When God Seems to Abandon Us

By: Mauryeen O'Brien
Monday, November 9, 2015

The experience of losing someone we love in death forces us to examine our values and faith, our reliance on God and the very meaning of prayer and spirituality in our lives. The crisis we have gone through has threatened our very existence; something happened to us that has shaken our physical, emotional and spiritual foundation and we need to know where God is in all of the trauma we’ve gone through. Sister Mauryeen O'Brien provides insight into the spiritual aspects of grief and loss and how to cope. 

by Mauryeen O'Brien

“I’ve spent the last four months trying to find an answer to why my husband died so young,” Joan sobbed. “I still don’t really know the reason, and I guess I never will. But now, all of a sudden, I feel abandoned again, and this time by God. Where is God through all of this mess? Why can’t I find Him?”

"I thought God promised that all we have to do is ask, and He will know what we need. I asked a hundred times, and I can’t get an answer.” Dick murmured as I stood beside him at his wife’s funeral. “What’s the use of prayer when nothing good happens?”

Both Joan and Dick, mourning two different losses, are asking the same question from hearts overburdened with grief and confusion: “Where are you, God, when I need you most?” And with that comes another question that so many of us, especially at times of crisis have asked: “What is my relationship with God, when as I struggle to move on with my broken disjointed life?”

The experience of losing someone we love in death forces us to examine our values and faith, our reliance on God and the very meaning of prayer and spirituality in our lives. The crisis we have gone through has threatened our very existence; something happened to us that has shaken our physical, emotional and spiritual foundation and we need to know where God is in all of the trauma we’ve gone through.

Where do I turn?
Whenever a crisis occurs, our spiritual relationship with God is challenged. We either turn towards God for inner strength and consolidation or we turn away from Him. During the grief caused by death, the loss of direction and accompanying disorientation create an added need for the strength of God’s presence in our lives. If we turn toward God, we have a greater potential to strengthen our faith. It is in this way that spiritual growth through the grief process can happen.

The need to place our entire situation of God’s feet will lead to new paths. Although the hurt and helplessness are overwhelming, God will respond to us if we turn everything over to his keeping. “Let go and let God” we are told so often. We know that trusting in God’s healing power and in his ability to intervene in our lives may be the most difficult thing we have ever tried to do. But the test of faith is being able to trust in God enough to let the pain continue without any apparent end being in sight. Perhaps this is the test of anyone’s spiritual life, whether in crisis caused by death is being experienced or not.

Hello, goodbye

Certainly it helps us to acknowledge that God is the very core of our being, and that no matter what has happened he has not abandoned us. Somewhere along our healing journey, a God-connection can be made by those moving through the “hello-goodbye” pattern that is so evident in death and also so much a part of all human existence.

Goodbyes, especially, are as much a part of life as the seasons of the year. And we know that, in nature, many of the goodbyes are only one part of the death/re-birth cycle. We know that for a vibrant, sun-filled spring to occur, a dreary cold, lifeless winter must first take place.

Do we ever get used to saying goodbye? I don’t think so. It’s difficult to say goodbye, even though originally the term “go with God,” meant confirming that God would be a significant companion in the traveling. It’s difficult to say goodbye, even though the term “goodbye” was once a blessing, a confirmation that you would travel in God’s presence. And it’s difficult to say goodbye, even though, essentially, moving on is an opportunity for growth and new challenges.

Instead of simply struggling to say goodbye, perhaps we should pray that goodbye. Perhaps we would be well served to allow the God who travels with us in life and death, who can make such a difference in this time, to make the natural pattern—that “hello/goodbye” pattern—surface in us so that new life in some form can occur in us. Difficult? Yes! But can we live and grow with that difference? Yes, but is entirely up to us.

A time to share
As our hurts and disappointments are shared with God, His life in us can take on a fuller presence. Because death forces us to assess our spiritual lives, the growth which can result can allow God to enter our daily existence. The hurts and wounds caused by our loss give God an opening to come to us. The joy he can bring is beyond expectation if we open up our wounded hearts to a God who stretches out his healing hands to us.

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