Lonely

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.


Confessions of a Stay at Home Mom

By Brittany Rust

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No one ever told me being a stay at home mom could be filled with lonely isolation, make you feel further than ever from a dear dream, or be insanely harder than actually going to work. Three months into this temporary stay at home gig and my view of this kind of mom life has completely shifted. For example, there once was a time I loathed grocery shopping but now I can't wait for our Monday trip to King Soopers. Or the highlight of my week is a trip to Target (with a Starbucks in hand!). Am I right?!

Here's the honest truth: being a stay at home mom is the hardest job in the world. I worked the first year of Roman's life and although it was hard in that our family never had a day off together and I’d miss my boy, being home is actually much harder than being a working mom. True story. If I'm being honest, work gave me space to use my gifts and have adult conversations about intellectual things. I would come home and have all this energy to give my son. 

Nowadays, I'm only ever with Roman and as much as I love my little man (more than the world, in fact!), I feel emotions I honestly struggle to articulate because guilt overwhelms me. If I love Roman, I shouldn't struggle with these ideas, should I? Wrong! You likely know what I'm talking about, mama, don't you? Ugly feelings, aching cries, and longing for the outside world are all real battles you never experienced until you became a stay at home mom.

Truth is, you likely had a job, great adult conversation with friends, lots of hustle and bustle, and contributed financially to your family. But then everything you knew changed when you chose to be home with your kiddo(s). The healthy stretch and challenge of work, gone. Those intellectual conversations, far and few between. The busyness of life on the outside now replaced with diaper changes, laundry, spit up, car pools, and loneliness. And financial provision is now replaced with financial strain.

Feelings of loneliness have settled in. Maybe lack of purpose to contribute to this world or pursue a dream has you questioning your worth. You've lost your identity and sense of self. You're tired and exhausted in every way possible. You cry because it's hard and nobody sees just how hard it is for you. You're around your kid(s) 24/7 and without breaks or outlets, you get frustrated with them and snap negatively towards their little self, which then brings an immense amount of guilt. You wonder if you're cut out to be a good mom. You're sure you'll fail your kids.

Nobody talks about these thoughts and feelings stay at home moms experience. Nobody told me and these past three months have been one rude awakening! But when I feel these things I then feel guilty. I think, "If I truly loved Roman, I wouldn't think such thoughts. I'm a horrible mom--Roman deserves better." 

Those are the thoughts the enemy leaves me with on a regular basis.

But if there is one thing I've learned since becoming a mom it's that a mom is never alone in her thoughts and feelings. Many of us have similar emotions but we're afraid to talk about it. Moms want to appear as if they have it all together and so sacrifice vulnerability and connectivity with others for the image of super mom. But fact: none of us have it all together. And none of us are perfect. So instead of the act, drop it for community. For a full embrace of who you are in the image of Christ and the season you are in.

Here's what I've learned so far:

  1. Find a mom community. Find like-minded moms and do life together regularly. Stat! It's good for you and your kiddo(s). Your kids get to socialize with other kids and that's wonderful. It gets you out of the house, which is really nice. But more than anything, it gives you people to talk to. To share struggles with. It gives you a tribe of women who will encourage you, strengthen you, and show up for you when things are tough. Please, do this immediately! Or you'll go crazy, true story. 
  2. Embrace vulnerability. Nothing will make you feel more alone than choosing to do life on your own. You shouldn't keep what you're going through bottled up--it's not healthy. Please don't do it, mama! I know, from personal experience how harmful it can be. Open up to your husband and allow the raw honesty to strengthen your marriage in new ways. Be vulnerable with your mom friends and you'd be amazed you're not the only one. In fact, they may have insight into how to navigate the journey and can be there to cheer you on to victory over the trial. 
  3. Find your worth in Him, instead of in the world. The enemy will no doubt use your struggles as a stay at home mom to get into your head. To whisper lies about your value and worth. To make you question if you're a good mom. It may be hard but you must find a way to overcome his attacks with what God says about you in His word. Find your way to seeing yourself through His eyes. Get into the word, find Scripture (promises) regarding areas you are struggling in, and use those verses as a defense against the enemy.

Mama, I know it's not always easy being a stay at home. I know there is a struggle. You are not alone in the wrestle with emotions and thoughts. You are not crazy. And you can do this!