Monday, November 28, 2005

Facing my Doubts: Losing My Religion

EIGHT years ago today, at about this time, I was a completely different person – body, heart, and mind. Today, I find myself down, distracted. On what for so many years was set aside as my annual day of mourning (read: excessive wallowing in self-pity) when I grieved the loss of the version of myself that I once was, today is little more than the otherwise usual, altogether typical, dog-eat-dog day at the office. I’m not thinking about the accident – not dwelling as I otherwise would. I’m merely taking in what is and what has been my life. Even still - and much like the Weight Watchers frozen meal that now sits in my stomach like a weight of bricks - so much of it is hard to digest.

I fear that I may be on the verge of losing the one thing I’ve held dear as a result of the accident and so many other obstacles I can’t yet bring myself to write about. I fear that I may be losing my religion, the very faith that sustained me through times of trouble.

Last night, when confronted with this admission on my part, M directed my attention to a passage in an old-time favorite C.S. Lewis novel of mine.

“Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be – or so it feels – welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so absent a help in our time of trouble?”

The trouble for me is that I’ve not reached out in desperate need in quite some time, it seems. Perhaps, I’ve grown so independent in these past few trials that I’ve ceased to see Him as sufficient. All that was magical and awesome about my faith seems to have faded. For whatever reason – probably a fault that is my own – my joy is gone. I am doubtful for the first time in a very long time.

Almost two years ago, I was hospitalized for a month after a failed attempt to correct my spine surgically. I become isolated and despondent. My Bible was little more than a decoration on the window sill aside my bed. My only prayer was that I wouldn’t wake to face another day of captivity on the unit. And then God bowed to my requests, to show me the error of my heart’s desire. I flat-lined. Having been given too large a dose of methadone, which I’d been overmedicated on for days on account of the pain, on the same day I felt too sick to sustain any interaction, when I’d called everyone I could imagine had the faintest desire to visit that night and asked them to refrain, my heart stopped; I stopped breathing. By what I could only then describe as an act of God’s grace, my sister, who had not received my message and decided to take the two hour-long drive to the hospital with less than half an hour before the end of visiting hours, found me in that state and alerted the nurses' station who sent in a crash team immediately to revive me.

In what I could only describe as the stuff of my darkest and most disturbing nightmares, I was woken to the bright lights blinding my eyes, the white masks, the feeling of needles prodding my arms and legs trying to open up any vein that might be salvaged. I can still recall the cold burning of the narcane that surged through my body as I screamed at the doctors to please stop to no avail, and the hours spent undergoing all sorts of probing tests to see how much damage the overdose had caused. During that entire time of lingering uncertainty, the only thing that seemed certain was that God had made me eat my words and that it was nothing less than a miracle that had allowed me to live to regret them.

For two years, that story was my main defense to anyone who tried to argue with me as to whether or not God, in fact, exists. But now, even that story fails to do more than bring back painful and haunting memories I’d rather leave to the past. I feel so cut off from God. I feel so uncertain, so much like C.S. Lewis describes, only I have no specific cause for grief. Perhaps the problem is that I’m feeling too much. M said that faith and God are not proved by feeling. Yet, I long to feel faith and hope and joy as I used to.

Right now, all I can feel is the brace on my back that digs into my ribs, the pain that runs sharp into my legs and dull into my feet, the minutes that drag on like hours and force me to be here when I’d prefer to be anyplace else. Perhaps it would be better if I didn’t feel at all. Still, I can’t help but let what I feel (or don’t feel, in this case) affect what I know. I can only hope (and I do think there is still some left) that whatever it was that has gone returns. But I can’t help but fear – it is me that has turned away.

When God has been so faithful, how dare I be so faithless? But however doubtful I've become, I still believe, He'll show Himself again somehow -- hopefully by more subtle means this time...

23 comments:

Kristi said...

Nan, It is sad to read this, but I'm glad you can be so honest. I can't say I know how you feel, because I don't. But, I have been to the point where I lost my faith and gave up on God. All I did was end up making a huge mess of my life on my own.

I had to learn that it's important to get to the place where you have a personal relationship with God, and maintaining it needs to be important to you as well. Only then will you have that joy and love that you once had.

I'll be praying for you!

Kristi said...

Oh, also, I guess this means you had a birthday recently...so Happy Birthday!

Eddo said...

Wow. That was deep and sad and I hate to see anyone hurting and depressed. When this happens to me it is normally at a time in my life when I am doing something good for God and the Devil launches an all out assualt on me. He is the emperor of lies and he is the one that affects your thoughts and oppresses you.

I can't say that it is easy to overcome despair, it isn't, but I will say that I am praying for you and I hope that God will ease your pain and when you look back on this moment you will be ashamed that you ever doubted him.

Eddo said...

oh, and I am the founder of the Blog Patrol and your writing is so good you don't need anything to fancy it up.

green said...

Nunzia:

Don't lose your faith!!! Sometimes it's all we have to get us by.

I can't imagine the things you've been through or what you have to live with every day, but I can tell you this: God will be there for you always!

Three passages in scripture come to mind right away:

The first is Matthew 13:1-9,18-23, which is the parable of the sower and His explanation of the parable. Which seed are you, and on which ground did you fall? I think I know.

The second is Psalm 51, where King David lost sight of his faith in light of his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah. Note especially verses 10-12.

The third is actually two passages: Hebrews 13:5-6 and John 10:27-30. God knows who his children are and genuine faith cannot be lost.

And I just thought of another one, perhaps the most relevant: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, especially v. 9-10. Paul is writing about his thorn in the flesh here.

Keep the faith. I'll be praying for you.

Kc said...

I have faith in God and in you.

Corry said...

Sorry for all that happened to you. The selfpity is understandable and it's not bad to give in to it at times. Try not to let it overtake your life though. It is at those times you are at your weakest and start questioning and doubting. Our faith is tested by trials. This is one of them. When you hold on to Him and be steadfast in your faith, you will come out much stronger and happier.

Hang in there girl, you can do it! We have you in our prayers.

This may not be the best of times, but A Happy belated Birthday:)

God's Grace.

Mike said...

Very touching post. Wishing you all the best.

Damian said...

There is no real hope on this planet, you live and then die. The beauty of it is that we have hope in God - religion some will say is a institution setup by man to fill his heart with hope. God is real and you know that, if you have a issue with Him, as we all do at some point, take it to Him. He loves it when you challenge Him and talk with Him. He loves you and want the best for you. If you believe the Bible that's what He said in it. Search for Him, ask of Him what you need (let Him lead). Humans have to believe in something, even if its nothing, believe in God and try Him again.

Leesa said...

The CS Lewis quote. Was it from "A Grief Observed"?

I started reading the most recent passage, and then others. Then reflecting on how trivial my own crosses to bear seem in light of what you have been through.

Bill Scott, Sr. said...

After the Rain

(I wrote this on 10/4/05. This poem is about what I have gone through with the struggles of almost losing my son two years ago. I am still trying to heal through that very harsh storm in my life. My prayers are with you and it's ok to feel as you do, it's normal...Bill Scott, Sr.)

After the Rain

Right after my storm; as the winds stopped and ceased
There was a great calm; as I sighed in relief
And though there is damage; from the previous rage
I can start a new chapter; and can turn a new page

But as the dust settles; and I clearly can see
I look through the rubble; though I would rather flee
Though all is destroyed; and there’s nothing but sand
I can still trust in my God; as He helps me to stand

As I survey the damage; and I calculate cost
The pain swells up in me; as I see all I’ve lost
Though I tremble in horror; and I ask the Lord why?
I know the Lord loves me; and it’s ok to cry.

It’s so overwhelming; as my emotions do flare
It’s easy to doubt; that my God really cares
And yes the storm passed; yet the fierce winds were real
It’s so hard to move on; as I struggle to heal

My eyes fill with water; my mouth gets all dry
My heart sinks in despair; as I long to die
My emotions, they hurt me; I hunger and thirst
My heart; it aches badly; I feel as if it will burst

The rain is now gone and the skies are now blue
Yet I still haven’t healed; from what I’ve gone through
And now time has passed; as life continues on
I still live in darkness; even though the night’s gone

I know this sounds gloomy; what else can I say?
The Lord will heal my heart; as I seek Him and pray?
My worst fears behind me; or that’s what they say
I once felt victorious; I now feel like prey

But all is not lost; though I feel that it is
For my heart isn’t mine, it is totally His
And my God is faithful; I’ll trust Him till I die
I will lift His name up; I will lift it up high

My God is my healer; he will one day heal me
And though I am now mourning; I will one day be free
For here is a truth; that I will try to explain
The Son always shines; even after the rain!

I will be praying for you. I understand the depths of suffering that you are experiencing...as I too have been there. I promise you this....the Son will shine again...He really will.

~Deb said...

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to give you hope and a future…You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." ~Jeremiah 29:11-13

We have to seek out God. Sometimes we feel so distant from Him, and that's when we need to draw closer, come to Him-----seek Him out.

Sometimes our faith is tested. Just pray, and ask Him to help you and to guide you. I know that when your faith has dwindled, it's even hard to pray. What's the point, right? I seriously had these moments many times.

"I'm not going to pray when I have doubt."

God is always there with you. He hears every word, every thought, and He knows your heart.

I hope that your faith is restored, don't give up.

martie said...

Nan, I too had lost my faith in God and was very angry for the events in my life that He allowed to happen. Thirty years ago this month, my husband and father of my children, was taken from me as a result of cancer. I was even angry with God for taking my husband and letting some bum on skid row with no family to care about live.

It was a long haul coming to grips with all of that and a lot of praying for help in understanding why I felt like this. Eventually, after I realized that He hadn't done anything to leave me, it was me who doubted and left Him, He led me the way I needed to go and I returned to Him.

Point being, hang in there and never quit.....remember the poem!
I will be praying for you and asking God to give you whatever you need to get you through this. I love you and so does the Lord. God Bless you!

cybeRanger said...

Thanks for your comment on my Blog.
God will never leave you nor forsake you. Feel free to listen to this sermon:
http://www.newcreation.org.sg/av/20040729.mp3

;phil; said...

I'm sorry you are going through what you are going through. Keep a positive attitude, it does wonders

Romeo Jensen said...

is that from "Knowing God" ???

anyway Nan... hang in there girl

we have our ups and downs as Christians and we are not always... "on fire"

try (as best u can) to keep the focus on what... and whom... is the root of this dispondency... who has the most to gain from bring you down... who would love to see you defeated and to present to God how quickly you turn from him... who is your biggest accuser???

but then remember... he has nothing on you because all has been forgiven and you are covered!!!

end of story
game over
jam

bite me satan!

Nunzia said...

Thank you all for your encouragement. The quote is actually from "A Grief Observed." Reading all you've written is truly a blessing. I'm very grateful for all of you...

Genna said...

I am so sorry you are having such a tough time. Your personal story is so amazing.

I found God when I needed Him the most. I spent my entire life trying to do it MY way (and doing a terrible job of it!!) until finally God orchestrated events that led me out of a horribly abusive relationship. That renewed my faith. I gave my life to Him and now am a baby Christian.

I wish I could wave a magic wand for you and wish your faith back, but of course is does not work that way. You must find quiet time for you and God to sit in His presence and you must resubmit yourself to Him. Fully, without holding back.

Personally, God speaks to me through music. One CD I would strongly suggest is Third Days new one "Whereever You Are"

I will pray for you! :o)

Damian said...

Nan, try this book (its pretty easy to read) "Steps to Christ" - How to know Him better. Take care God bless.

Rick's Corner said...

Lunch with God
________________________________________
There once was a little boy who wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his suitcase with Twinkies and a six-pack of root beer and started his journey.
When he had gone about three blocks, he met an old woman. She was sitting in the park just staring at some pigeons. The boy sat down next to her and opened his suitcase. He was about to take a drink from his root beer when he noticed that the old lady looked hungry, so he offered her a Twinkie.
She gratefully accepted it and smiled at him. Her smile was so pretty that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered her a root beer. Once again she smiled at him. The boy was delighted!
They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, but they never said a word.
As it grew dark, the boy realized how tired he was, and he got up to leave; but before he had gone more than a few steps, he turned around, ran back to the old woman and gave her a hug. She gave him her biggest smile ever.
When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face.
She asked him, "What did you do today that made you so happy?"
He replied, "I had lunch with God." But, before his mother could respond, he added, "You know what? She's got the most beautiful smile I've ever seen!"
Meanwhile, the old woman, also radiant with joy, returned to her home. Her son was stunned by the look of peace on her face; and he asked, "Mother, what did you do today that made you so happy?"
She replied, "I ate Twinkies in the park with God." But, before her son responded, she added, "You know, he's much younger than I expected."


Thought maybe you'd enjoy this story if you hadn't seen it before.

Rick

Nunzia said...

Thank you all again for your support and prayers. I wanted to let you know, although I've been far too busy this week to blog again, that things have improved a lot. I'm praying and hopeful again and I believe that God will forgive my doubts and uncertainty. I guess we've all been there a time or too. God Bless you!

K!Mberly said...

stumbled on your blog randomly.
Congratulations on your engagement. I was proposed to in Orange County on 24 Dec 1984. A surprise. nearly years and a whole lot of adventure later He's snoring next to me at 1:50am here in Singapore... It's so cute!

But I do want to comment about this particular post...
It's what St. John of the Cross named "The Dark Night of the Soul." I think it was him, maybe it was Teresa of Avila...I'm not so great with church history.
Basically how I understand it, from experience, and from what I've learned otherwise, is that our spiritual life has seasons and last November, you were in winter. When we're new in our faith, or when we're in a crisis, God steps in in big ways, to give us the encouragement we need in out faith. But in order to go to a deeper level of dependence and intimacy with him, he will occassionally remove the sense of his presence. With a difficult test: Will we choose to follow him steadfastly even when he appears to be silent? Will we like Job say, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him?"
I lived through one of these seasons for my first 3 years in Singapore, and in 2003 spring came again to my walk of faith. Sure don't want to walk that "dark night" road again, but I imagine it will come. I can say that I'm more in love with, intimate with and dependent on Jesus now than I ever have been. The way I'm feeling this year is like a honeymoon of faith. And that's after calling myself a Christian for 38 years...

Isreal Fake said...

god doesnt care about you, and neither do i.
and yet i feel the need to post this comment.
the lord works in mysterious ways, dont you think?