The Absence of God

Chapter 11 – The Absence of God by Jerry Sittser

“I yelled at God to acknowledge my suffering and to take responsibility for it, but all I heard was the lonely echo of my own voice.” – Jerry Sittser

For as long as I can remember I have believed in God’s existence. Surrounded by family members who believed in God, lived a Godly life and seemed content where they were in their lives. On the other hand I was also surrounded by people who would abuse, hurt and abandon me. For me my view about God was that He was God and He created me and that was about it.

I remember thinking when  I moved to Dallas in the early 80’s that something profound was missing from my life. So I set out to find whatever that was and in the end it was God. Even more significant was my awareness of God and what He wanted me to do. I became involved with my local church.

After getting married and moving to another church I began to teach Sunday school. I think now in looking back to that time, it was just a superficial relationship with God that I had. It was until my mother’s untimely death at the age of 48 did I begin to wrestle with the idea that God was real to me. I spent many hours, days and months thinking that God existed, but chose not to be present in my life.

My thoughts about God were for others, for how could the God I had come to know, the one who was held to the most high, the one who created the heavens and the earth, let such horrible things happen to me. It was my mother’s death that threw me into a downward spiral about who I was, who God was and what my future might hold.

Sittser writes about his thoughts on God and who he is and who he was. He gets into so very interesting, yet theological viewpoints that go beyond what I have to say here. For me it’s simple. I have to keep it simple. For when you have suffered much, your thoughts can take you to some very dark places.

I can’t rationalize why my mother was taken so early, during a time when I needed her most. Seven months pregnant with my first and only child. I wrestled with my faith daily. Quietly I would sit in the empty nursery rocking in my chair and asking God “why me?” He remained quiet.

 I battled and fought for my faith for five years until I realized that I would not get the answer I was looking for. That God wouldn’t come to me and say “Malissa, I took your mother because……” God doesn’t work that way. But one night, I had a dream about my mother. She was standing at the end of my bed looking at me. What is crazy is that at the time I was collecting Wizard of Oz items. So in God’s great humor my mom was dressed as Dorothy. I still think about that and laugh because it’s absolutely ridiculous, but true. In that dream, she said to let it go.

I believe that God sends us messages in ways that we will listen. For me I was so wrapped up with school, raising my daughter who had just been diagnosed with epilepsy and struggling to keep up with life. There was so much “noise” going on I’m certain I would have just not paid any attention to anything that was said to me.

At that moment I chose to listen and let my pain and anguish go. I stopped asking “why” and began to have “faith”. That doesn’t mean it was easy. For the next 10 years were far from easy. I daily prayed for things to be easier, but they were not. It wasn’t an easy life, caring for a child with a life-long disease. A marriage that was in turmoil and beginning a new career in nursing.

When Brittany was in the last weeks of her life, I found myself on my knees often praying why again does she have to suffer, why do we as a family have to endure another round of illness. Little did I know at that moment that my question would change two weeks later to “why God did you have to take her” and at some point I asked “why did you let her die”. Today I choose to believe it was her time to go. I have to believe that. Anything else would make me go insane. I could easily go to the place where I think of all the reasons she could have lived had people done what was right. I can’t do that for when I do – I lose ground.

My soul was very restless then and it is today. My faith in God is stronger than ever, but my resilience to life has diminished as I have become tired of the battles. Not much has been easy for me. I stopped asking “why me” because the answers never came. I now find myself asking “what can I do” what should I do” and still because of all the noise I cannot hear. Finding my way through the noise to find a quiet place is my job now.

Faith to me is the greatest gift God has given me. It has ebbed and flowed throughout my entire life. It is my faith that allows me to still see blessings that come into my life. I can still stop and view the beauty of nature and know God is good. It is a choice I make each and every day to get up and start again because of my faith.

until next time


Chapter Two: Whose Loss Is Worse?

Continuing the series…Blogging through “a Grace Disguised” by Jerry Sittser

Chapter Two: Whose Loss is Worse?

In this chapter Sittser tries to open our eyes to what loss is and how we often see a loss as worse or more catastrophic than the other. I found that in this chapter I really came to understand that my multiple losses, no matter the type, have been all different, have all changed me to who I am today. But to say that losing my only daughter has or has not been the worst is a conversation I’d like to debate with the author.

Sittser discusses the many types of loss one can experience over a lifetime. He reminds us as we read about an experience he had as a teen while traveling with his family and while they had stopped during their trip at a gas station he noticed two extremely mangled vehicles. The story told to him made him shiver. Two cars, nine teens playing chicken and nine lives were destroyed in a moment of foolishness.

Even in his own experience of losing his three loved ones in a horrible crash, he often heard from others how people would compare his loss to others. That his loss was the worst they had ever heard of. But Sittser believes, as I do, that a loss is a loss. It doesn’t matter how or why it happened and that no two losses can be compared. Each loss has its own significance. Each loss leaving behind in its wake a devastating and cumulative effect on those whose lives will never be the same.

Sittser speaks about the difference between a lingering loss and one that is quick and immediate. It made me think back to when Brittany was first diagnosed with Epilepsy. The loss I felt then because after doing some research and also having a brother wi th Epilepsy, I knew her life and our lives would not be the one I had forever created in my mind as a girl growing up. The perfect family. That vision, that dream broken, fractured like a mirror falling from the wall onto the floor – never again being whole.

Caring for Brittany over the nearly 18 years was a gradual type of loss, one that is a constant reminder of what will not be. The ebbs and flows of the many years brought moments of joy and sorrow. Disappointment after disappointment left me feeling as if I had smacked down by God for some reason unknown to me. I really felt for the longest time that God was punishing me for something I’d done in my past. To bring upon me such pain was so cruel. But I know now that is not the case. Loss is everywhere you look, and it is definitely not exclusive to just me.

Loss has been an unwelcome visitor throughout my entire life, yet I have learned that you can still get up and dust yourself off and move on. But the one thing I think is the hardest for people to understand is loss changes you. It has made me more sensitive to others who have experienced loss. Yet it has also made me less tolerant of people who don’t understand how blessed they are with what they have. For it can be taken in an instant. It pains me to see mothers and daughters fighting. I just want to say to them “stop it love each other for one day one of you will regret this moment for the rest of your lives”.

Sittser finishes his chapter with this thought and question:

“No one will ever know the pain I have experienced because it is my own, just as I will never know the pain you may have experienced. What good is it to compare? The right question to ask is “what meaning can be gained from suffering, and how can we grow through suffering?”

That is where the author plans to take us for the remainder of this book. I found this book to be extremely helpful in taking me to the next level of my journey in grief and it is my hope that if you are experiencing this journey along with me, you too, will find it helpful to move forward and grow through the experience.

until next time,