In My Words: Turning Back from Turning My Back on God (Part 1)

I’ve found that when I hope to encourage others, God often prompts me to share my less-than shining moments.

This is one of those times. Today I’m sharing the first part of the story of when my faith foundered, part one of a three-part series recounting a less-than stellar season in my faith journey. It ain’t pretty, but it’s honest.

***

God, you are not trustworthy anymore.

I wrote those six words, closed my journal — and turned my back on God.

My faith didn’t sink in some catastrophic storm. It ran aground on a series of seemingly minor sandbars. A niggling doubt grew into the absolute belief that God didn’t care about my heartaches.

My doubt hindered my relationship with God for more than five years.

The “Why”

I did a slow “about face” rather than a sudden turning away from God. Months before my faith failed, I wrote these words in my journal: Will I let the circumstances of my life obscure the truth of who God is? 

I hate to admit it, but that’s exactly what I did: I lost sight of the truth of who God is. My spiritual vision blurred as I focused on the day-to-day, month-to-month obstacles. I no longer saw God as my refuge or strength, much less as a very present help in time of trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

What caused my faith to falter?

  • A cross-country move from Florida to Colorado — I grieved the loss of heart-to-heart friendships.
  • My husband’s Middle East deployment three months after our move — Rob ran laps around  a tent city in the desert on Christmas Eve while I ate dinner with our three kiddos in a Chinese restaurant in Colorado.
  • The rigors of my husband’s air force job once he was back stateside — It was as if Rob never came back home. Sometimes the distance between us stretched as wide as the Persian Gulf.

The unending stress went on for 18 months — and all the while we parented three teens. Then I found myself unexpectedly pregnant at 41. My recovery from the birth was complicated, both physically and emotionally.

A month after our daughter was born, Rob’s work situation imploded and, within weeks, he was stationed two and half hours away in Wyoming.

Could life get any more stressful?

Worn out I scrawled these words in my journal:

You know what, God?

Life stinks.

Did I do something to deserve this?

Is there some grievous sin I’ve left unconfessed?

Do I have a “Kick Me” sign pasted on my back?

Despite all my tearful prayers, despite all the prayers of family and  friends, my life was an utter mess. All my pleas for help, for something other than struggle, went unanswered.

I was exhausted.

I was lonely.

Wouldn’t God help me?

After almost three years of persistent disappointment, I knew the answer to that question: No.

To Be Continued

In Your Words: When has life overwhelmed you? Were you able to hold on to your faith, or did you lose sight of who God is? 

Have circumstances obscured the truth of who God is? Click to Tweet

Turning Back from Turning My Back on God Part 1 Click to Tweet 

Entire “When Life Doesn’t Go According to Plan” blog series archived Click to Tweet

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51 Comments

  1. July 8, 2013, 4:51 am   /  Reply

    Oh my goodness, Beth. These words of yours touched my heart and resonated within my soul. I feel like I am just crawling out of the pit myself and seeing light from above….and it has been so long. Being in the ministry, I used to think that life should be a blessed one…and it is..but God doesn’t promise us heaven on earth. Sometimes life takes us where we do not want to go. Following God’s will doesn’t mean life will be easy. Sometimes it means the desert. Sometimes it means losing everything. Sometimes the only thing left to cling to is God.

    Thank you for sharing your heart and I look forward to the next installments!

  2. July 8, 2013, 4:56 am   /  Reply

    Sherrinda,
    It was easier to post this story now … when it’s farther in the rear view mirror. But even though my heart is healed — my relationship with God is healed — the area is still tender. And I’ll let it stay that way as a reminder …
    Sometimes following God means losing our way …
    Wow.
    There’s truth in that statement. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he brought good out of all of it. Just as he promises.

  3. Alena Tauriainen
    July 8, 2013, 5:14 am   /  Reply

    Beth,

    Thank you for your honesty. Smacked me between the eyes this morning. You words were so true. I’ve recently walked out of a dark place. I thought, Why am I going through this? I’ve come out stronger, His promises are true. But there were those moments when I hung on by the crook of my arm on a life preserver.

    • July 8, 2013, 5:17 am   /  Reply

      Alena,
      Love the visual of hanging onto a life preserver … sometimes I tossed the life preserver back, shouting, “NO THANKS!” But I am stronger for what happened … and I know who God is more clearly.
      Stay tuned …

  4. July 8, 2013, 6:08 am   /  Reply

    Useful valuable series. My faith held me strong through storms until an honors college program that intentionally hit Chris. faith hard & made it seem very unreasonable. I actually wrote God a letter taking my life back–I still went to church, etc., but I was in charge. Frightening words. He didn’t depart, just watched and waited until I realized I missed Him, His counsel, comfort and truth more than anything the “intellectuals” offered. I saw them wobble, too, w/o a safety net. Thank God for His faithful love.

    • July 8, 2013, 6:10 am   /  Reply

      Amen and Amen, Dee.
      If I’m going to fall … and I will, it is knowing that “underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Dt 33:27) And I always hear that Scripture in Elisabeth Elliott’s voice.

  5. July 8, 2013, 7:00 am   /  Reply

    Beth,
    My heart aches just reading your words. They must have been so hard to write. It’s one thing to say that you’ve turned your back on God. It’s entirely different to see it staring back at you in black and white. I bet one thing is true about your desert season, Friend: God has allowed you to use your experience to help others through similar tough seasons. He never wastes a hurt. He shines so beautifully in your life, Beth. I’m so very thankful that He turned you back around to Himself.

    • July 8, 2013, 7:22 am   /  Reply

      Donna:
      This blog series was originally an article for Discipleship Journal — and then that magazine closed. I set it aside until now, when God prompted me so strongly to post it.
      As I said, it ain’t pretty, but it’s honest. And honesty is one of my most sacred values.

  6. July 8, 2013, 7:09 am   /  Reply

    Oh, Beth, how well I know that time in the desert. Your post resonated in my heart…so thankful it didn’t take you 30 years to come home. I love the verse in Joel that tells how He will restore the years the locust eat. Thanks for a reminder that He is always faithful even when we are not.

    • July 8, 2013, 7:24 am   /  Reply

      Ah, Pat … now I know why I feel a connection with you. It’s that desert connection … and being on the other side.

  7. July 8, 2013, 7:18 am   /  Reply

    Oh and now I want to read parts two and three RIGHT now…because, Beth, when I think of you, I think of someone both strong and gentle in faith. But a person doesn’t get that way, I’m sure, without walking through “stuff” (as we call it at work–everybody’s got “stuff”). Thanks for your honesty and transparency. Can’t wait to read the rest…

    • July 8, 2013, 7:25 am   /  Reply

      I would write more, Melissa … but I have tears in my eyes …

    • Andrea Cox
      July 8, 2013, 2:11 pm   /  Reply

      Exactly my thoughts, Melissa!

      And, Beth, so do I.

  8. July 8, 2013, 7:30 am   /  Reply

    I’ve been there. Having my feet firmly in the miry clay. When life’s circumstances seemed to overshadow the Light, I had shaky faith…God, where are you? Can you even see me?

    Thank you for your transparency and posting what many of us have experienced. I’m so thankful you’re able to bask in the truth that God is so trustworthy, even if He doesn’t work according to our timetable.

    • July 8, 2013, 7:39 am   /  Reply

      I’ve heard your story, now you (and a lot of other people) are hearing mine.
      And yes, God is trustworthy.
      I never stopped believing in God … I just stopped trusting him.

  9. July 8, 2013, 7:37 am   /  Reply

    How well I remember. We’ve come a long way.

    • July 8, 2013, 7:38 am   /  Reply

      Yes … we have. Took those masks off and got real, didn’t we?

  10. terri tiffany
    July 8, 2013, 8:03 am   /  Reply

    This is why I like you Beth. You don’t sugarcoat what has happened in your life. I think our lives followed a similar track. I moved to Florida 13 years ago because of my husband’s job, leaving behind everything and everyone I knew. A few years later, my daughter met and married a man from Seattle and left us alone there. Then a year later, my husband lost his good job–for 4 years we waited on God, going from PT job to PT job or none watching our life savings dwindle. Then came the call to Texas–4 years to the day. What we didn’t know was Texas was another year of a desert–until God called us back home to PA. Still digging out but there is hope again. I know the feeling of thinking God has forgotten me. I cried to Him and begged Him and asked what have we done to have family, friends, and everything we knew in our life leave us behind. But He never did move–we did from Him.

    • July 8, 2013, 8:35 am   /  Reply

      Terri:
      I’ve often thought our lives parallel … and I so appreciate your honesty too, and the beautiful way you have with words.

  11. July 8, 2013, 8:18 am   /  Reply

    Yes, Beth, I’ve been there. Had to go through those questions myself when my mom was dying.

    Love your honesty here. Like Mel said, when I think of you, I think of someone who is honest and transparent. And real. I love that. By being real and sharing your hurts, you are helping others. So thank you for that!

    • July 8, 2013, 8:36 am   /  Reply

      Thank you, Lindsay.
      I count you as a special blessing from God. Truly.

  12. July 8, 2013, 8:21 am   /  Reply

    You have a beautiful heart, Beth K. Vogt. Keep sharing your heart. It’s a gift we all are blessed to receive.
    As for me, for a long time I had plenty of good, well-organized information about who God is. I’m not sure I had much more than that. I think by leading me into the circumstantial wilderness, God was inviting me to come and see–to taste and see–who He really is. I think He is turning informational knowledge into experiential, relational knowledge of who He is.
    Great post, Beth. I’m just going to sit here and wait for part 2.
    Still waiting.

    • July 8, 2013, 8:37 am   /  Reply

      The “circumstantial wilderness.”
      You have a way with words, my brother.
      Sorry to keep you waiting … but you know how the story ends.
      And you know I’m writing this for you.

  13. Susan Tuttle
    July 8, 2013, 9:34 am   /  Reply

    The answer – UH-HUH! Life is beyond overwhelming at times and God can seem so very distant. Your words resonate loudly in me, Beth. I have been there. Asked the same questions. And don’t want to go back. Yes, coming out of it brought HUGE growth in my faith, but I still don’t want to go back. And yes, those same questions still roll through my brain at times, and there are days when I have to talk the talk, speak His name, claim verses, and force myself to walk the walk, letting my feelings oh-so-slowly follow. And some days, they move at a snail’s pace:) But God is ever-faithful. Of that I’m now sure:)

    • July 8, 2013, 12:26 pm   /  Reply

      Susan: I understand how the questions come back … and the choices that have to be made … hence, the 3-part series.
      But I love the last part of your comment: … God is ever-faithful. Of that I’m now sure …

  14. July 8, 2013, 10:01 am   /  Reply

    Beautiful post, my friend. I’ve got tears in my eyes, as I recall glimpses of our times together back then. Just before I moved to Vegas for my honey’s job. Those first few years were my desert time. He didn’t allow me to make close friendships because He wanted me to seek Him first, to lean on Him. Then, walking in the desert of infertility, wondering why God wouldn’t allow us to have a child. Did He not love me as much as He loved others? Seeking Him, yet still withholding a piece of my heart from Him. That yearning becoming my idol.

    It took me a few years to really walk free from the wilderness and into the faithfulness of God, but it happened one step, one agonizing journal entry at a time. I didn’t totally turn my back on God, but I didn’t fully trust Him either. There are still hard days, but that time in the desert reminded me that God loves me perfectly, passionately and completely. It also taught me that He is faithful and His plans for me are good, even when they don’t appear to be on this side of the veil.

    Thank you for your transparency today. I’m looking forward to your other installments.

    • July 8, 2013, 12:28 pm   /  Reply

      ” … God loves me perfectly, passionately and completely.”

      Love this bold truth, Jeanne.
      Love you.

  15. July 8, 2013, 10:13 am   /  Reply

    Interesting timing, because life is starting to overwhelm me, and I feel my faith slipping.

    I could stand the deliberate destruction of my career by ‘colleagues’ (because they could, I guess), and the loss of my health…but other stuff is going on that makes me feel like a pop-up target.

    When I think about what happened to Jesus and the apostles, I don’t feel so bad…but when I hear people like the dudes from Duck Dynasty talking about how they’ve been ‘blessed by God’, I think…ok, and I’ve been cursed? Is that the game? Maybe I’ve been blessed in ‘other ways’? Easy to say, and very condescending.

    It isn’t, of course, and I think my problem is more with the current American interpretation of Christianity, the ‘God wants to prosper you’ stuff.

    If we distance ourselves from those analyses of Scripture, and get back to the actual stories in the Bible, we find a lot more need for faith and acceptance, and a lot less ‘plant a seed and watch the results’. The Parable of the Sower was strictly about God’s Word, and ‘seeding’ for prosperity and health is a rather cruel misinterpretation.

    God stands apart from history, and He cares about us in the context of eternity. When everything here goes wrong, it’s easy to say He’s turned away – and to turn away ourselves – but we have to see our existence as He sees it. Or at least, we have to try.

    • July 8, 2013, 12:30 pm   /  Reply

      “When everything here goes wrong, it’s easy to say He’s turned away – and to turn away ourselves – but we have to see our existence as He sees it. Or at least, we have to try.”

      Such mature truth here, Andrew. So glad you joined the conversation today.
      I always am.

  16. July 8, 2013, 10:19 am   /  Reply

    Beth, this post really hit me. I think we will all, at some point or another, have to wrestle with that basic question, “Is God good? And does He want good FOR ME?” And isn’t it funny how it can be a slow slide…those niggling doubts, like you mentioned. I’ve had my own pressure cooker going on for a while now, and when you read verses like, “If two of you ask something in My name, I will do it,” and then you KNOW many people are asking, and it’s NOT DONE. So many doubts can arise. I think the key is just being open with God, being honest, and hanging onto that fact that YOU KNOW HE IS THERE, even if you can’t feel it and can’t see Him moving. Thanks for your honesty today. Sharing this for others who are crawling through.

    • July 8, 2013, 12:32 pm   /  Reply

      Heather,
      Speaking a prayer for you and everyone else in their own special “pressure cookers” — that they hang on … or hit the ground and realize you can hold your ground laying down. That’s a truth I embraced. Weakness is a posture before God that He surrounds with grace.

  17. Amy
    July 8, 2013, 10:39 am   /  Reply

    This is extremely timely because I feel like I’m at a crisis of faith, wandering aimlessly in the wilderness, clinging to the things I know with my head but long to be true in my heart. I’m afraid to keep going but afraid to quit, questioning God’s goodness knowing others have fully experienced it and longing to experience it myself.

    • July 8, 2013, 12:33 pm   /  Reply

      Amy:
      I understand.
      If you can’t go on — and sometimes you can’t — and you can’t quite — because deep in your heart you don’t want to — then stop. Rest. Stay where you are, stay in what you know, who you know God to be. Lean into the prayers of others.
      Praying for you.

  18. July 8, 2013, 12:31 pm   /  Reply

    Wow, Beth.
    WOW.
    Talk about raw and transparent.
    You are loved and respected because you lead with your wounds unbound for all the world to see, and you point to the scars and say “This is what Jesus has healed.”

    I had a few of those years where I felt like I was in open war with a mounting list of enemies. I had many people say “Oh, honey, you raised her right, she’ll come back”. That helped as much as a paper bucket in a sinking ship.
    Only those who came alongside me and said “say what you need to say, and who cares about sounding like a proper saint, because if you don’t let it out, it will break you” understood that I HAD to rage at the sky. Not because I was faithless, but because if He’d just pour down SOMETHING, then I’d know He was listening.
    Then I realized that Jesus knew how I felt. When He hung on the cross, God had to turn around so His heart wouldn’t break. His divine grief eclipsed the sun and darkened the world from one end of the sky to the other.
    One word prayers became two, then two became three. It took months, and medication, to bring me to the point of not laughing bitterly through each sermon.

    Is life a bowl of cherries? No.
    Do I face struggles? Heck, YEAH.
    Do I take the calm for granted? No.
    Do I KNOW He’s there?
    Yes.
    Does He love me? Of course.
    No matter how long I fall, do I believe He’ll catch me?
    Yes.
    “I will never leave you, or forsake you.”

    I trust Him to keep His word, even though sometimes, it may seem like I don’t speak His language and I have to wait until I can hear Him speak mine.

    • July 8, 2013, 12:35 pm   /  Reply

      Somehow I knew you’d understand.
      I just did.
      <3

  19. July 8, 2013, 12:31 pm   /  Reply

    Love this post, Beth!! Thanks so much for your honesty and bravery in being transparent about your struggles. We are all imperfect people limping toward glory, and I’m so glad God doesn’t forsake us when we go through dark times.

    • July 8, 2013, 12:36 pm   /  Reply

      Yes, Teryn, I’m limping toward glory … and doubling back to find anyone else who might have lost their way … I know what it’s like to lose mine.

  20. Andrea Cox
    July 8, 2013, 2:18 pm   /  Reply

    Beth… did you order a mist to roll in? Because my eyes are glazing over. I can’t wait for parts two and three. My heart’s going out to you, girl, and I’m so glad God nudged you back His direction. Like Melissa, I see you as a strong, faith-filled woman who freely gives of herself to those around her. I’m glad to know you, Beth.

    Yes, I’ve been there in the depths of agony when I didn’t think God was listening to my prayers. What a lonely feeling! Many tears and lonesome nights later, I picked up my Bible again. There was a verse that said something about God hearing the cries of His children. I don’t remember the book, chapter or verse, but the part of Him hearing my cries stands out vividly in my mind. And, yes… I cried when I read those words. Only, this time, they were tears of joy.

    Blessings to you, Beth.
    Andrea

    • July 8, 2013, 5:32 pm   /  Reply

      Thank you, Andrea, for sharing a part of your faith journey. I believe it’s so important to let others know that we struggle — and that God loves us in our weaknesses and through our weaknesses.

      • Andrea Cox
        July 10, 2013, 4:53 pm   /  Reply

        So true, Beth. Thanks for the encouragement.

  21. July 8, 2013, 2:26 pm   /  Reply

    Hello Beth,
    I’m just now getting to know you through social media. Saw your Tweet and it let me here. Beautiful, heart-rending post. But I think the Lord was with you the whole time, feeling what you felt, loving you, and sorrowing with you. Do you think so, now, in retrospect? What a strong woman you must be to have had those experiences!

    • July 8, 2013, 5:33 pm   /  Reply

      Oh, absolutely, Angela …
      Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 … there’s always more to the story. And things unseen to the human eye.

  22. Pam K.
    July 8, 2013, 4:47 pm   /  Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing this with us, Beth. It moved me to tears, not only for your situation, but because it’s pretty close to where I am right now. The circumstances are different but the feelings are much the same. I feel so alone, which is unusual for me. I think it’s because I have some tough decisions to make, that I don’t want to be forced to make, and there isn’t anyone to help me make them. I cry out to God for help but nothing seems to happen. I am trying hard to hang on to the threads of my faith, to go with what I know to be true about God and his love for me, instead of how I feel. But it’s not easy! Hopefully some good character is being built here! Anyway, thanks again for sharing. I look forward to reading the rest of the story.

    • July 8, 2013, 5:35 pm   /  Reply

      Pam,
      Please know that you are not alone … that was a lie I believed. And it’s just that: a lie.
      I am praying for you.
      One of my favorite verses is 1 Peter 3:12, where we are told that God’s ears are open to our prayers.
      Ah, such hope in that promise.

  23. July 8, 2013, 11:40 pm   /  Reply

    Wait, you can’t leave me hanging like that. I relate, I relate, I relate – not to the circumstances, but to the feelings behind them – being jilted by God, feeling like “what’d I do to deserve this?” and to the realization that He couldn’t be trusted. Walking away seemed reasonable. Well, and dumb, but I did it anyway. I didn’t have a newborn, so I went to bed and didn’t get up for about five years.

    So, when’s the next post? Thank you for sharing.

    • July 9, 2013, 5:55 am   /  Reply

      Kim,
      Sorry to leave you hanging, my friend.
      The next post is on Wednesday. I’m following my normal blogging schedule: Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
      Yes … feeling jilted by God … great description. It wasn’t the truth … but it’s how I felt.

  24. July 10, 2013, 12:02 am   /  Reply

    […] Contact ← In My Words: Turning Back from Turning My Back on God (Part 1) […]

  25. July 10, 2013, 3:44 pm   /  Reply

    So very good… Thank you.

  26. July 12, 2013, 12:01 am   /  Reply

    […] is one of those times. On Monday & Wednesday, I shared the circumstances that caused my faith to founder — and the choices […]

  27. September 30, 2013, 12:02 am   /  Reply

    […] holds onto me. There was a time when I turned my back on God, but God never let me go. (Isaiah 41:13 […]

  28. March 26, 2014, 12:04 am   /  Reply

    […] I have learned who to trust — and who not to trust. The hardest, and yet the most life changing lesson in my life was learning that God is trustworthy. […]

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