The Silence and Suffering of God: Part 1

There have been many times in my life, usually when I was either very emotional, or I had a great need, and I prayed about it, but God seemed to be silent. Looking back, I wonder, could I have done anything to help myself, in those situations? I think when I was young, it was leaving a bad situation. I usually felt pretty helpless to do anything about it, and sometimes, it was leaving one bad situation and entering into another.

As I got older, when you would think I would become more confident, my sense of helplessness continued. I spent many times praying to God to help me when I thought I needed him to intervene, but he never did, in those times. Eventually, I did leave that bad situation, but my feelings of helplessness continued, accompanied by something else, mental illness. At that time, I sought help for a while,  then simply abandoned God, even though, looking back, I know that he continued to watch over me. It was a twisted, downward spiral, deep into madness. I just about destroyed my life, risking it in dramatic ways. God continued to come to my rescue, even despite my rebellion. Finally, I gave up, deciding I just wanted to completely escape from life as I knew it, and, after attempting to end my life, I decided to seek dramatic help from professionals. I thought I got better, and so did they, but the old fears and feelings of helplessness returned. And I would try the professional help again, then go off on my own, then do it all over again.

Then something dramatic, but very different, happened. I met a very caring, sweet woman, who would soon become my wife. My relationship with her was a long stillness, in a raging storm. Things got better, at least on the outside, and I went through the motions of religion, but deep down, the raging storm continued. The fear and sense of helplessness would bob it’s head up in my secret thoughts and feelings, but we fooled ourselves into thinking our lives were under control. What I believe we wouldn’t admit, was that it was really us trying to be in control. We both practiced religion, she earnestly prayed, just like I had in the past, and we both would occasionally see some light peeking out from the dark clouds, and we knew it was God, taking care of us, but I also knew, it was not due to any faith on my part. And although she may have kept us somewhat afloat with her broken, old time religion, and, yes, her simple faith, and perhaps it also was helped through the loving prayers of our supportive families and friends, I knew, I was still severely damaged goods. I was rotting on the inside, though I appeared to have it somewhat together. My faults were looked at as idiosyncrasies, just part of being human, even by those who knew, as just part of having a mental illness. But I knew my well was dry.

So, then it happened. I entered crisis mode. But things had changed in twenty years, with professional help. I learned many new coping skills, ways to reach out, and ways to take care of myself. I even told myself that I was getting closer to God again, despite the many suggestions of my friends, who tried to lovingly point out, that I was not moving any closer to God. In fact, they said, I may be moving away from him. And although I passionately denied it, even to myself, deep in my heart, I knew that I was not moving closer to God. I told myself and others that I knew God, that I loved God. I told them that I had been so hurt by the members of the church, so judged, so betrayed. Someone suggested that it was just my mental illness giving me that understanding, that it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. I brushed aside well meaning suggestions of the seemingly tired, ineffectual rituals of prayer, reading my bible, and attending church. In my heart, there was still a wall, hiding my eyes from seeing God, although God could, of course see me clearly, he knew the pain I was feeling, from not being in a truly healing relationship with him, and in compassion, I know he wept.

Author: Gordon S. Bowman III

Writer, Visual Artist, Blogger

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