonate with what Michael is saying, and not shallow enough to try to provide him with a 1-2-3 Jabez-type solution.

    This, by no means, is indicative that none of them can find God right now, nor does it mean that they never have been able to. Rather, it indicates that each of them are honest enough to say that they have been there, that they will pray, and that only God can truly resolve the situation.

  31. Add me to the list of those who admire the way you’ve been able to so beautifully express what so many of us have felt.

    I’ve never bought into the “game of hide and seek” metaphor. Truth is, any human father would cease the game immediately at the moment his child started crying in agony.

    Many are capable of manufacturing an emotional experience that they are comfortable identifying as ‘the presence of God.’ You and I and many here cannot. I truly believe that 98% of my tongue-speaking pentecostal brethren are lying to themselves, and I envy the fact that they can do it so convincingly.

    But sometimes I wonder if that’s what God wants from us – to fake it when we don’t feel it.

    Here’s a crude illustration, which should be skipped by those with delicate sensibilities:
    (You’ve been warned.)
    It doesn’t bother me in the least bit if my wife looks at pornography. In fact, I’m in favor of it, as long as she turns that manufactured passion toward me. Horny by any means is OK with me.

    Is that what God wants? For us to lose ourselves in a mindless Hillsongs praise chorus that’s been produced to maximize the our culturally-conditioned emotional responses? Is that OK with him?

    Cause I know it’s all fake.

    I honestly don’t know.

  32. Marcia, I’ve had encounters with God. It’s not where Michael is at the moment, though, and I’ve been where he is as well. What I’ve found is that when people encounter someone who’s struggling with a grief of some sort (a death, the “dark night” experience, etc) and respond to that with, “Well let me tell you how wonderful God is to me it’s self-serving rather than self-giving. In other words, the stories aren’t shared because they will make the person in grief feel better, they are there to convince the person speaking that everything is ok. Actually, as a pastor, I commend the vast majority of folks on this thread for simply saying, “Yes, that’s a real place and it’s no fun – I’ve been there too.” God’ll bring Michael to the other side, as God’s done time and time again for others – and on the other side faith will be stronger because it’s had a crisis.

  33. Brian Pendell says

    I concur with the last six comments. I have heard from God at various times, and at times he seems silent.

    It’s a tightrope. On the one hand, the quiet periods make it easy to fall into the ‘God doesn’t speak today’ belief common in the evangelical church. That is false. He does speak. I have heard him myself.

    On the other end of the scales is the Charismatic idea that God is a chatterbox … always talking, always telling people what they should do, where they should go, what brand of cereal to eat, what their political convictions should be. Such people tend to listen mostly to themselves. They take what they think God is telling them and slap ‘God told me to’ on it and call it a prophecy. This causes a lot of damage.

    It’s also the easy way out of church arguments. I’ve seen it happen when a pastor or someone would come up with an utterly unworkable plan for the church, and when challenged play the ‘God told me to’ card, which shuts everybody up and who can argue with it? Are you prepared to look your pastor in the eye and tell him you know God better than he does ? Then why is he the pastor and not you?

    It’s very hard to do. Still harder to do in such a way that doesn’t challenge the pastor’s authority or split the church.

    So that’s the other extreme.

    My experience? God does not ‘guide’ unless what he wants us to do is different from what we would choose to do rationally. I’ve never had God appear and tell me to get a job when I was unemployed. I’ve also heard from him this (paraphrased) … ‘figure it out for yourself’.

    When he’s really serious about it, I usually get a very vivid, very pointed dream or vision which is difficult to misinterpret. No seven fat cows followed by seven lean cows. No, I get ‘dreams and visions’ for dummies, visions so pointed they practically smack you upside the head. And if he’s REALLY serious, he’ll send it to more than one person. The reason I did some things earlier in life is because both my wife and I had very similar pointed dreams on the same day.

    But these are rare. I can count the number of times this has happened in my life on two hands. I think the reason for this is God wants to allow us freedom … freedom to choose among equally valid options for ourselves… freedom some charismatics try to take away by assigning one of these options the value of ‘THE option’ and backing it up by saying ‘God told me’. It’s a way for insecure people to validate their own opinions without going through the hard work of actually reasoning them out.

    And yes, I have been through exactly the same thing Michael is going through now. The last dry spell lasted several years. The next one could last just as long. This phenomenon is called the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ and many of the most reputable mystics, such as St. John of the Cross (in ‘The Cloud of Unknowing’) experienced and wrote about the phenomenon.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.

  34. Michael,

    I’m going through the same trial, brother. I know exactly how you feel. Someone yanks the rug, you fall for the umpteenth time, and you wonder if this time is the one where you don’t get back up on your feet.

    I’m not going to offer any advice but to say I understand. It’s the trying to get others to understand that is so discouraging.

  35. marymargaret says

    May God bless you and keep you, Michael. This is a very difficult time for you, and I’m not sure it helps to tell you that others have experienced this spiritual dryness–perhaps David and Job have best articulated it. My personal experience is that it is best to just say, I’m sorry and I will pray for you. (If it does help, I will say that, even when I disagree with you, I am encouraged in my faith by reading the musings of a Christian brother.)

    May God hold you in the palm of His hand. May He make His face to shine upon you, and give you peace.

    Mary Margaret

  36. Allan Parks says

    Michael;
    Thank you for such honesty. Lurking through the many entries, and comments on internetmonk for the last year has helped me through a difficult 2 years and perhaps another very difficult year coming up. I have learned that God is also within your friends, and their sitting by you, especially without their speaking deep bible based comments, is also His speaking. “I am here and will be with you always” has been their silent gift when that inner arm around the soul’s shoulder is missing. My pastor recently said “that our God is a quiet God, and we need to learn how to live in the silent times.” I am still trying to figure that one out.
    Mostly, I find a voice in remembering the book of James. No miracles, just patience and trust. If the world models God’s character there are a lot more deserted and silent places than gardens and concert halls. I have been lonely for most of my 35 years as a Christ follower yet I see more and more of his footsteps in my family’s life and the life of my friends. Yet, I deeply miss him in the middle of the night. Perhaps this is living part of the meaning of ‘seeing through a glass darkly’. Would it also be a useful paraphrase to say – living through a life darkly? And yet, could this be the normal experience of Christians, when I look at what the great believers have written and the balance of the content of the Psalms. God Bless you. I take some comfort in the knowledge that the One who’s voice I miss so much now is missed because I know who He is and how beautiful his voice is. Faith and patience must suffice till I hear him again. If His spirit was gone, I would not remember.

  37. beautiful

  38. In the Desert of the Real, you have been TentStaked. Because you read my MMMind.

    Again.

    (answering tears)

  39. I do identify with Michael and the most of the comments made. As pastor I very often long to hear from God. Just too many times I’m preaching but can definitely not say: “Thus sayeth the Lord.” I just don’t have the ability to say it the way Michael says it. I’m just so thankofull to se someone else experiending the same.

    I also agree with Brian Pendell referring to the “God told me..” card played by people who cannot convince people. John Frye opened my eyes for God not being a chatter box. I read his meditative dialogue and realised that God often answered him in single words or single sentences.

    I don’t have any answers. I have many questions. I have empathy.
    You said what I wanted to say long ago and very often.
    Thank you.

  40. Bob Sacamento says

    wow. So it’s not just me.

    Thanks, Michael. For what it’s worth, this post helps me at least to feel a little better about much the same struggles.

    Thanks for your honesty. I wish I myself could stop lying about all this stuff. But when I tried the honesty approach myself several years ago, everyone I knew put their fingers over their lips and said, “shhh”.

    Thanks, dude. great post.

  41. Johnny D says

    Here’s how I see it: Michael writes about feelings and emotions. Says he wants God to be back with him, as David did.

    Did God really leave David? Or did David just not see God’s face?

    Has anyone of us who has read Michael’s post ever seen God’s face? Really?

    Marcia says that maybe we are all fools. Maybe she’s right that we may be fools, but I say we are fools for trying to feel God, to see God’s face, and to sense Him. Feeling and sensing has to do with our natural senses.

    During a public forum on different religions, A Buddhist representative asked my pastor how he knows for sure God is real. Knowing the person who asked the question, I assume it was asked to trap him. My pastor answered ‘I don’t.’ I think this surprised the Buddhist. My pastor didn’t give the typical ‘He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way’ answer.

    Isn’t believing in Christ a walk of faith? What about the scriptures that speak of faith and hope? What about the hope of resurrection? What about the faith chapter in the book of Hebrews?

    I think we are barking up the wrong tree if we are trying to base what we believe on some physical evidence and emotion.

    Emotions. Who do they come from? Are they forced upon us by God, or are they self induced because of what we are thinking about?

    The way I see it, after thinking about this post and this discussion, is that each of us needs to decide if we want to believe God is real simply because the bible makes sense as the best option to explain the meaning of this life and all that exists. I have chosen to have faith in this religion because it offers so much. I don’t know without a shadow of doubt that it is real while viewing from this side of eternity but I am holding to my great hope, regardless of the fact that this religion hasn’t given me shivers down my spine for a long time.

    I guess we all want absolute assurance and it gets tough continually having to hold on to faith.

    BTW, I have seen an absolute, undisputable miracle once in my life. When I was 9 years old, my little brother was healed of a skin disease gone rampant. I kept my eyes open when he was being prayed for, and I saw his skin rippling as if something was moving over it. The healing was so undeniable, I interrupted the prayer by saying ‘Hey Look!’ to all the people gathered around my little brother. When they looked, the prayer stopped and everyone went bonkers jumping around for joy.

    In spite of the fact I have seen this miracle, I still have the option of believing another explaination for it. I could say that it was the power of positive thinking or that the stars were aligned. But I won’t. I hold to my faith that it was God’s answer to prayer. I haven’t seen anything like it in my life since and I won’t call a lot of the vague things that many people call miracles genuine. I’m a sceptic that way. I don’t know why God doesn’t perform miracles more often. I don’t get it, but I will hold to my faith in Him anyway. I hope someday I will be rewarded.

  42. Michael: Thank you for your honesty. As you can see, you have much support. You can add me as well. I’ve been a Christian for a long time and have NEVER really felt God’s presence in spite of all my begging and pleading. I did write to you in the past and you so graciously answered me. I do suffer from a distorted view of God, in part due to an anxiety disorder and a very heavy dose of legalism which feeds off the anxiety.

    I’ve been grieving the loss of my precious husband for the past year, and seem to have made no tangible progress. I long to feel the presence and comfort of God, but it is not there. Instead I am torturing myself with guilt that perhaps God is waiting for me to put Him first in my life. Maybe He allowed me to lose my husband to discipline me for my sins. I know in my head that this is not the way God “works”, but my heart is full of doubt. I pick up my Bible, but cannot seem to get motivated to study or even to read. If I come to a verse that I feel is the least bit condemning, that’s it – I become full of fear and somehow manage to convince myself that my perception of Him might be correct.

    In spite of all this, I cannot walk away from my faith, small as it is. If I walk away, that would mean I have no hope, and I cannot live without hope. I remember the verse where Jesus says that no one can pluck us out of His Hand. Because I cannot walk away, I do believe that is true. I just wish it were more real.

    I do see a Christian grief counsellor, but have been very inconsistent in doing my homework, which is basically having a brief quiet time, which is another thing to add to my guilt list. I keep wishing God would have taken me first, as my husband was very spiritual and truly loved the Lord.

    Anyway, enough of my rant. I thank you and everyone else for being so transparent. I don’t feel so odd anymore.

    Katie

  43. Yes I know how you feel, I miss him too. Someone commented above sorry you are going through what you did and I am thinking why are they sorry, you are just telling God you miss him. BTW God I too miss you very very much, nothing compares to you God.

  44. Michael, this is the first time I’ve seen your blog, and this is what I came to.

    Just last night I was re-reading my own journal from a couple of years ago when I went through a months-long period very similar to what you have shared.

    This may be completely off target, and forgive me if it is, but I wonder if you have read St. John of the Cross’s The Dark Night of the Soul? I had heard that phrase forever, but had no concept of what the book was about. My spiritual director at one point said, “You’re not only going through grief. You’re going through the dark night of the soul, too.”

    I read the book, even though I hardly had the courage to, for fear that in the end it would not apply to my situation. I lived in continual fear that He would not come back…or better put, that I would never again be able to sense His presence.

    But the book became a friend, and it gave me hope, and I was blessed beyond measure through the experience.

    So, just in case you haven’t read it, I hope you will. Not because it will “solve” anything, but it may give you hope and courage.

  45. 2 Corinthians 4 8-12, 16-18
    We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

    Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

  46. I have found that the times when I feel most distant from God are the moments when I am in the most sin and don’t want to hear what he has to say to me.

    It is not that God is turning his face from me, it is that I am shutting him out so that I can’t hear the Holy Spirit telling me something I don’t want to hear. It’s only when I cast away my sin and feel true repentence that his presence returns to me. You all know David had a lot of those moments when he let his sin cause distance between himself and God just like every other human being. And, thus, we now have story of his struggle in the Psalms, etc.

    I feel God’s presence most in my life when I am focused on Him rather than myself.

    I feel Him on the air around me and I hear him in the place between my dreams and being awake. I see him in the beauty of the world when I am rushing to work and I look up and see the blue sky and the mountains – just there, for me to look at every day.

    I can’t tell you how he speaks to me, only that he does. Sometimes it’s when I am reading a Bible passage for the upteenth time and all of a sudden I understand it for the first time, like He finally cleared my head and my heart for the message. I never know when this is going to happen. It just does.

    I hear it during sermons. Sometimes I have a flash of understanding of something that I don’t think even the pastor is totally aware of in the message he is delivering.

    I hear Him in my spirit through my conscience, telling me that I should have not treated a person a certain way or said a thoughtless comment that caused pain. I feel deep down in my soul somewhere when I have caused Him pain with my behavior and I am ashamed. Sometimes I don’t feel him, because then I would have to face my own actions and thoughts.

    I am aware He is and that the dark times are from the dark one. The snake slips temptation into our path during traumatic times when we are most vulnerable and he causes doubt when we are down and preys upon our minds. The evil one can only be dissapated by prayer and sincere intent and faith. When you are down, tell Satan to get behind you as you belong to Jesus. Sometimes I do that and there’s a palpable lightening in the room usually dependent upon my own sincerity when saying it.

    When my ex husband abandoned me and our two children, I felt as black as any of you have. When both my parents died when I was young, I felt as black as any of you have. I just kept going to church and praying. And praying. And praying.

    I would go to 2 or 3 sermons per week. I lived in Las Vegas. I could have hung in bars and casinos, but I made a conscious decision to go to church. More than one. Listening and praying and leaning on the Word that he loved me. I asked him to be the husband who left me. I never gave up.

    Peace didn’t happen overnight. I just had to stay the course and not focus on my own sadness (or I would have drowned). It took years. Sometimes I still fall down and have to get up. He helps me every time.

    My life is so much better. He was always there. Sometimes I felt his presence and sometimes I didn’t, but I always believed. I didn’t always “feel” God, but I believed the Bible. I knew he was out there somewhere.

    I pray for all of you who are struggling. Faith is so hard. It’s the hardest thing in life and at the same time, it is the purpose of life. But, that’s what we have the Bible for. For those who need something sensory – you can hold your Bible and read it at will. Thank you God, for the Bible. Thank you for a real thing to cling to when we can’t see or feel you at the moment.

    Whether or not you feel the words, you will read them and if they are true to you, then you will eventually be okay.

    One of God’s gifts is our memories or the eventual lack thereof. If we lose a loved one or experience a trauma, that memory will slowly fade and the pain lessens. If it didn’t we would all go mad. God is always waiting for that moment when we are not continually preoccupied with our own pain/desires and he slips back in to comfort us. That does not mean he is not there. He is always there, but he does not push himself upon us. He waits for us to be ready. Sometimes we are just not in a place to let him in.

    I don’t have the intellectual understanding or education that some of you do. But, I believe. I believe even when I don’t feel it. I caution you to not trip yourself up like Dr. Faustus did by wanting too much knowledge and blocking out the truth.

    I pray for you. I pray for me. Thank you God for Christ. Thank you for salvation.

    May God bless you all.

  47. I have never, ever doubted God-intellectually. I doubt him about every five seconds, behaviorally.

    I have not yet encountered a dark night of the soul like Michael’s. Most of the time I just sit around deeply disturbed and doubting myself instead of doubting God, which is sucky enough, I suppose.

    I don’t for a minute consider this marks me as a more spiritual person than Michael. Instead, I reckon it means one thing: I’m so immature, God hasn’t exposed me to that level of doubt yet, because he knows it would literally kill me.

    For battle-scarred warriors like Michael, he lets them go through it because he knows they have the character to endure it.

    And I know he will not let him endure it more than he can take. It will end. It must.

  48. Michael,

    I know exactly how you feel in this. It’s like, when people are suffering and struggling, others will say to them, “Rest in God more.” But what about when He is ripped from your grasp? What about when it seems like His presence is withdrawn? Then what? To suffer when you have God to rejoice in is one thing, but what about when your suffering IS not seeing God and being able to rejoice in Him? “Oh, but He is there… stop grasping for Him -that is your problem.” I’ve had well-meaning people tell me that, and to some degree they are absolutely right, but it still doesn’t change things. When I don’t see Him, when His peace is gone, I am lonely and weak, confused, exasperated, and easily failing in my own strength. Frustration overtakes me and resting in the gospel is the hardest thing in the world.

    Tim

  49. Barb, (and I hope that you hear the gentleness that I mean in my words), sometimes God sends/allows us to go through darkness for His own purposes. This is different from separation caused by sin.

    St. John of the Cross wrote a book about the “Dark Night of the Soul”. Many Catholic saints have gone through a similar period. Frequently, they are the ones most aware of their own sinfullness, and the distance between them and God.

    Perhaps this imagery may help. Gold can be purified and then cast into a lump. But, if a Master’s hand takes that lump of gold, and pulls it, hammers it, stretches it into fine wire, then it is still pure, but now more useful. It is now suitable for connecting people, filligree jewelry, or even spinning into a kingly garment.

  50. “We have all our beliefs, but we don’t want our beliefs. God of peace, we want You.”
    ~mewithoutYou

    Kinda reminded me of this lyric.