Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Absence of God

“You see all my light and You love my dark…and You’re still here.” Alanis Morrisette

It was several years ago on Holy Thursday. I was standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes and it hit me hard. My words can't adequately describe the sudden, completely empty, cold and drained feeling that washed over my soul like the suds on the dishes in my hands. God had left me. I don’t know how it is that I knew this was the cause of my sudden emptiness, but there was no doubt in my mind that the absence of God had overcome me.

I had walked in the light of His love my entire life and had really taken it for granted that His love would always be there. I never gave any thought to the fact that the awareness of His presence was a gift. There were many times in my life when I put His love on a shelf and completely disregarded it as unimportant. What a fool I was!

So anyway, there I was at the sink, feeling absolutely horrible. Tears began to fall and my children, upset to see their mother crying, asked what was wrong. I couldn’t answer because I really didn’t understand what was happening to me and hadn’t a clue about how to explain it to my little ones.

We went to Holy Thursday Mass, and as I sat in church and looked around at all of the other people present, I thought, “How can God love all of these people but not love me?” I immediately scolded myself for my prideful thought, but it wasn’t pride really, it was something worse than pride. It was despair.

The associate Pastor who loved to include pop music lyrics in his homilies quoted an Alanis Morrisette song at this Mass-


“You see everything,
you see every part
you see all my light
and you love my dark

You dig everything of which
I’m ashamed
There’s not anything to which
You can’t relate
And you’re still here.”

He explained that this is exactly how God is, loving us and never leaving us no matter what. As happens from time to time, I felt that these words that Father quoted, these song lyrics, were spoken directly to my heart. The tears I was trying so hard to control, began to spill once more. I knew he was right, that God is always with me, so that made my present condition even harder to bear. The tears continued after my family and I returned home. I cried while kneeling bed-side with my children for their evening prayers and once again they began to question my tears and attempt to comfort me. How could I explain the unexplainable? I had told them all their lives that God loves them and will never leave them. How could I tell them that He had left me?

By the next morning, I was feeling better, not quite so desolate, and gradually I began to feel the presence of God in my life once again. I know that God uses all things for good for those who love Him and this short-lived experience of darkness was enough to change my life significantly. Since that night, I began to attend daily Mass even though, at first, I questioned God all the way there and all the way home. “Why do you want me there? Right now I'd rather be anywhere but church!” I told Him. Yet everyday I'd get up, get dressed and drive to church regardless of whether or not I felt like being there. Sometimes I would cry all the way to Mass, cry the entire time I was there, and then cry all the way home. I wondered if there would ever be an end to my tears. Still, something made me go day after day. It’s as if God was drawing me through the pain to a deeper love for Him, one that didn’t rely on consolations and joy, but instead, thrived even in the nothingness and the pain.

That experience of the absence of God also brought me to spiritual direction in a desire to try to understand God and how he works in my life. It is such a relief to know that each month I can sit and talk one on one with someone who has also been in that dark place and has found a way through it to the knowledge that we remain forever in God's presence whether it is felt or not. It is a huge help to know that I am not alone on my journey to holiness, that others have been where I am, and that I will always continue to grow in my faith.

I know I’ve got a long way to go spiritually, but daily Mass, spiritual direction and spiritual reading have led me to understand that the words of that priest so long ago are very true: even when I can’t feel God, He is always there.


  1. I don't know if Adoration is readily available where you live but I go to Adoration almost every day, (as a missionary I can't live without it!), that would be great for you too. Even if you could go once a week. I found for me, that going every day gives me a chance to sometimes just sit and "be" with Him, even if I don't always "feel" His presence. This was an awesome post Anne. As you know, many, many of the saints went through what you described. You are in good company!

  2. Thomas Merton's words, "Your brightness is my darkness," has helped me a lot.

  3. Remember Job! He was a man of great piety, and yet he was permitted to be tempted.
    You are a beautiful witness of God’s constant love, maybe you were allowed to feel this loss in order to be an even greater witness to those in spiritual despair.

    In this past year, I have been lead to pray for those that do not believe in God and those that do not yet know Him. Your posting reminds me of the souls that will never know His love because they choose the way of the world instead. We must all pray for God's mercy upon them.

    God Bless

  4. I don't have a car so I can't go to daily Mass and often miss Sunday Mass too because of my husband's work schedule and/or my own health issues. I have often wondered how much better my Faith would grow if I could attend regularly. Too many times I feel as though I'm walking through the Shadowlands of Faith....not quite dark but not brightly lit either. It wears me out.

  5. Anne,
    This was such a honest, heartfelt post, thank you for sharing it with us. Everyone's experiences are different, but I noticed that God occasionally hides Himself from me. This used to upset me very much, but now I just smile and offer it up for those in mortal sin who never feel God's presence. You are right, He never leaves us and these periods help strengthen our faith in Him. I have a long way to go, also, but you and I will smile at each other in heaven and all the sufferings we have gone through will be nothing in comparison to the joy of being with the Lord always :)

    I have your back :) The Holy Spirit draws me to pray and back you up in prayer for various reasons having to do with your calling.

  6. Wow, very powerful, Anne. I wish I could go to daily Mass...maybe when all my kids are in school.

  7. What a powerful post! Thanks for sharing Anne!

  8. Anne,
    Everything everyone has said here so far I would say as well. One of the great things about our faith and being part of the Mystical Body of Christ is that through prayer we can all be there for each other. As Mary said, "she's got your back." That's exactly the way it should be. We all need to have each other's backs. Sometimes we need to do as you did with this beautiful post and let others know what we are going through.
    This blogging community that we have all formed is also a great support- we can rely on each other for prayer.
    So like Mary, I've got your back as well.
    God Bless. And remember, the times He seems farthest away are probably the times He is the closest to you.