What to Do When God Seems Absent

When I began trying to connect with God (to see what I mean by “God,” click here), we had a lot of hard feelings between us. I was angry. I spent hours and hours as a kid looking for another family for my brother and me, but help never arrived. (Did I ask anyone for help? No. But that’s another post.)

So I was mad at God. But what do we do when we’re mad at God? When we’ve got a God, but we think he might not be good?

I can still fall into that idea. When I’m struggling, one of the biggest warning signs is I hear myself thinking God? God doesn’t help anyone.

Here’s what I do then.

1. Ask God to show me evidence of him working in my life. 

I pray God, show me where you are working in my life. What happens next, I call “God winks.” Stay with me.

“God winks” sound insubstantial, but when I’m dying from fear, all these weird “coincidences” really start to add up. I feel like something is at work, something bigger than me, something that sees me.

Someone’s wearing my dad’s baseball team’s hat even though we are states away from the Midwest. Someone writes to me to suggest that I read the book I just picked up.

This isn’t a big deal – but it’s like God’s winking at me. God’s saying, I see you, Melissa.

Another time, I have a splitting headache and wish I had taken some Ibuprofen before I left home. I stop the car and a bottle labeled “headache medicine” rolls out from under the seat. I would never buy a product that is specifically marketed for only one ailment. My husband must have bought this, left it on the floor of the car, and this product that I didn’t even know we had rolls out just when I need it, just when I wished for it.

Kind of amazing. But this sort of thing happens all the time.

When I ask God to show me evidence, I NOTICE these “God winks.” I see God saying, I see you.

2. Write letters to God. 

I’m not going to lie – these can be pathetic. Angry, begging, pleading. Confused, at the very least. Sometimes, SOMETIMES, thankful. But often I’m writing to God directly like this because I’m hurt. Angry. I feel like God’s not helping me and I want to know WHERE ARE YOU, GOD?????

We can say anything we want to say to God. Anything we need. As a minister friend of mine once told me, “God can take it. He’s God.”

Even if I don’t get an answer, speaking honestly, showing up with all my feelings intact, my anger, my rage, my fear that I’ve been abandoned, the anxiety that’s eating my body alive – when I show up with all of this, I feel closer to God. It clears the channel when I say what I need to say, what’s really in my heart, rather than pretending to be some perfect person I’m not.

I don’t have to be careful in my relationship with God. I can show up JUST AS I AM. Then I can hear God and I can feel God’s love for me again.

We don’t need to impress God. We’re enough just as we are.

3. Figure out what I’m using as God.

Everyone has a Higher Power. Whether we acknowledge it or not, there is something that we’re using to feel safe, something we’re pinning all our hopes on.

When I am struggling, there is always something that I think if only THIS would work out, then I’d be fine. If only my son’s teacher assigned something besides worksheets, if only I’d be skinny, if only I’d get this job, if only we could buy a house, if only I’d get this relationship to work out, if only this person weren’t mad at me, if only, if only, if only.

When I’m doing that, I’ve found my (false) Higher Power. That’s what I’m thinking God is. The thing where if only that thing was in place, I’d be fine. That’s the Higher Power I’m using. The thing my serenity and peace depends on.

Usually when I’m struggling, I find I’m basing my security on something that’s just totally imperfect and unreliable. Usually a person, or getting what I want in some situation.

That’s just never gonna work.

I often find myself doing this with writing. I think if only I had a bestseller, then I’d be taller. My hair would be dark again. I’d be thinner. I would have sooooo many friends. I’d look SO GOOD in a bikini. Life would be PERFECT. This crazy thinking alerts me that I’ve made writing my Higher Power.

Publishing a bestseller would be great, but it’s not going to make me taller.

And people don’t work as a Higher Power either.

As much as I love my husband, he’s not perfect, and neither am I. So I can’t rely on him as the SOURCE of happiness and serenity. And I am CRAZY about my son, but I can’t rely on him to make me happy either. That’s just not his job. I can connect with him. But he can’t make me whole.

When I’m not getting what I want, I’ve found, it’s at least possible that God is still looking out for me.

My son often thinks my requests are unfair or obviously ridiculous – Go to bed at 9:30 on a school night? Whatever for? What do you mean I’m late already? Who cares?

I can see that IT’S POSSIBLE that – like me with my son – God has a bigger perspective than I do, and that – just like with my son – the thing I want may not be the thing I need. (HEADER HERE?)

So I try to figure out what I’m regarding as God and shift my understanding.

God is God. That is all. Not people, not my job, not my best friend, not my husband, not the New York Times bestseller list, not the best-dressed mom on the playground – the one who is too pretty and cool for me to talk to, not her. She’s not God. She’s just a person.

Only God is God.

God is the only reliable source of my peace and serenity. The only source that’s not going to leave me crazy and desperate.

So if you’re struggling to connect with God or your Higher Power, one way to get closer is to ask: Where have I found peace and serenity? In nature? In the bathtub? Volunteering? Cooking? Snuggling with my kid? And start by doing that more often. Going toward the connection.

If your spirit is dry, God hears you. You can connect with a more fulfilling Higher Power.

It’s there, waiting.