the presence of sunlight in a field of grass

Searching For God’s Presence

Sep 23, 2019

There was a time I didn’t doubt God’s presence.

When parents and Sunday school teachers told me God was real and good, I believed it. No question. After all, I could see evidences of Him everywhere, in the sweeping branches of the willow tree in the front yard and the colors of my mother’s flowers. Where could such beauty come from if not from God himself?

But that was before. Before pain blinded me to God’s presence and turned my world dark. Before unrelenting suffering left me feeling utterly alone.

Then, when the light went out, I could no longer see:

“What complicated my physical suffering … were the emotional wounds and the unanswered questions. Where was God? I’d followed Him my whole life, loved Him with every breath. And yet the unyielding nature of my suffering, in spite of the prayers of thousands for relief, baffled me.

 

God, why won’t you do something? Did I do something wrong? Are you mad at me?

 

He didn’t answer. And His silence devastated me.

 

I feared I’d been abandoned by the God I’d always loved. Or, worse, that the God I’d always believed in wasn’t real after all. The cumulative years of fighting for life sapped my strength and my faith, and I felt myself giving up.

 

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last time despair almost got the best of me. I could use up all my fingers and toes counting the number of days in the last three years when the thought of ending my life seemed like a viable option.

 

The reasons for this are many, not the least of which are the physical dues I pay each day for having almost died and yet lived: Muscle tightness, atrophy, and diminished mobility in my neck from radiation and multiple surgical scars, inside and out. Compromised saliva production and the resulting dry mouth and difficulty eating. Near constant mouth, throat, and neck pain. Radiation burns and scarring inside my mouth and down through my throat, making it difficult to eat and swallow. Daily choking. A thyroid gland so burned by radiation that it no longer works and a metabolic system that struggles to regulate with medication replacement. And a lingering chronic fatigue from a body taxed by the daily struggle to function in a compromised capacity.

 

And I haven’t yet tallied the emotional toll.

 

In short, I consistently fight a slagging will to live. Like King Solomon, I’ve often cried, “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (Ecc. 1:2)

 

It sobers me, now, to think how close I crawled to the edge of human existence. To survive cancer and yet almost succumb to the cure of it. We pay such a steep price to preserve life.

 

Even so, I look at the woman buried in her despair with unapologetic compassion. Her suffering was more than any human should bear. And her faith questions came from a valid place. —Relentless (Zondervan 2019)

This is a small sample of what you will find in the pages of my newest book: Relentless: The Unshakeable Presence of a God Who Never Leaves. It’s raw, honest, unvarnished. Within these 240 pages, I share the destruction and rebuilding of my faith, a complicated journey to wrestle with suffering, sovereignty and more than a few doubts. It was both ugly and sacred, every bit of it. And on the other side of so many questions, I finally found what I was looking for:

God himself.

This is what I want for you, your loved ones, and anyone who wants to believe in something far bigger and better than their worst circumstance. God’s presence is relentless. And if you need solid proof, Relentless is officially available for pre-order. And if you order before November 12? You’ll receive over $150 worth of bonus resources FREE.

My aim is simple: To create space for the faith conversations we all need to have. Life is hard. Doubt is scary. But our God is bigger than it all.

And He IS with us.

Green fenced trail leading to sunset

QUESTION: Do you wrestle with doubt? Do you struggle to believe God is both good and present, in spite of your pain? How have you navigated those complicated seasons of faith?

7 Comments

  1. Linda Hoenigsberg

    Honestly when I went through a second brain surgery and came out disabled (for life, unless a miracle happens), I was shocked. I had truly thought that all I had been through already in life and all God had walked me through was the end of my journey through the wilderness. What about my testimony of God’s faithfulness? Doesn’t He care if He looks foolish? Uncaring? There were times, and still are, when I want to give up.When I hope something just “takes me out” early (not really that early…I’m now 68). But it has truly been a relief to have my belief system challenged, and to find that it’s not God Who is lacking. Your book is like having an authentic friend walking beside me. Thank you for writing it!

    Reply
    • Damon J. Gray

      I love the question, “Doesn’t He care if He looks foolish?” That’s so raw! Such transparency. It would never have occurred to me to phrase it that way, but as soon as I read it, my heart said, “Yes! Of course! That’s exactly how it feels!”

      Reply
      • Linda Hoenigsberg

        I can’t remember where, but I think I’ve read David (in the Psalms) railing against God’s seeming indifference and asking him if he wanted to look foolish for David having trusted him. I love the Psalms for giving us permission to lament. God can take it! 🙂

        Reply
  2. Damon J. Gray

    Beautifully written, my friend. I’ve pre-ordered this for my beloved wife, Alean, who struggles with chronic pain – 24/7. It shakes me to my core to watch her endure it, ignore it, defy it, but like you, she is a tremendously strong woman. I suspect reading Relentless will be a tremendous blessing to her. Thank you for your bravery in sharing it with us.

    Reply
  3. Penelope

    Michele, I am so looking forward to reading this book! I live with permanent extensive physical disability from a brain tumor, as well as the discomfort and emotionally distressing affects of a GI autoimmunine disease … I walk before God under monastic vows, living out in the world … Faith requires daily discipline, I find! Every day, rising before the sun, I recommit myself to God and to living a life of Christ-centered love. Every day brings so many challenges — and every day brings a new opportunity to say yes to Glory. Love and prayers for you — can’t wait to read this book! xox

    Reply
  4. Diana Stafford

    I have Lupus. Most of my adult life was doctors searching for what was wrong with me. I was in and out of the hospital never finding any answers. In 1988 the answer came. It hasn’t been an easy road, but I know that without the help of God I wouldn’t be hear today. I am in a wheelchair, but with the help of my husband I can still be do a lot on my own. God has been so good!

    Reply
  5. Dorothy Adams

    We all have our own story of “war wounds”. Mine consists of relentless physical suffering that consists of debilitating chronic fatigue, a bike accident 7 months ago that caused 5 fractures, nerve damage and other complications. To add emotional pain to physical pain my husband left the marriage 4 years ago. I am living separated with no contact of my husband as I pray daily for healing and reconciliation. I feel alone and abandoned and question why life is so cruel. How can someone suffer so much with no moments of feeling well or normal?

    Michelle, I value your authenticity. You write about our own experiences of wrestling with wishing for death more than wishing for living. Your transparency gives me comfort and hope. I too have experienced through the hardest time in my life and relentless suffering, how God has revealed his relentless love and presence. Through it all I have an unshakable trust that will never leave me as I’ve seen God’s goodness in my darkest of days. I can’t wait to read your new book. It will give me more encouragement to see all the ways God has been with me and I am not alone.

    Reply

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