Abandoned or Embraced (by Celeste)
Did God abandon me? As a Christian woman, I almost feel ashamed that I have asked this question on more than one occasion. Sometimes I think that my faith should be so solid and my relationship with God so intimate, that this question never crosses my mind. However, that just isn’t the case.
I’m Not the Only One
I have the opportunity to run a Christian women’s retreat each year. Because of this opportunity, I get to know a little bit about a lot of different women. While we are each so different, we have so many similarities. For example, each of the women have experienced some heart-wrenching challenge: abuse, betrayal, loneliness, loss of a loved one, damaged relationships, and so much more. And for each woman, that challenge has sometimes strained her relationship with God. In short, it’s caused her to wonder if He has abandoned her.
I want to share about a time in my life when I felt abandoned by God and how I learned to trust Him again. It’s scary to share, because I know so many women who are dealing with challenges that seem so much greater than mine. I also know many women who have looked at my challenges and said their challenges were nothing in comparison to mine. That’s not what this article is about. This is a comparison-free zone, a time to learn and grow together.
When I was younger, I was powerless to change some of the circumstances that caused me suffering and was fueled by the idea that when I became an adult, I could become the master of my circumstances. That one BIG belief held within it many SMALLER beliefs. Beliefs like, “I won’t get hurt by others because I will only surround myself with people who are kind” or “I will be able to control things around me and the negative things I can’t control will only affect me from time to time”. As I learned about God growing up, I tangled Him up into my mistaken beliefs and they morphed into, “I won’t get hurt by others because God loves me enough to warn me about those who might hurt me. He will protect me.” and “I will live a really good life so I will be blessed. Blessed means God will give me all the desires of my heart.”
The first couple of years out on my own fueled my mistaken beliefs. I felt like I was in control and being “blessed” for being “good”. I got married to a fabulous man, finished my degree, found a great job, then gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.
However, in the years following my son’s birth, I suffered from both physical and emotional challenges. I felt that this was just one of those challenges that came for a short time, then left. I sought help from many providers. One doctor recommended that I not get pregnant again until I felt considerably better because pregnancy in my current state could have caused a dangerous amount of stress on me or on my baby.
I worked hard for the next two years to improve my physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Through this process, I became healthy enough to try for another baby. I got pregnant after a couple of months and felt elated that the difficult season of my life was over. Eight weeks later, I miscarried the baby. I felt myself want to push God away, to be mad at him. But he whispered to my heart “Are you really going to push me away now, when you need me the most?” He was right, I had been practicing keeping my heart open to him, this wasn’t the time to stop doing that. I felt His desire for me to give Him my whole heart and I was determined to do just that.
A couple of months later, I felt really strongly that it was time to try to get pregnant again. I got pregnant and was SO worried that I would miscarry again. But I felt a peaceful reassurance that everything was going to be OK. I felt relieved when I made it into my second trimester and could feel the baby kicking. However, at my eighteen week appointment, I found out the baby had no heartbeat and that I was far enough along to need to deliver the baby.
I was heartbroken and confused. I had felt impressed to get pregnant. I had felt peace about the pregnancy. What was going on? I had a harder time trusting God through this and my heart was so broken that it became difficult to feel him at all. I was angry at Him, so sad about our situation, but I was trying desperately not to question Him.
Fast forward half a year. We felt AGAIN that it was time to get pregnant. Got pregnant AGAIN, felt peace AGAIN, went to our twelve week appointment, no heartbeat…AGAIN.
By this point, you better believe I felt abandoned by God! I was laying in my hospital bed thinking, “Father, if you love me so much, why did you ask me to get pregnant, tell me everything was going to be OK, then take my babies away? How can you sit there and watch my broken heart bleed? You asked for my heart only to break it. You betrayed me, my heart is not safe with you. Why have you abandoned me?”
My hurt festered and Satan, the enemy, saw a perfect opportunity to start whispering ugly lies: “You’re right, God isn’t there for you. He doesn’t love you. If only you would have been better, then He could have “blessed” you with a baby. He is holding out on you.”
A Quest for Truth
After struggling for a long time, I could feel those thoughts damaging my soul and I didn’t want that to continue. I needed more understanding of who God was, how He interacted with His children, and if He really was there for me. I knew the only thing that could heal my heart and my relationship with God was TRUTH. I have since learned three truths that have helped me not to blame God or to feel abandoned by Him when hard things happen.
We live in a fallen world.
For a long time, I really wondered if God had killed my babies or at least, purposely chosen not to save them. After all, we believe that God is involved in the details of our lives. So I thought maybe He did it to teach me a lesson or maybe he did it to motivate me to live more righteously.
I have since learned that God isn’t sitting on some thrown, off in the cosmos, deciding to ignore me or throwing hard things at me for the fun of it. Rather, the nature of our mortal existence is that we just live in a very challenging world, a fallen world.
We experience fallen situations, in fallen bodies, surrounded by fallen people. This is not Eden. Not even close. Good happens and bad happens. God did not make my babies die, my fallen body did. He intervenes at times, when it is necessary to His plan. In all other cases, He let’s things take their natural course.
But if you look hard enough, you can find that He uses the fallen world to fulfill His purposes.
If we didn’t live in broken world, what need would we have for a Jesus to come make us whole? If we didn’t live in a fallen world, would we be driven to our knees, to our God? Would we be weak enough to need the strength God offers?
Because of Jesus, we do not have to face the fallen world alone.
God clothed Adam and Eve before he let them go into the fallen world. He could have let them go naked. Instead, he took the time to dress them, to protect them, to give them something to remind them that he was there with them. He has done the same for you and for me.
One day, after all the losses, I was driving home and crying. I felt so alone, so sad, and like no one understood what I was going through. I said outloud through tears, “No one gets it, no one understands, I feel so alone!” God replied to my heart “I get it, I understand. Perfectly. Come to me and I will heal your heart. Stop trying to do this all by yourself. I am here.”
His response stopped my tantrum immediately. He did understand perfectly and was the only one who did. Not only that, but He was the only one who could heal my heart. It was time to open up to Him again.
So at night, after everyone was in bed, I slid out to my couch, curled up in a blanket, and started talking to God. I held nothing back. I told Him about my anger, about my sadness, about the lost dreams,about my broken heart, about my feelings of abandonment. Night after night I repeated this., I felt Him listening to me, holding me, loving me — never telling me that I was wrong to feel what I felt. He just received my broken heart each night and returned it to me a little more mended each time.
I eventually found myself grateful for my challenges, because they changed my relationship with God. I will always treasure those nights on the couch, just being held by Him.
I have since faced some other serious challenges, tried facing them on my own, then received the gentle reminder from Him that I didn’t have to do that. I then invite Him into whatever I am facing and He offers His strength, His understanding, and His love.
When we choose to include God in our journey, He can take the sad and make it sacred, the broken and make it beautiful.
This truth has two parts to it.
The first part is that it is our choice to include God in our journey. He will never force himself into our lives. When I felt abandoned by God I shut Him out. I blamed God for my sadness. I closed my heart to Him. I harbored anger towards Him. At some very humbling point, I had to realize that the rift in my relationship with God was because of my actions, not His. Did I feel very justified in being mad at Him? Sure thing. But when Truth One sank in, I understood that He had not hurt my heart on purpose. In fact, He was heart-broken that I was heart-broken. He was sad that I live in a fallen world, with a fallen body, experiencing fallen situations. When I finally let go of my bitterness, I could see that He was trying to reach out to me the whole time, but that I had ignored and rejected Him.
The second part, is realizing that God has the Midas touch. Everything we let Him “touch” turns to “gold”. (I’m wishing I had a better analogy, but this is what works in my brain).
He touched the water, it turned into the best wine. He touched a small basket of loaves and fishes, it turned into a buffet for five thousand. He touched the sick, they were healed. He touched the dead, they rose from the grave.
If we let Him touch our lives, He will turn sad situations into sacred situations. If we let Him, He will work any situation for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). But it depends on us. Will we let Him in? Will we choose to see how He is turning our broken lives into something beautiful?
It took several years for me to be able to see the ways God used the loss of my babies to create something beautiful. Here is a list of a few examples:
- I felt His strength;
- I found my strength;
- I experienced His ability to heal my heart;
- I learned to face challenges with Him instead of on my own;
- I received a confirmation that He was real and that He cared about me as an individual;
- Our family was led to an opportunity to adopt a baby girl who I know was meant to be with us; and
- So much more
Before and After
In August, I received one of those phone calls you hate to receive. The “Someone you love has been in an accident” kind. Without going into too many details, let’s just say this accident has caused intense suffering for a family who is so good, a family who has already experienced a lot of suffering, and this suffering doesn’t have an end in sight. My reaction, before I understood the above truths, would have been, “Why did God let this happen? Why has He abandoned this family? Our God is not a very loving God.”
However, the truths I have learned have changed everything. This time I thought, “Father, I know you are present in our lives. I know you love us. I know hard things happen in this fallen world. But I trust you. I believe in your goodness. Help me to see the ways you are going to touch this situation and turn this sadness into something sacred.”
I tear up as I type this because I have seen the ways that God is using this long, painful situation to do a lot of good. I can see His love, I can see His power, I can see Him taking our broken hearts and creating something more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.
God is here for us.
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