Where is God When Nothing Makes Sense?
Updated: May 1
By Sarah Damaska
Hear Him Louder Essay Series: Sarah's Story
**Content warning: This Hear Him Louder Essay is about infant loss.**
"I was just wondering," her voice faltered, "how you keep your faith? When things are hard and babies die and nothing makes sense. How do you not give up on God?"
I was sitting on a marriage panel along with my husband and three other couples for our local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting. We'd talked about raising kids, facing conflict, making Christ the center of our homes. We were getting ready to wrap it all up when her voice rang out, full of emotion.
Her eyes were trained on my eyes and I knew that even though every single person on the panel had been honest about the hard parts of their story, this question was for me. Tears filled my eyes. Because no matter how many times I write and talk about grief, the rawness of these questions takes my breath away every time.
My life has been full of joy. I have an amazing husband and three kids who make me laugh (and pull my hair out, depending on the hour). We live in a town we love at a church we've been honored to pastor. We have incredible extended family and friends and have been blessed beyond what I ever imagined. But we have also experienced deep, raw, still-can't-wrap-my-head-around-it grief.
Fourteen years ago we held our daughter as she died. We weren't prepared, but is anyone prepared? She developed on track for six months, a happy, healthy, smiling baby who dearly loved her brother and sister (I know this because she cried whenever they left her sight). But things began to happen that alarmed us and a series of events, including a hospital stay, left us with more questions than answers. The pit in my stomach just kept growing. Something was definitely not right. And when we finally discovered the answer -- a big, ugly tumor the size of a man's fist in her little brain -- it was too late. We drove home from the hospital with an empty carseat and empty hearts, not knowing how we would ever recover.
Two years ago I woke up to my husband's frantic voice on the phone, my mom on the other end. She had gotten up early that morning to make cinnamon rolls for my dad on his 66th birthday. He was still asleep in the chair, the alarm for his phone going off. Only he never woke up. Swift and sudden, he'd had a massive heart attack and died sometime before he'd gone to bed. I'd talked to him just the day before, in between his work calls.
I've spent a lot of time processing these two incredibly poignant deaths in my life. I've grieved them each in unique ways, which probably isn't a surprise. They were different people, in different stages of life, affecting me in different ways. But I guess a part of me thought that grief was grief and I'd travel through the one as I did through the other. In fact, parts of each have been harder to face. Both of them have shattered my heart.
But back to the brave MOPS mom. I didn't know her story, but I knew her words and her emotion because they echoed my own. And I wanted her to know that even though she felt alone, she wasn't. And neither are you.
So I'll tell you what I told her on that day, wishing I could reach through this computer screen and pull you close:
It isn't easy to keep your faith when everything crumbles around you. In fact, it's the hardest thing in the world. It takes courage to face the pain, but when we invite Jesus into it, healing is always possible.
No matter where we are in our faith journey, grief shakes our very foundation to the core. There's anger and questioning, wrestling and sobs that come from a deep place in our souls. Somewhere along the way we have to settle the question of "Where is God in this?" and "What do I believe now?"
Those are questions I didn't know I had-- and if I'm honest, they are questions I didn't even know I was allowed to ask. But in the dark moments I had to wrestle through them. At times I thought it would wreck my faith. Instead it made it stronger, because in the midst of my wrestling, I found Jesus, "the man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief," (Isaiah 53:3, NLT).
If you are living under the weight of grief, you can take comfort in the truth that Jesus doesn't view it as a sign of weakness or faithlessness. Instead, He calls you into a deeper, more authentic relationship with Him.
He is near to the broken hearted (Psalm 34:18) and He promises to wipe every tear from your eyes (Revelation 21:4). And the reason He can do all this? Because He, too, has experienced the deepest grief. Before His death on the cross, Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying with His disciples. “This sorrow is crushing my life out,” He told them (Matthew 26:38, MSG). This is the One who collects our tears (Psalm 56:8).
He is with us because He knows.
So how have I not given up on God in my seasons of sorrow? I learned to be honest with God and I make a daily decision not to give up. I take one step at a time and I refuse to hurry the process. I watch for joy in my day and consciously name the things I'm thankful for. I surround myself with friends who point me to Jesus and His Word. It's terribly messy and imperfect. But walking in grief always is, isn't it? When I look back, I see the thread of His grace and mercy weaving through my days and years.
If you are struggling with trusting Him in your sorrow, cling tight to His promise to draw near to you and to never abandon you. You can trust Him with your broken heart.
Photo credit: Unsplash, Paola Chaaya.
The Hear Him Louder Essay Series is a guest essay series where God's daughters share their stories of hearing God’s whispers in their every day. It’s meant to serve as an encouragement for the times when God feels far and seems quiet. When we read each other’s stories of how He meets us, it reminds and reassures us that He is near. May this series be an invitation for us to listen for His voice together.
Don't miss any posts in this series! Subscribe to receive each new essay in your inbox, posted every other Thursday. When you subscribe, you'll receive a FREE download of a Prayer Planning Worksheet, a resource to help you prepare your heart to listen for His voice in prayer.
New to this series? Check out the rest of the series!
Interested in contributing to the Hear Him Louder Essay Series? The call for submissions opens twice a year. To submit an essay outside of those windows, contact me.
Sarah Damaska lives in rural Michigan with her pastor-husband and three school-aged kids. Shaped by the death of her daughter Annie, she writes about God’s invitation to live in the intersection of hope & sorrow.
She is passionate about spiritual formation and helping women discover a love for Jesus and His Word.