Seasons

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.


It's Okay to Say No

By Becky Beresford

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Occasionally NO can be my best friend, but most of the time I hate it. I hate when their tears start streaming. I hate when they stomp their feet and slam their doors. I hate being called mean, when my heart beats tenderly for them. I’m their mama and they are my babies, and I never want to do anything that will hurt them. And yet, sometimes I need to say NO. Even if they don’t understand why, it needs to be done because preventing future pain is more important than avoiding negative reactions. But trust me, mama friend. I still hate it.

Truth be told, this has been going on for a long time; long before I was gifted with my boys. I’ve always liked to be liked. A lot. My life has been filled with the desire to please people at all costs in order to earn their love. When others dislike me, I wrestle with that reality until something inside of me breaks. Letting people down and disappointing others makes me feel like I am failing at kindness. I start to think that in order to show my care, I need to satisfy their happiness quota. I need to let them have whatever they want, whatever makes them smile and say thank you. But being a mama doesn’t work that way. Being a parent or friend or woman doesn’t work that way. And being a follower of Jesus doesn’t work that way either.

Why God Withholds

Believe it or not, God doesn’t give us everything we want. I know, it’s a real shocker. But could we just close our eyes for a minute and imagine what our lives would look like if everything we prayed for happened instantaneously?  If everything we desired was delivered to us on a shiny plate from heaven?  How different would our worlds be?  How different would we be?  Because I’m going to say something bold right now…something that will need to be repeated in my own mind over and over, especially when my prayers seem to go unanswered.

There is beauty in the withholding.  

There is purpose and passion behind God’s ways, and it’s not that He is harsh or wants to see us sad or lacking. On the contrary—God only wants abundance for His children. But if withholding something good is the only way to bring about His ultimate BEST, then He will ask us to trust Him through the process. He will ask us to trust Him as He says NO or maybe or not yet.

Jesus Prays for the Cup to Pass

Thankfully, Jesus wasn’t like me in the crowd-pleasing department. He often stepped away when people wanted to praise Him and make Him an earthly king. Instead of being consumed with others’ opinions, He fixed His eyes on the goodness of His Father, trusting in His greater plan. But there was a moment when Jesus wished circumstances could have changed. As the final hours of His life dwindled, He entered the Garden of Gethsemane filled with intense sorrow. From the depths of His heart He pleaded with His Father. Face to the ground, Jesus prayed,

My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.
— Matthew 26:39 (NIV)
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Close your eyes again, Dear Reader. Imagine this pivotal scene. Either answer given would change the course of humanity. Jesus is raw and real and brings His request before the Most High, not as a servant but as a son. His ONLY Son. And yet, the Father knew. He saw the dawning victory and coming glory. He saw the powers of darkness biting at the bit, ready to destroy the Light of the world. But knew He had to say NO. Even though it would break both of their hearts, He knew He had to send His own child to the Cross. He had to refuse the request of His Son in order to usher in what was BEST: Forgiveness. Freedom. Restoration. Redemption. It was the ultimate act of love, and it was ushered in by a holy NO. He denied His own child for the sake of relationship. God said NO to Jesus so He could say YES to us. And it was the most beautiful display of devotion this world has ever seen.

A Sacred No

Some NO’s are sacred. Some refusals are needed. They may not be easy, but they have the ability to bring about greater and grander things. 

Remember that mama and make sure you stand tall. If our Creator recognizes the importance of withholding, it’s okay if we do too. We are not being cruel when we choose to say NO. We shouldn’t feel guilty or paint ourselves as unkind. Instead, we are doing what we are called to do. We are nurturing and guiding and discerning and protecting. We are building our children’s trust as we place our faith in the Father.

 He is incredibly good. He is abundant in love. May ALL of our answers lead right back to Him.


4 Ways to Navigate Transition With Your Kids

by Brittany Rust

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Transition is hard, particularly when your kids are involved. It can take an already stressful experience and make it messier, more complicated, and emotionally taxing. And nothing can tug at the mama heart like seeing your little one(s) struggle through the change.

My family has recently gone through a lot of change; more in the last six months than the previous three years. And it’s been really, really, really hard. In addition, change is harder than ever before because of our one-year old son. As a woman who has loved and served God for 17 years, I’ve learned to persevere. But when I see the struggle in my baby’s face, I want to throw up my hands and call mercy for the sake of my child. Unfortunately, that’s not how life usually works.

I’ve had to learn to adapt for my son and show up for him in new ways to help him through the change. I haven’t perfected mothering a child in transition, but I have found 4 ways to help navigate my family through the unknown. I pray this helps resource you for your own upcoming transition.

1.       Give quality.

For our family in this transition, our son has had less time with my husband and myself. I struggled with immense guilt over this and sought peace over it. What I’ve come to discover is that quality matters. Parents can be there but not really be there, if you know what I mean. Your kids won’t necessarily remember how much time you spent with them, but rather, the quality of the time they did have with you.

Whatever time you do have with your child(ren), make it good. Make it really good. Put down the phone. Spend less time with the tv on. And really be present. My son loves to snuggle up with me, but he notices if I pick up my phone; he doesn’t like mama distracted. So, every night I put aside the phone as much as I can and make myself present for him. On the weekends, we have fun. All the writing and podcasting and on the side gigs can wait until he’s in bed because baby needs his mama!

2.       Speak to their heart.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Kids know when something is off and if left in the dark, can become confused. Even if your child is young and unable to communicate, speak life over them. Cover them with words of assurance and comfort. My son doesn’t understand all my words, but he sees the empathy in my eyes and hears the tone in my voice.

Connect with your child’s heart by asking them how their heart is doing. Soothe them with your sweet words of endearment. Communicate so they don’t feel left out.

3.       Go through it united.

Let your kids see you go through the change as a united family. This will especially prove valuable in how they see you and your husband walk it together. Stay in communication with your husband and navigate the journey together. If your child(ren) see a divided marriage, they will likely feel fear and doubt.

4.       Jesus.

Spending time with Jesus as a mom but also as a family is so important all the time, but especially during times of change. Your kids lean on you which means you need to be leaning on Jesus, mama! Spend time in the Word. Play worship music in the house and car. Let your little one(s) hear you praying over them at night. Usher in the presence of Jesus into your home and pray your child(ren) bask in Him. Invite Him into the change and ask for protection over your kid(s) mind(s) through the unknown.

Transition is hard and when you go through it as a family, it can be even harder. I pray for you, dear mama, as you walk this journey.