It’s extremely easy to say that God is always there and never abandons any of us when one’s life is going well. It’s also extremely easy to cite out scripture to back that argument up. But, what’s not extremely easy is to continue believing that when a storm keeps on ravaging one’s life day after day for years, with no end in sight.
Personally, I’ve been living in such a storm for quite some years now, especially during the past two, with my body enduring high levels of physical pain throughout every single day. While I’ve done my very best to seek help and take care of myself, to stay away from toxic people and toxic situations, to pray and meditate, and wait upon God for further guidance and instructions on what to do, I’ve been through an entire year now feeling like God has gone on radio silence with me. In the process, I’ve felt a profound emptiness I’ve never felt before and have started to believe that God has totally abandoned me.
Honestly, it’s hard enough living with chronic pain, especially at 46 years old, because of how much it’s prevented me from engaging in fun activities with others, activities where I used to find much of my connection to God. It’s even harder though to live in pain like I have, when even in my many moments of time by myself, I don’t feel God communicating to me anymore. It’s as if the radio station I’ve always tuned to God is nothing but static now. And believe me when I say I’ve done an incredible amount to tune into plenty of other stations knowing God isn’t limited to just one. And believe me when I say as well how hard I’ve pushed myself to find God anywhere, somewhere, but so far, it’s all been to no avail. It’s almost as if God has totally hidden Himself from me and I have no idea why.
There is a notable figure in the Bible, the apostle Paul, who talks about going through great suffering and how he was able to endure it because he felt God’s grace. I get that, because there were times in my life when I was suffering, yet still felt God’s grace, which was always able to sustain me through those difficult times. Unfortunately, I haven’t felt any of that over the past year, which has led me to relate far more to Job’s suffering, another notable figure in the Bible. As he too went through incredible suffering similar to mine, and never felt God’s grace throughout it either.
Job’s friends tried to convince him that he didn’t feel God’s grace because he must have done something wrong and that God would return when Job repented and changed his ways. But when God showed up at the end of that story and said Job’s suffering wasn’t because of anything Job did, Job’s health and life got restored and when it was, Job immediately felt God’s grace and presence again.
This is why I tell people that living in chronic pain for long periods of time can become an inhibitor to feeling the sunlight of God’s spirit. Like Job, mine has acted as an overarching dark presence that has often blocked me from hearing, feeling, and connecting to God. I feel like I can safely say this with conviction because on those rare days where my pain levels have dropped even a slight notch, I’ve felt joy immediately return and God’s presence as well.
Take last year, around this time period for example. I travelled to Nashville to visit my sister and her family for a long weekend. There I experienced a rather dramatic decrease in my pain levels that I hadn’t experienced in years. And because of it, I felt more connected to God and His grace than I had in a very long time. In turn, the furthest thing on my mind during that period was thinking that God abandoned me, because it felt quite the opposite. Unfortunately, the day after I returned from that trip, I received what I believe to be the last direct communication I’ve had from God. Sitting on the door handle to my car in an empty parking garage was the largest praying mantis I had ever seen. Its presence prevented me from opening my door and thus I’ve come to learn that when something like this happens, it’s a sign from Source. I’d discover later that day through a little research, that in Native American symbolism, the praying mantis symbolizes a period of waiting, being patient, and knowing exactly when to move forward. After discovering that, I had no doubt it was a message from God, yet, ever since, the silence from God has been deafening.
I have remained opened though to however God may choose to connect with me, as there have been many, many ways I’ve experienced God throughout this life, yet I unfortunately continue to feel nothing but emptiness. And what’s difficult about this for a guy like me, who’s been an addict more than not in this life and many of my previous ones as well, is that my ego keeps trying to convince me that God has abandoned me and that I just need to return to any one of my addictions, as life will be far better when I do. Yet, I know that’s an illusion and will only bring me greater emptiness in the end. Sadly, my ego has also tried to convince me to take my life on far too many of my painful days. But, I’m a stickler though, for following through on what I said I’m going to do, and even though all signs of God’s presence have been blotted out for such a long period, I’m choosing to hang on to my faith and trust that God is still there, that he hasn’t abandoned me, and that there is an end to my suffering and this long-lasting storm.
So, while it may very well be true that God indeed never abandons any of us, it’s also true that when one is dealing with incredible suffering for long periods of time, such as living with high chronic pain, that it becomes harder and harder to believe in that. And if and when that starts to happen, the hardest part of one’s spiritual journey is to keep that mustard seed of faith alive long enough to reach the day when the storm departs and God’s grace is revealed to have been there all along…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson