“Why do you hide your face and consider me your enemy?” Job 13:24 NIV
The last eight years have been anything but what I had envisioned; a spiritual dryness that I have never experienced before. I truly felt like Job, like God was hiding his face; thinking of me as an enemy. That thought is what really spun me into the absolute darkness of my own spiritual black hole, one created just for me.
The first blow came after the best Easter cantata our church has ever had. Being the choir leader, I was so proud of our little choir of fifteen people. Going back to work seemed like a bit of a let down from Easter’s high point, but it was going to get much worse.
When I arrived at work, my phone rang. Momma, sobbing into the phone, wanted me to come home; Daddy was confused and not talking good. By the time I arrived, Daddy was at the hospital; the doctor’s prognosis was a massive stroke. One from which he would never recover. That same week, I lost my job and our ten year old cat, which was like a child to us, was hit by a car. This was the start of my black hole experience and I was just at the tip edge of it.
I didn’t want to burden Momma with my depression, but looking back now, it would have helped both of us if I had been honest with her. I didn’t want to face how hard life had suddenly gotten. Life went on with a new job opportunity, but a big part of me never moved on. At the end of that same year, we learned that Momma had colon cancer. Over Christmas, she had surgery to remove a large part of her colon, but the damage had already been done. We were crushed to learn that the cancer had already spread to her lymph glands putting her in stage four. I had fooled myself into thinking that praying for Momma to be in stage one would make it a reality. Looking back, that was a huge blow to my faith, stepping further into the blackness. I was trying to make God fit into my plans, not willingly submitting to his. How was I supposed to trust a God that would allow this to happen to Momma so soon after Daddy’s death?
Ignoring the pain of knowing a loved one will die soon, I felt so cut off from life. But during this time, God did provide me with a job, but not in the same salary range. Our many prayers for financial recovery were not answered. My husband’s job started to lose some business too, so we tightened our belts. It seemed like no matter how much we scrimped, it was never enough. With any extra money being used to help Momma pay bills, anger and frustration was right under the surface for years. I tried to study his Word, but it all seemed dry, strange. Confusion on why God was silent on all my important prayers while other people’s prayers were getting answered and in big ways pushed me further into the eye of the black hole.
My husband and I started joking that God was testing us like Job, but little did we realize just how right we were. The next thing to be attacked was our church family. Our small church was started by my great grand parents and everyone there is related in some way, so we were very close to everyone. I am not sure how it started, but spiritual abuse entered into a place that I thought was sacred, safe. The spiritual abuse drove friends from our church. Abuse of authority was being used to demean anyone that stood up to what was going on. I felt their sting on more than one occasion. I became angry with what I considered was righteous anger. I thought I was justified in my anger and unforgiveness; wouldn’t God understand that I was mad at what they were doing to his Bride?
At the start of the spiritual abuse, Momma got worse. One of the blessings that God’s grace gave us was a great sitter. Our next door neighbor, whose mother died the week before, agreed to sit with Momma. I stayed with Momma at night. The situation of staying at night with Momma, took its toll on me. Since I didn’t trust any of my closest friends at church, I really had no one to confide my fears, no one to minister to me. No one really seemed to care that I was in the process of falling apart. I was further isolated since I wasn’t able to do anything outside of the home; Momma only wanted me or the sitter to stay with her. Bitterness, anger, doubting, distrust, self-righteousness, self-pity, frustrations all began to grow in the fertile ground the devil tilled with tendril roots of flourishing weeds. These weeds almost choked my faith, the faith I thought was rock solid. I had trusted God, but it seemed to me that my trust was misplaced. I learned that I was not in control of anything, but God is in control of everything.
After Momma died, I was really isolated. The devil had me on a downward slide. I couldn’t catch hold of anything to stop falling further into the dark. I couldn’t find consistent time to read my Bible when I was staying with Momma, so after she died, I was not motivated to read. Questions flooded my mind as I tried to make sense of why God had turned against me. How could a good God let all of this happen? Momma’s sisters each had a life saving miracle, where was ours? How could a good God let our church be corrupted by spiritual abuse, and let me be the brunt of it? All of this caused major temper tantrums and whining, to no avail. None of my prayers were getting answered; in fact some of the situations were getting worse.
The devil really had a foothold, “a place” in my soul now. Bottoming out, I questioned whether to continue in my faith in God. But if I didn’t trust in God, where would I go? I started daily Bible reading, reading good books, and book studies. During this time, the Word seemed to jump off the page. It became so alive to me that I couldn’t wait to start studying each day. I learned that there are seasons when God hides, in part, to test my faith. These seasons have nothing to do with my behavior, but a strengthening of my faith. Also during these times, I might have to forgive God for allowing these things to happen to me. God is always good and perfect, but from my sinful perspective God is the source of my hurt, when really it is the devil. Forgiving God is a way for me to get my vision clearly back on the straight path. I am still in the trial, but my faith has never been stronger.