When You Feel Abandoned by God
There is a reason why I don’t talk about God very much when I talk about mental illness. I think it’s because I’ve felt its sting myself. On hard days—days where panic rose in surges like a loose wire inside my chest, where I felt as though something inside my head had caved in and all the lights had gone out—I would try to express this struggle, try to ask for help.My well-meaning fellow believers would not quite understand what it felt like to spend my days holding darkness at bay so that I could get dressed, do my work, go out in public and smile and make meaningless conversation. Often they would hear this side of me, a side they could not quite connect with, the healthy-looking girl in front of them, and they would try to heal an unfamiliar ache with something familiar to them:
Keep trusting God. He’s got a plan for you. Pray about it. Seek Him.
But I had done those things, kept doing those things, day in and day out. I searched for new ways and better ways and felt I was doing something wrong, that I was missing something. If I thought and prayed and believed hard enough, something would click and that light in my brain would finally turn back on, all my wires in their rightful place.
It never clicked. Instead, I became angry at God, angry that he would make this so complicated when all I wanted was to feel his presence, to know he hadn’t abandoned me, and this wasn’t my fault. And the more I prayed, the lonelier I felt.
So I stopped.
I felt like God had abandoned me. But I couldn’t say this out loud. It would have been some sort of heresy—like I actually believed God had left me, had rejected me. I think I knew logically that this wasn’t true. But it didn’t stop me from feeling that way.
And I shamed myself for it. I shouldn’t feel abandoned. I shouldn’t feel sad. Because God was enough, wasn’t He?
All around, people were reminding me of the truth: that God loved me, He hadn’t abandoned me, He had made me whole and new and free!
And wasn’t I happy?
But all this did was make me want to cover my ears and scream. I got so sick of hearing about God’s goodness when it was not my experience. I felt like it was being shoved in my face all the time, that everyone else was blessed and happy and there was just something I wasn’t getting. And that meant the problem was myself, that I was sad because of me, broken because of me, feeling abandoned because of me.
And I felt trapped. Because no matter how many escape routes I looked for or how many new strategies I tried, I could not find a way to make the pain stop. And I didn’t have the energy to try anymore.
So I separated myself from these ideas and tried something new. I told myself it was okay to feel abandoned. It was okay to feel angry at God, to not feel the joy of the Lord, to feel as though I might never know the wholeness God has promised me. And I told other people that what they felt was okay, too. That kind of honesty became my ministry. When I was honest about these feelings that felt almost heretical to voice, other people said they felt the same way. That I wasn’t alone. And this created a safe place for us to speak, without shame.
Because when we speak—the fear loses its power.
The loneliness disappears as others come alongside us. We learn that the pain is not our fault. And there is freedom in this—in knowing that it’s okay to be broken, okay to be honest, okay to ask for help.
I do not believe that God abandoned me or that He wanted me to feel the way I felt. I do not believe He was the cause of my pain.
And I no longer believe it was my fault, either.
I know that God is taking the brokenness in my life and redeeming it. Though He does not want this pain for me, He creates something beautiful out of it, carving a path for hope and freedom in my life and the lives around me.
So when other people come to me, I do not tell them to have faith—God is doing this for a reason. No. God isn’t doing this. He wants us to have life, and life abundant. Anything less than that is not from Him.
Instead, I tell them that it is okay. It isn’t their fault. They are not alone in feeling this; I have felt this too. And there is help. Be it doctors, therapy, medication—or simply time to pull back from the world and breathe and find your place in your own skin, without shame, without fear—there is help.
Life abundant is waiting on the other side.
Tori Margaret is passionate about writing honestly, loving deeply, and walking with people through their stories. She writes about her struggle with depression, anxiety, and OCD to encourage others that they are not alone and to open the door for real conversations about real suffering. She has written for TWLOHA, a non-profit devoted to supporting people with mental illness. Her latest work on her struggle against fear is a science fiction novella, The Last Valkyrie, which will release in January 2017. You can find more of Tori’s writing at her blog, BoldBrightBeautiful.com, or connect with her in our Writing group.