When God doesn’t show up

Today in church a newborn baby was blessed.

In my church, how a baby blessing works is the father will hold the baby in the center of a circle of family and friends and a prayer is said for the start of the little one’s life. Today something that was said in the blessing caught my attention.

“I bless you to always feel Heavenly Father near and His love for you,” the sweet dad said.

Wouldn’t that be nice?! My inner thoughts said back. And maybe there are some of you who legitimately have the gift of always feeling Him near and knowing without a doubt that His love for you is bigger than life. *If so, I totally want your life.*

But I wasn’t born with that gift.

Instead I was born with a skeptical little heart that I have to hold at bay now and then, and a talent for working really hard at things and not giving up, even when my insides aren’t really feeling it. I’ve always been embarrassed about that.

Why does it feel like sometimes I just got the short end of the stick? Why do some of my trials feel like a really personal blow? Why, when I’ve spent years praying for something, it feels like a brick wall is listening instead of a loving Father in Heaven?

Why does it feel like sometimes God chooses to just not show up?

alone on dock

As painful as it is to talk about, as embarrassing as it is to talk about weaknesses, I know I’m not the only one. Don’t worry, you don’t have to admit to it. I’ll take the fall and maybe you’ll relate along the way.

I was so blessed to be able to attend Time Out For Women this weekend, two nights filled with messages, music, and heart-to-heart honesty about trials, overcoming, and patience in the storms of life. All of the messages touched me deeply, but it wasn’t until Michael McLean, a wonderful singer and song writer, took to the stage that I suddenly felt like the Savior himself took my hand and wanted to deliver this very personal message straight to me.

TOFW.jpg

I won’t cover his whole message because it was long and you would fall asleep halfway through the blog because I wouldn’t be able to tell it as beautifully as he could. But long story short, Michael had a decade-long faith crisis. During this crisis of faith, he didn’t let anyone know what was going on internally or the doubts that singed his heart. He continued to go to church, he continued to write music, he kept going to the temple with his wife and joining in on family prayers. But he felt, all along, like he was in the darkness. And then one night he had a dream, in song of course, and he woke up and wrote the music that he heard in the dream.

“I choose to pray to one who doesn’t hear me. 

I choose to wait for love that He conceals.

And though God’s chosen now not to be near me, 

I’m keeping promises my heart no longer feels.”

I wouldn’t consider myself to be in a faith crisis that lasts years upon years like Michael and some others have experienced–but I have had pockets of moments, sometimes pockets of days or weeks, where these lyrics are what my heart would say while in the midst of the dark.

I felt that moment three years ago when my husband told me over the phone that Dad was just given nine more months to live. I still remember sitting against a vending machine, unable to stand, praying in a room that wouldn’t even echo. I felt nothing come back to me.

hug on bed

I felt that moment when the doctor said the word “infertility” and my prayer to be a mom fell on seemingly deaf ears.

I felt that moment when the only members left on my side of the family left the church and my prayers for them to stay seemed completely meaningless.

I have stood, alone and utterly broken, wondering why God decided not to show up when I needed him the most.

I have lived these moments.

And yet–so has He.

savior in garden

And although I’ve always known it, it wasn’t until I was reminded the other night that I put the pieces all together. Jesus–the Savior of the world, the perfect man, the CREATOR of the galaxies–was literally left alone. In his greatest hour of need Heavenly Father stepped away from Him and took away his presence completely.

Why did he do that to his only son? His perfect son??

Yes, it’s because he loves us so much. We’ve all heard that answer and we’ve studied it in Sunday School manuals.

But another answer is one we don’t think of that often. Heavenly Father had faith in Jesus.

He had complete faith that in the moment when Christ felt most alone, in that moment when there was darkness and emptiness and no voice whispering back, in that moment when the Spirit had left and the pain was immense and the blood stung his eyes–he decided to pray anyway.

jesus praying

He decided to do the Father’s will anyway. He decided to keep His promise ANYWAY.

So what more can I do? What more can you do?

Because of the Savior we will never be truly alone.

We might feel it–we might get a taste of what the Savior felt in Gethsemane as he cried to the Heavens and was later pinned to a cross on a lonely hill. But in those hours of feeling it, we need to do what Christ did when he was actually, truly alone and didn’t have God near by.

We need to pray anyway, even when we don’t get an answer back. We need to keep our promises, even when we don’t feel like it anymore. We need to love Him, even when we don’t feel very loved in return. Because in those moments, those little moments where our eyes put a roof on our perspective and we can only see a few feet ahead–

In those moments He’s counting on us to choose Him anyway.

pryaing

Life is so hard. There’s a million things we want and a hundred things we need and it’s so easy to see his hand in other’s lives and a little harder to see him working in ours. It’s so hard sometimes to watch our kids leave the church and to take the sacrament at church while feeling like it wouldn’t make a difference anyway with how terrible it has all been. It’s so hard to feel like you don’t have any friends you can talk to and to get on your knees to pray, only to cry instead, feeling like there isn’t anyone on the other end of the receiver. It’s so hard to deal with an empty home or a too-full home where you have no time to breathe. It’s so hard to deal with a spouse who has fallen away, an addiction that seems unbearable to handle, or a calling in life that makes you the one people go to for spiritual strength and there’s no time in the world to fall apart.

Life is so hard. I know.

But we have to keep going.

He has faith we’ll love him, even in those empty patches. Even in those moments where we’re almost completely convinced that He isn’t there.

If you’re in a crisis of faith right now, don’t try to convince yourself of anything. Just choose to keep going forward. Your faith won’t always be perfect–mine sure isn’t.

But He has perfect faith in us.

And for now, here in the dark, that’s enough light to hold on to.

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” -John 8:12, KJV

candle

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164 thoughts on “When God doesn’t show up

  1. Mm…it’s funny I bumped into this link and felt obligated to read through when usually I have no patience for long reads.
    See earlier today I received terrible news. News that broke into my heart immensely.
    I couldn’t help but feel it’s all been nothing but losses for a while now.
    I reflected on the fatigue my every limb feels ..the anxiety that sets in each time I have to rest my tired bones at night -how it either has me break out into this itch all over my body even after 5 scrubs that day; or purge from front and back, even on an empty belly.
    I hear you when you say at times you wonder why he isn’t showing up ; yet the thing though is in my moment of weakness, like when I broke down this morning , I always find myself knocking at his door. For me it’s faith conformity.
    I can break down but I can’t give up because that’s just the enemy trying to rob me again.
    I also realized how much I needed to be obedient. Reading through the book of Jeremiah in detail had me realize how much I had been disobedient even though not completely.
    I saught repentance from myself , everyone who had ever wronged me and vice versa , and God .
    I saught forgiveness from even my body, for all the things I’d put it through. My heart and my mind the most.
    So basically all Im saying is he is always there . You just need to sit where he needs you to be in order for you to receive. You have to be obedient. He has to take the reigns . Use every drop of energy within you daily to do what needs to be done within your powers, the rest you just trust.

    He’s always there.

  2. Thank you for this. My husband passed away tragically and unexpectedly on July 2nd and I have been feeling this way. Still continue to pray but feeling like he is not there and feeling so alone. This helps me more than you will ever know. Thank you!

    • I’m sorry for your loss. The emotional pain is nearly unbearable, but I promise you will be blessed with an inner strength you didn’t know you had. One day at a time. Don’t rush decisions. Cry in the shower. Eat something, even if it’s protein shakes for a month. Talk to someone – grief counselors can be very helpful. Don’t forget to pray. ❤ I've been widowed just over two years, 4 young kids at home, my family is three states away. But each day I'm stronger. You are too.

  3. I needed to hear this message. Struggling with health and financial issues and feel like my prayers are not heard. I know He is there but I can’t feel Him right now. Depression and pain take up all of my time and energy.

  4. We are put in thus earth to be tested and you have most definitely be tested there us a reason for every thing we can not know why we face the trials we do growing up.a bishop daughter i asked the same does god hear me i feel alone when im going through depression and fears of harming my self where is god but i know i must keep my faith and fight on. Thete is a reason hes testing me . keep the faith

  5. I’ve struggled at times with feeling like Heavenly Father answers everyone else’s prayers but mine. One of the most comforting talks I’ve ever heard/read is President Eyring’s talk Where Is the Pavilion? from Oct. 2012 conference. You might find comfort in it as well.

  6. Wow. For the past week I’ve really been doubting if there is a God & if he even gives a flip about good people. I can’t say this article has renewed my faith, but it’s sure nice to know I’m not alone as a faith struggle Mormon Christian. Thanks for being brave and sharing!

  7. So beautifully written! I used to think that life would be perfect and bump free if I kept the commandments and did everything the prophets have told me to do. Of course I was wrong about that. Where is the test in a life without bumps; large and small and even mountain-sized bumps? We are here to be tested, tried, and proven and, you are right, sometimes it seems like a solo experience. I’m sure that, once we get to the other side we will find out that the one set of footprints in the sand weren’t our own.

  8. Thank you for this. I have been there, done that and come away with the same tee-shirt (if you don’t mind the flippancy.) These Last Days are going to be difficult. They are a time when even the elect will be tempted and some will fall away.

    Faith has always been tough for me. I was raised by atheist parents who taught me never, never, never to accept something just because a person in authority said it was true. I converted to the Church after receiving a mind-blowing witness when I was 23. It’s been over 50 years. My testimony has grown, but it’s not been a smooth, uphill path, but rather one which has wandered through hills, into deep canyons and over steep precipices.

    Many times, I’ve felt as C S Lewis says in Screwtape Letters (through the mouth of a demon): “Our [Satan’s] cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s [God’s] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.

  9. Why would we want to worship a God who is such a jerk? I was taught that God was a loving heavenly parent. As a parent, I can’t see myself denying my children comfort when they are struggling or making them feel like they have to wait for my attention when they are emotionally drowning. And what good is it for Christ to have suffered all pains of the world if not to be a comfort to us in our time of need because the atonement certainly doesn’t keep us from feeling pain, grief, etc.? We are told that baptism is a two-way promise. If we are trying our hardest to fulfill our part of the bargain, shouldn’t god also? The sacrament prayers say “that they may always have his spirit to be with them.” The spirit, meaning the Holy Ghost, who is also called the comforter. I understand the idea that, as parents, we sometimes have to say no to our kid’s requests, or tell them that it’s not the right time for certain “blessings”. But I am not asking for a bicycle, I’m asking my spirit parent to put His arms around me and whisper words of encouragement to my soul. Comfort should be freely, and immediately given by God to his children. We should never be made to feel like we are alone in our sadness, grief and pain, even if that pain cannot be taken from us. The same applies to that saying, “Pray as though everything depends on God, and work as though everything depends on you.” In the end, if you are successful, it is because of the hard work you put in, not because of anything God did. This type of thinking is more consistent with an emotionless creator who just set things into motion and is watching with a bowl of popcorn. I appreciate the sentiment, and there’s value in it if it helps you make sense of your pain. It just doesn’t cut it for me.

    • I agree. Why do we have to convince ourselves God is there? Why does he leave so many alone. Why does he care about finding lost car keys and let’s 1000’s die of starvation or be sold into sex slavery? Let me guess … It’s his “plan for them” or “we just don’t understand gods ways…” Gimme a break!

    • Dear Sceptic:
      Don’t give up. Heavenly Father Loves YOU! Stick with the Gospel. You won’t be sorry. I’m going through times with no answers and I will not give up. I know He is there and loves me and I will continue to do what our Loving Heavenly Father wants me to. You can do it. Love you.

  10. It’s the Holy Spirit that comforts you. Your religion doesn’t allow for you’re worthy. It’s always if you prayed more, if you tithe more. It’s always bad things happen because you don’t have a strong testimony. Thefts not how it works. God is love. He wants the best for his children but he won’t hand it b to you. I’ve seen hoe your ferritin this people, good b people in knots and leaves them in despair. It’s not the true religion that beats you down and you never can do enough or give enough. Your God will not answer you. Your God isn’t listening.

  11. Sometimes I think God leaves us alone to let us SEARCH, really search HIM. Until we truly find Him and let Him be one with our hearts, minds and souls.

  12. I wish I had your faith. Our daughter was in a car accident last October. She was gravely injured and lay in the ICU for 3 three weeks, the first two wavering between life and death. I prayed and everybody we knew and many we never met prayer for her to live and heal. Each day I pray for her to continue healing so she can have her life back. The prayers are now for the insurance company to change its policy and allow her more of the therapy that is crucial to her healing. The prayers have been to no avail. She is right on the verge of a breakthrough that could give her life back to her in a significant way. She has Traumatic Brain Injury with Aphasia and amnesia. The Aphasia (short-term memory loss) is the issue that will keep her from being out on her own again and the therapy she needs for that is being denied to her. I thought that once she was approved for Social Security and her medical coverage changed, she would be eligible for medicare and once again eligible for speech therapy. That’s not the case anymore. Remember when your coverages started all over at the end of the year and you were allowed more session of therapies like Physical therapy or, as in this case, speech therapy? That’s not how it works anymore. She had insurance through the Obamacare exchanges, that was renewed July 1st. We thought it meant she would be allowed more therapy when the insurance year started over for her. That’s what it use to be. But, not anymore. You also are no longer eligible for medicare for 2 years after you have been approved for social security instead of being eligible immediate. You are now placed on Medicaid through the welfare department and it doesn’t give her any more session of therapy because she’s already used that benefit through the exchanges. We are left with a daughter that must get the therapy she needs for to be able to once again be a productive member of society and is being denied that therapy. I am trying to do the same kind of therapy for her myself but let’s face it, I am no expert. At $800 for an hour-long session, we cannot afford to pay for her therapy. I have been praying for a solution to this situation. I pray until I am in tears and shaking. I want my daughter to have her life back. My daughter, if left in this situation, will likely commit suicide in the future. She doesn’t want to continue to live like this if there is no hope for improvement. Please pray for her and whatever God’s plan is for her. Thanks!

    • Patricia, I read your post and my heart goes out to you and your daughter. I went thru something for 4 long years and wondering why God wasn’t answering but I kept praying for I know that God works everything for good even when we do not feel it or see it. That’s why we call it faith. I reminded myself of Job and Joseph often. Hang in there…God has heard your prayers. I will be earnestly praying for you and your daughter. May God allow you to feel his presence and divine healing for your daughter.

  13. Oh when this happens it is soooo hard! During a time when my marriage was almost impossible, my prayers for help were hitting the ceiling. I felt like a whining child,, Help me, Help me, Bless me, Bless me. So I started to give prayers of thanks all day. Thank you for the beautiful sky with white clouds. Thank you for that lovely tree in bloom. Thank you for the kind friend who remembered me today. Thank you for children who love each other. By the end of the day, I felt I could ask for help, without sounding like a whiner. It really helped me feel happy, even when times were terrible. And soon I felt the Spirit with me, and I could wait patiently until my prayers were answered. It allowed me to keep a prayer in my heart, something I had never understood how to do before. I began to see the tender mercies my Lord was sending me, to remind me that I was not forgotten, that I was loved and watched over.

    • Susan, I have been trying to do just that, prayers of thanksgiving and then the prayers of asking. Thank you for your encouraging words. I feel even more that I am on the right track. Sometimes it is really hard, just lost a nephew, have a son dealing with two types of terminal brain cancer, a dear friend who’s cancer has returned and is now affecting her liver and she is now in hospice, another friend just had cancer surgery, a granddaughter dealing with depression after having a traumatic experience, and I’m still dealing with of my husband 4 years ago. I am just now beginning to feel like the fog of despair I have been under for so long, now is finally beginning to lift. I almost feel like I am finally rejoining the human race. At the age of 68, I’m now registered for school, something I have thought about but never had the courage or whatever to do anything about it. I start on Sept 12th.

      In a quote by C. S. Lewis in ‘A Grief Observed’ :
      “When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of ‘No answer.’ It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand.” This is how I feel at these times. I don’t know the “why” right now but, it will eventually know it, even if it is not to be until I return home to Him, I will know the why when I am ready .

      Heavenly Father has lovingly been with me every step of the way, even at times I didn’t think He was really there, He was. He didn’t abandon me, He waited patiently as I stumbled along, gave up so many times, but always there was that little something that just wouldn’t leave me alone, saying “You can do it if you just try!” I know that a good portion of the time it was the fear of failure that held me back. Again thank you for your words that have encouraged me.

  14. This was an answer to a prayer tonight my husband is an apostate two of my children have left the church and some days I do feel completely alone. The line but he had perfect faith in us is what i needed to hear thank you

  15. An applicable quotes from the outstanding ‘A Grief Observed’ by CS Lewis:

    “When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of ‘No answer.’ It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand.”

  16. Absolutely beautiful. I lost my husband almost 4 month ago unexpectly at the age of 47 and I often feel like no one is on the receiving end of all my prayers. Not my husbannd, and kot my Jeavenlu Father. This gives me hope to just keep trying and not give up hope.

  17. Thank you for sharing. I was thinking about this tonight. Asking myself…Why must we have faith? By definition God is unseen (and I think, often unfelt.). Sometimes I wish it wasn’t by faith.

  18. One of my favorite scriptures in the New Testament is when we are told that I’m the Garden of Gethsemene, our Heanlh Father sent an angel to be with Jesus so he wasn’t alone. The angel didn’t do a single thing to change what the Savior endured, but he wasn’t alone. I love the symbolic message this sends. While no one can take away our suffering, we need not be alone.

  19. Thank you so much for sharing! I needed this and I love it! It touch my heart because there are moments in my life where i felt this way.

  20. Thank you for sharing your feelings. It seems I’m alone most of the time without God or others being there for me. I expect my children to have a testimony (most have strayed from the church) even though I have many doubts and usually don’t feel the Spirit. I’m trying to set an example of prayer and faith for them. Hopefully it will help all of us, if not in this life then in the next.

  21. Bravo! Why is it that it seems more people I know, including myself, is going through major trials right now. Something big must be around the bend & these trials are preparing us for what’s to come…maybe. I don’t know, but I can most definitely relate to what you have described, even though I have had many sacred, spiritual experiences in my life in which I should never have doubts. I am so grateful for Michael McLean. His music has brought the Spirit more times than I can count. His music has been a balm to my soul. I remember the first time I met him. It was at a TOFW & I broke down and started crying as I told him how grateful I was for his music. Do you know what he said after he gave me a big hug? He pointed up and said, “It’s not me. It’s Him.” I know that is true. I read his book he wrote years back where he talked about his depression. Having depression myself, I can say that it can effect our spirituality. I’m grateful for the perspective of how Heavenly Father is counting on us to do the right thing, have faith, even when we feel alone, just as Christ felt alone. I had never considered this before. This is HUGE! I hope & pray that this post helps others as it as helped me…so many of us NEED a boost as we face the refining fires of this life. Thank you. It takes courage to be open about our weaknesses, but in doing so, can be helpful & beneficial to many.

  22. So what you’re saying is that I am condemned to wander aimlessly and useless for years as a loving God looks on and does nothing? Hollow, needing help from a God who won’t show up? Needing to help and pray for others, but I can’t effectively do it? Looking at envy with others who are walking with God, and helping. Giving real praise and worship as i am locked out in the cold. Wow, that’s pretty freaking awesome!!! Thank you for that extra knife in my soul and anvil around my neck. I’m all giggles for reading this.

  23. Sorry but I think you use this Jesus chap as a comfort blanket to get through life!
    Instead, why not question why this deity does not intervene when children are raped, when Syrian children die in horrible bombings or when famine kills thousands in Africa each day!….sorry, your infertility is not high up on the pecking order lady!

  24. Thank you for the reminder that we are never alone. I have felt this keenly in my life and wondered what was wrong with me. I have finally learning I have to be the one to turn to him, turn my heart to him, allow my heart to feel his love. We might feel alone but we are not. I have learned that every morning if I turn to him first, say a prayer, read an inspirational talk or read a scripture it sets the theme for my whole day. And its not that the trials and doubt don’t come but I am more prepared to face them…and with God’s help. Thank you again.

  25. Wow, this is so well thought out and presented. I remember being advised many years ago, when I felt God had left me alone in my grief over the passing of our infant son, that Jesus had been left alone to work out what He needed to do. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings so eloquently.

  26. Did Michael McLean sing that song? I read the lyrics in a magazine but I couldn’t find the song. do you know if he released the song to the public?

  27. Thank you for this. Thank you. I’m clinging to this today “He decided to do the Father’s will anyway. He decided to keep His promise ANYWAY.”

  28. I know this was written a year ago, but I wanted to say thank you for your honest heart and willingness to share it. Life is so hard. You are so right. This spoke to me today, as I am trying to walk through one of those difficult, quiet patches of life. Trying to keep the faith, trying to press on. So thank you.

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