Monday, February 10, 2014

When God Isn't There

All my life I've felt God's presence near.  From the time I was a small child, as young as I can remember, I knew He was there.  As clearly as I can feel it when someone is standing behind my chair, I knew God was with me.  I knew He had my back.

I didn't do anything to seek Him out or work to have Him near.  It was just a gift.  It was a part of me.  Just the way I was made, like my green eyes.  Just who I am.

I think sometimes when we have gifts (of spirituality or intellect or athletic ability or whatever) we have difficulty understanding why those things are harder for other people.  Sometimes to the point of arrogance.  "They could do this, too, if they really tried."  Something like that.

I can admit I sometimes had that problem with my gift.

It was like I could see something standing right before both of us but you couldn't see it and I thought you just weren't looking hard enough.

As a child I didn't know not everyone experienced it.  As children do, I assumed everyone was like me.  I was often confused at the things people chose to do and say, wondering how they could do those things when God was so near. 

As I grew, I heard people describe their search for God.  What?  Um.  He's just there.  Why do you have to search?  I really couldn't wrap my brain around it.

Then I had long, gut-wrenching conversations with people who said they'd never felt God in their lives.  They'd never felt His love for them.  And, honestly, I wondered what they were doing wrong.  What gospel truth were they missing?  What were they neglecting?  These were good people; why couldn't they feel Him?  Why didn't they know Him?

Because He's just there.  Until He isn't.

A little over a month ago, when I got slammed with whatever mental health bomb hit me, I noticed I couldn't feel Him anymore.  He wasn't there.  I couldn't connect.  I didn't understand why.  I tried to reach out.  I tried all the things that have ever brought me closer to God in the past.  Nothing.

I didn't doubt He was still there.  I've had too much evidence in my life to the contrary.  I didn't believe He had pulled away and was refusing me.  I know too much about His nature to believe that.  But for whatever reason, I could no longer connect to God.  I was alone in a way I'd never been before.

It was such an awful state to be.  It hurt.  It was scary.  It was lonely.  It was traumatic.  It made my heart ache.

At first I just thought of myself.  I floundered like someone drowning, splashing and flailing trying to stay alive.  Trying to want to stay in this world that had suddenly become so dark.

Eventually I thought of others.  I sought for what this could teach me.  I questioned all those judgments I'd made throughout my life.

I had done nothing wrong, but I couldn't connect to God.  I was doing everything possible to find Him again, but I still couldn't do it.  Maybe the same was true for the people I'd judged.  Misjudged.

That was last night.  I started letting myself feel what others have felt without being afraid of it.  Without trying to make it stop.  I wanted to let it teach me what it could.  And when I prayed before bed last night (which has been very different and much more difficult without feeling connected to God) I accepted it.  I told God I didn't know if this was an assignment or just a coincidence, but I was willing to accept it and learn what He'd have me learn from it.  I spent last night and today trying to feel what all those people feel who haven't felt God.

I can still only guess.  Even when it was all so dark, I had my past experience to rely on.  I had my testimony through experience to assure me He was there even if I couldn't feel Him.  I had my understanding of His nature to let me know He still loved me and would watch over me even if I wasn't aware of it.  And even with all of that, it was terrifying.

I can't imagine how anyone gets through this life without knowing God is there and loves them and watches over them.  I just can't process it.  But I have a glimpse.  And I am so sorry for all the times I've judged people as unworthy or unwilling to try.  I was so wrong.

I don't know why I had this experience.  It wasn't the medication because it started before I took anything.  I don't know if it was caused by the anxiety and depression or if it was the other way around.  Maybe they were triggered by the loss of God.

Tonight, as I was getting ready for bed, I thought about how lonely I've been without God.  I pondered on what I've learned.  I knew I had to write this post.

And as soon as I committed to write this post, His love came rushing back.  I was flooded with it.  Surrounded and overwhelmed.  Soon I was on my knees, sobbing, thanking Him.  Thanking Him for what I'd learned, but mostly for allowing me to be in His presence again.  To have Him with me.  He reminded me of our previous conversation, "You can't do the work I need you to do if you feel better."  I remembered accepting that assignment.  I reaffirmed my acceptance of it.  I will go through what He needs me to in order to do what He needs me to do.

I don't know if my latest mental health episode is over, but right now I feel peace.  So much peace it is almost overpowering.  And I am so grateful for it.

I know there are those of you reading this who haven't felt His love.  It makes me sad.  I don't know how you will find Him.  But I offer you my experience that maybe you can rely on it until you have your own.

God is real.  He loves you.  He is aware of you and your struggles.  He will reach out to you, in whatever way is best for you.  Watch for it.


The Dose of Reality said...

Beautiful Robin. I am so glad that you had this experience and that you were able to feel God around you. Comforting for sure.-Ashley

Bonnie said...

I'm reminded of the promise that no trial is ever longer than it needs to be. I too have had those opportunities to feel what others might feel and it's wrenching and eye-opening and compassion-building (and arrogance-diminishing). What a beautiful answer to my prayers for you and I'm sure your prayers as well. He watches over all and has such faith in us.

Sharybary said...

So happy to read this! said...

Even some of the people in the Bible, those who were closest to God, had times where they couldn't feel His presence - they weren't sure He was there. But that's where faith comes in and that's where our past experience helps us. I've always been intrigued by the accounts in Scripture where God had them do things so they could REMEMBER - like putting some of the manna in a jar or building an altar or establishing a ceremony. Those past times of seeing Him work and experiencing His presence, carry us through when we don't.

I'm sorry you had to go through a time where you didn't feel His presence but it sounds like it drew you closer to Him and it helped you understand what others experience.

But I'm glad it's over and I'm glad you're feeling a bit better. I hope the worst is over.

MaggieJo said...

Thank you for this post. When I was a teenager, I felt Him with me all the time. It was a powerful, intimate relationship. I don't feel that as much anymore. I've often wonder what I'm doing wrong or why I've lost Him. But I can see how I needed that then so I could be where I am now. And now, I press forward with faith. I have glimpses and precious moments, but mostly, it's faith. Thank you for sharing His message with me, that I'm doing ok. Oh, I needed this today Robin. Thank you.

Louise Plummer said...

Thank you for this post.