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