Frustration

What's Going on When God Feels Silent

By Mollie Talbot

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[A letter from the trenches]

It’s at the point that the word “season” makes me want to hurl. I stood in my kitchen with one of my best friends the other day, laughing at how one can loathe a completely innocuous word because of its use in Christian circles. I don’t hate seasons, as in the four of them, but right now I hate “it’s just a hard season you’re going through.” I repel most Christianese platitudes at this point too: “let go and let God,” “God must be preparing you for something big,” “He has a plan,” “You just need to trust,” “Everything happens for a reason,” or my favorite, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that’s what our walk with Christ hinges upon--periods of time when we can’t even handle putting our feet to the floor in the morning.

I guess if people can’t sit comfortably with someone IN their pain and do feel the need to say something, I’d rather it be trite but positive rather than comparative or commiserative. They need to understand they’re only saying it to comfort themselves, not the person suffering. As a woman writing from the trenches, these awkward back-pat sayings fall flat, or worse, condescending and offensive. If I could “let go” of this “SEASON,” I would have six months ago. If trust were acquired as easily as, “you just need to trust God,” I’d no longer be seeing a counselor, doctor, naturopath, or acupuncturist.

Here’s the obvious: I am simply incapable of “letting go” of a weight that hits my defeated amygdala upon opening my heavy eyes and moving my exhausted body. I can’t magically muster more “trust” in the moments when I recognize the utter disappearance of healthy coping or muster patience for a child irrationally angry about the way his French toast was cut for him. Now for the more important reality: if I tried to mentally will this discomfort away, I’d be avoiding what God is doing in these moments of thinking and hurting. To “let go” or assign any other platitude to my pain would be disobedient for a human who was designed to think, feel, and grow from doing both.

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John Mark Comer of Bridgetown church in Portland, OR is doing a series on stage theory right now, and his obedience to discuss the dark, discouraging, unattractive but REAL aspects of our Christian journey has been breath on these dry bones. And here in my trench, it makes perfect sense.

To painfully oversimplify some of the information he’s teaching from for the sake of brevity, we all experience a first stage in our walk with Christ that involves what we perceive to be an emotionally near experience of God. There’s an increased “felt presence” in our first spiritual phase.

The explanation given was sweet to my fragmented heart. It’s not that God butters us up just to go distant; it’s that His grace in this first stage loves us by breaking our reliance on the world. He displays the marvel of His love for us by meeting our world-dumbed hearts where they are, fully dependent on fuzzy feelings of contentment. The problem is that in our pleasure principal mentality, we set up camp here in our faith and then question God’s goodness if the fuzzy felt experience of His presence changes. Bottom line: as in any relationship, it does and it will.

It’s to the point in my struggles with dead cat-grief, low testosterone, PTSD, chemical imbalances, trauma recovery, and the demands of motherhood that I might be delusional. But I no longer have any desire for this first phase faith; a season I was in as recent as a year ago. The box-checking and identity masking; the black and white lines I’d draw around the mistakes of others just in the hope of hiding my greys. The belief that I had to be something else to fit the Christian mom mold. Even looking back at it is stifling.

I would rather sit in my perception of God’s absence right now because, with a deep knowing that wasn’t available a year ago, I believe the opposite to be true. He is more with me now than ever. There was no depth in my first phase faith. No call to the creational spice God shook over me at my inception saying, “use these and change the world.” In these depths--in moments it feels like the 20 years of tears I’ve been shoving away are a tsunami breaking over my soul--I’m emptying myself to receive who HE is, what HE made me capable of, and how HE sees others. It’ll be scary, uncertain, and the pain will be bone-deep, but I’ll use the stars He laid to find my way; the compass I’ve been carrying only had me following others anyway. All He wants from me is to stay open; to receive, to change, and to grow.

I’m beginning to feel more powerful in the deep; in this perceived ‘absence’ of God. I don’t have the energy any longer to say “yes” when I’ve wanted to say “no.” I don’t mince words when asserting boundary lines that I previously people-pleased away. And I’m confronting my deepest life traumas with nothing but a butter knife because of the confidence that comes from God reminding me that the giant was already slain by me getting out of bed.

It’s in the reversal of the comfort platitudes that I’m finding focus. He has trusted ME with the depth; I don’t need to shame myself about not trusting Him enough. He believed that even if He changed His voice to a whisper that I would empty myself in order to hear it. He’s showing me that a box-checking, bubblegum faith is never what He asked of me in the first place. He’s even good with my hatred of the word “season.”

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
— Luke 14:28-30

I will not be one who began building just to find their resources foolishly depleted and their project in ruins. I estimated the cost of following Him when He pulled me from the pain of my addiction and when He placed me next to people who have lost babies, lost parents, and those who are losing themselves while saying, “I know He’s still there.” I’ve known the depth apart from God, but now I know depth WITH Him and the difference is that on this side, I’m willing to keep digging.

If you find yourself in a dark night, stop box checking and finish-line gazing and seek Him in the treatment and care of yourself. If you find that His voice feels disappointed, punishing, or despairing, check your volume dials--you’ve got the wrong side turned up. He may be quiet right now but that’s because He’s begun teaching you a language He’s reserved solely for you and Him. Give yourself time and tenderness as you unlearn the voices you’ve come to assume were His. Don’t be afraid to question, cry out, and break down. This is the kind of faith that moves mountains and slays giants; all you need is a broken compass and your butter knife. I’m in it with you.


Mama Bear in Warfare

 By Brittany Rust

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I’ve never been under spiritual warfare when it comes to health. Let alone, that on top of a mountain of battles. And boy, when the body is weak time and again, it seems the spirit can become weak as well if not diligent.

I honestly wasn’t sure what to share this weekend because I’ve felt so beat down. I wasn’t sure if I had anything to give. But then, why not speak from my battlefield. Spiritual warfare is so very real for all of us so let’s go there. And honestly, looking at the last several posts I can’t help but see God is wanting to speak intimately to some weary moms out there. 

I’m going through one of the hardest seasons I’ve ever been through. It started about fifteen months ago and about a month ago, I thought it would get easier. Instead, it got harder. WAY harder. The kind of hard that beats down with one thing after another. The kind that attacks all areas of your life and family. The kind that hits so hard you want to tap out. 

Right now, I’m sitting in bed, barely getting this out, alone. I’ve moved states but my husband is still back in Colorado for the time being. I’m without my partner and best friend, working full time and taking care of our little guy. All the things I assumed would come so easy because “God is in this” aren’t coming so easy and I’m doubting. We’ve been in urgent care two out of our three weekends here because with Roman it’s been one thing after another. Then I got sick this week. Like, so sick I haven’t been this sick maybe ever. And then tonight, as if our health wasn’t being attacked enough, Roman got pink eye...again. 

As a mom, I see my little man suffer and mama bear comes out. I want to fiercely protect him—to make him better. But I can’t. All I can do is help him along the best I can. 

Here’s how I’ve been feeling this week: I can take a long, spiritual battle. I’ve done it before. But my kid—not so easy. My perseverance is limited and my patience thin. Mama bear doesn’t like waiting for the storm to pass for her little guy who can’t kick sickness and misses his dad like crazy. I feel helpless. I feel guilty.

I’ve been pretty upset with Him this week. I’ve questioned and doubted. I told my friend this week, “I assumed it would be an easy transition because I thought God was in it. But it’s been so hard and now I’m questioning everything. Does this mean God isn’t in it?” 

She encouraged me so well (thank goodness for sisterhood, right?!). She said,

”Because it isn’t going easy does not mean God isn’t in it. It means things like that are just hard. Peace does not always come in the journey because journeys are a struggle with ups and downs. Peace will come later. Kinda when you go on a hike and it’s hard but when you are done it’s that moment you take a breath.”

She’s right—the right path isn’t always going to be easy; life is just hard sometimes. And then I was reminded, also this week, that God uses hard times to call out our perseverance. It’s something I’m struggling to have as a mom but that doesn’t mean I get a “get out of jail free” card because my kid is involved. Perseverance just needs to go to a whole other level! 

What I’m trying to say is this: Spiritual warfare will happen. And when it effects your kids, it will poke the mama bear within and perhaps cause you to fight or flight. But what if God just wants you to stick close and keep going? One foot in front of the other, wearily trudging ahead. 

Stand firm and keep fighting the battle, mama. Don’t lose hope. Keep the faith. Choose to endure. 

Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.
— Hebrews 6:18-19

How do you and I keep our head above water until relief comes? Flee towards Jesus. Have confidence in Him, not the surroundings. Trust the anchor to hold until the storm passes. We aren’t guaranteed an easy, breezy life. But we are promised a steady Savior in the midst of our chaos and uncertainty. Are you anchored by Him? Tethered to his unwavering love and care for you? He won’t leave you alone in the storm. His door of hope is just ahead. Don’t give up, friend. This too shall pass.


Patience Over Power

By Brittany Rust

Love is patient and kind.
— 1 Corinthians 13:4a

My precious, adorable, and loving 10-month-old had just hit me--his dear mama--in the face. I couldn't believe it. I thought, certainly he was too young to be doing such a thing!

"No!" I exclaimed in my half astonished and half outraged reaction. He looked at me with those big blue eyes and instantly, crocodile tears began to form. Also instantly, my mama heart felt guilty for the hot reaction and I knew I was entering a new season of motherhood.

Parenting has a way of testing your patience unlike anything else, no matter what season you are in. It's an incredible and painful avenue of pulling out the selfishness deep within you. When you start to experience impatience with your child, it's because something they are or are not doing is poking at something inside of you that doesn't want to be poked at.

  • Their struggle to go down for a nap is a poke at your time.
  • Their early morning wake up call in a poke at your rest.
  • Their hit in the face is a poke at your power.
  • Their lack of follow through on a command is a poke at your pride.
  • Their temper tantrum is a poke at your quiet mental state.

The list could go on. We all--and I mean ALL--face pivotal moments when patience is tested. How will you respond? With a short fuse or steady hand? Because how you choose to respond will have ripple effects in your child's life.

Now, let's be honest: none of us are going to get it right 100% of the time. We are imperfect, and as we looked at last week, our weakness leaves room for God's strength. Thank goodness for that! Sweet friend, stop pressuring yourself to have it all figured out or to nail parenting every single time. If you live under constant pressure, you'll break. So let go of those expectations and live in the sweet area of Jesus'strength.

However, let's circle back to patience over power. Your kiddo(s) are looking to you to guide them well with both tenderness and strength. It's our jobs as mama's to take our selfish inclinations out of the equation in order to parent from a place of love and gentleness.

Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another.
— Ephesians 4:2

I know patience is one of those attributes that can be hard to wrangle in because you don't often know it's going to be a problem until you're in the moment and losing it already. Which is why it's one of those things that will require prayer and time and you know, patience.

Start practicing more calm, delayed, and kind responses with your children. When you're poked, take a deep breath, remember who they are and who you are in this relationship, and choose a more humble and gentle response. You won't bat one hundred but with some practice and a commitment to prayer, I truly believe God can help soften your responses towards your child(ren).

Here are a few practical ways to practice patience over power:

  1. Take a deep breath before you respond.
  2. Get proper perspective. Remember, your child looks up to you and is looking for guidance and support. For me, I remember that my son can't communicate and often throws a tantrum because he simply can't express to me what he wants or need.
  3. Pray often! Whenever you can get in those sweet moments with Jesus.
  4. Make time for yourself. Every mama needs a little space to be herself and rest.
  5. Have realistic expectations. Children will be children so don't expect them to follow your perfectly executed timeline 24/7. Leave room to be flexible with the ebbs and flows of your child's needs and wants.

For those moments you do lose your patience, pray you'll respond better next time. Also, tell your child you are sorry and ask for their forgiveness. It's amazing what this model will teach your kids and how that grace in between will strengthen your relationship with your them. The transparency and humility in that moment will be huge in how your child develops as a person.

Now, as soon as you see your little mini me, scoop them up into your arms and smother them with mama kisses!

Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.
— Romans 12:12

Yes and Amen!