[Editor’s note: This was written before COVID-19 but we believe the concepts and ideas of pressing in with God in the journey of suffering even when God seems silent, couldn’t be more relevant. We hope God meets you as you read and that you feel comfort in feeling seen and known in whatever suffering you may be facing now.
At the end of this article we want to point you towards essential services and some helpful resources if you need them.]
I was given my first Bible when I was 8 years old. My god-mother gave it to me for my birthday, along with my first pair of gold earrings. I loved those earrings, and I loved that Bible. I actually still have both.
The Bible was a children’s story book Bible. I started reading it right away. I read it every night. After reading, I would kneel next to my bed to pray before going to sleep. Why? ‘Cause that’s what I saw on TV. But a secondary motivation became pleasing my mom—‘cause whenever she caught me praying beside my bed, she, without fail, would cry tears of joy. In my memory, this went on for a while.
Believing in God was natural for me. I don’t remember starting to believe, or asking if there was a God. Not until I was in university. Because of my Mom’s heritage, God was unquestioned. I was baptized as a little baby, had a god-mother, and received a Bible.
After that intense interest in the Bible and prayer, which may have lasted anywhere from a week to a year—whatever my 8-year-old brain believed was a while, not much happened. Well, spiritually anyway.
A lot did happen in my life, however—mostly with my home life. As my family’s stability started to crumble due to unanticipated career changes that led to addiction, verbal and emotional abuse began to define my after-school life. Though I wasn’t the one receiving most of the hurt, I made myself the defender and intervener. I was always seeking to protect, fix, and manage the chaos around me. And if you’re familiar with chaos, if you have not caused it, you cannot change it.
Then, when I was 14, my Mom heard the gospel for the first time. The idea of a personal relationship with a God who loves, cares, is constant, and who gives peace and hope. As you can imagine, she dove right into it, and invited us kids into it.
Over the course of the next 4 years, my sister, myself, and my brother all came to understand and believe in that same gospel. It gave us the hope, value, and stability that we all craved. And we all experienced it very intimately—but I’ll let them tell their own stories.
For me, this new relationship with God was intense, radical, intimate, and powerful. I was completely amazed by the sacrificial, unconditional, relentless, good fatherly love that God had, has, and displayed for me through Jesus. Singing songs about these things regularly brought me to tears. The idea of being forgiven was freeing. The understanding that the world is a broken place full of hurt that will, one day, be put right was exactly what I needed to hear to live a more joyful and hopeful life.
This continued into university, even as I asked some big questions about God and Jesus in my first year—including questions about God’s existence, the trustworthiness of the Bible, and the resurrection of Jesus. Through that year, I discovered that history did support my beliefs and the way that I experienced God. He not only existed, but was in a real relationship with me.
While in university, I also became very passionate about lovingly sharing this news with those in my life who hadn’t heard it before. I wouldn’t have heard the gospel if that young camp counselor hadn’t taken the time to share it with my mom. As I listened to friends, and heard their stories, I could always see how a relationship with God, like the one I was experiencing, could bring them the same hope and joy that I now had. And I wanted them to have the chance to have it!
For 10 years following my university career, I had the joy of sharing the hope that I had in Jesus with others, and seeing others receive that same hope in their lives as they discovered Jesus, and then watched them do the same! Those years included many moments of hearing God’s voice clearly.
For instance, when he told me to go into ministry after university, when I walked past someone I didn’t know and was told to stop and talk to that person, being told exactly what to say to someone, or even to not leave the country for missions because I was going to get married that year.
Those years had their bumps and struggles and questions, but what never wavered was that intimate connection with God.
But that changed a little over a year ago, when my husband and I had our daughter, Chloe.
I know, that sounds horrible. And I, in no way, blame my daughter for the changes that I’ve experienced with God. At least I don’t think so.
In becoming a mom, I immediately recognized that I felt different. I constantly felt panicked about my inability as a mom, the health of my baby, sleep, and my new life. I experienced panic attacks almost nightly. At the same time, I was stripped of the coping mechanisms that I had used to deal with stress and anxiety before having Chloe: working out, time alone, or time just with my husband. Things are very different with a newborn.
So it festered. Constantly. I was desperately exhausted, but couldn’t sleep. I tried a countless number of homeopathic and natural treatments like epsom salt baths, magnesium supplements, other supplements, essential oils, etc. Many of them did help for a time, or took the edge off, but I was still left struggling. I also joined a support group with other moms who were experiencing postpartum mood disorder, which was incredibly helpful in helping me understand what I was experiencing, and that I wasn’t alone, but still didn’t rid me of this new mental state.
So I prayed. Well, I prayed throughout it all. At first I prayed that my baby would sleep—cause sleep is GOLD when it comes to reducing postpartum anxiety.
So then I started praying for things I knew, believed, and experienced that God was eager to give like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, the fruit of the Spirit.
I was being ghosted by God. It was like he had ex-communicated me. Everything I read in the Bible told me things that I didn’t feel at all anymore. Like, God is with you, for you, he is present, he is good, and he’s in control. I read these truths but felt nothing.
I ended up starting on medication, which has helped me tremendously. As Chloe grew older, things got simpler and less anxiety-inducing for me. So I was doing better—but in ways that seemed completely removed from God and faith, which was very new for me.
I struggled in community too. All the “helpful” platitudes that others shared with me fell short. “Our emotions can’t be trusted,” “Maybe it was just your perspective that was wrong,” “What about all the people God brought to you to help?”
They all left me feeling wrong; wrong to be struggling, confused, mad and hurt. On top of my own feelings, I wondered about all those that I had dropped these lines on for so many years…
And so, in the end, I came face to face with what seemed to be my only recourse: walking away from God. This relationship that had always brought me hope and peace had now so painfully failed me. And I was done. I didn’t want to feel so hurt anymore, so abandoned and lied to.
No matter my feelings or relational experience with God, I couldn’t deny that Jesus still lived, still died, and still rose again. He did so so that I could be brought to God after this life, in a place free of the brokenness I was drowning in.
So completely walking away from God wasn’t really an option for me, which felt hopelessly frustrating, but I came to terms with.
What I struggled with, and continue to struggle with, is whether or not God cares about our experience of living in the midst of the brokenness now.
It’s hard to see past the end of our pain. And so I’m still left with uncertainty.
Mentally, deep down I have eternal hope, and eternal peace, and eternal joy. And I’m thankful. But it doesn’t diminish the pain and the struggle that I feel now. And knowing that it won’t last forever is great, but it doesn’t make anything easier in the midst of it.
This silence from God is brutal. This tension sucks. I hope it doesn’t last for the rest of this life. But I have no guarantee that it won’t. So I’m wrestling, and struggling with God. I’m asking big questions about whether or not God is good, and what his role in suffering is. And it’s hard.
At the same time, I’m experiencing freedom in honestly sharing about my experience with God with others—not only for my own mental and emotional health, but for those who I have journeyed with. I’m realizing that sharing is an important part of the process towards healing.
I long for others to know that suffering can happen, even blindside us, and that faith can be fragile. In those moments, you don’t have to panic, pull away, or feel ashamed.
Faith is a journey, and we need to experience and offer the freedom to ourselves and to others to move through those times—however messy it might get.
As for me, maybe things will be radically different tomorrow. Maybe they won’t be. Maybe things will just evolve, and I’ll start to experience God in different ways than before—I think I might be beginning to see that. MIGHT.
Today, I think I just need to carry on, without rushing, and keep journeying.
[Editor’s note: So, what now?
Mandy’s story is still in process. The ending hasn’t been defined, though she does feel a glimmer of hope. You may be in process too, attempting to wade through a mess of questions, feelings, struggles, and thoughts.
If you are faced with uncertainty and suffering and need to talk or journey with someone we would love to provide some support. We have online mentors ready to journey with you. Connect with one by filling out the form below linked “I don’t want to suffer alone”.
If you are in a mental health crisis or are considering suicide, we want to direct you to the Are You in Crisis resource with the Canadian Mental Health Association.
If you are processing your thoughts and feelings of God being distant in your suffering, we would love to direct you to these other resources from our Official Blog:
- I wish Christians talked more about mental health
- When “Just stop worrying” doesn’t stop anxiety
- Recognizing and recovering from emotional abuse
- MENtal health
- Supporting your friends through mental health struggles
- How the gospel has changed my life
Know that whatever you are facing, we are praying for you. We grieve with you, and long to partner with you in your experience. Even though you may feel it, you are truly not alone.
Erin Ford, Editorial Manager with Power to Change – Students]