In My Words: Turning Back from Turning My Back on God (Part 3)

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. On Monday & Wednesday, I shared the circumstances that caused my faith to founder — and the choices (mistakes) I made along my way to doubt.

Welcome to Part 3 (the final installment) of a less-than stellar season in my faith journey. It ain’t pretty, but it’s honest.

Why Did I Turn Back?

While my silence toward God pervaded all my other relationships, two friends faithfully prayed for me. Even though I stopped voicing all my uncertainties, Faith and Pamela knew.

They prayed when I couldn’t — about the burden of Rob’s job, about the financial stress of Rob living in Wyoming while I lived in Colorado so our girls could stay at their high school, about my health problems after our “caboose kiddo” was born, and about my unrelenting months of doubt. I’m certain their prayers — and the prayers of others — were a spiritual buffer that kept me from running further aground.

I turned back because I missed God. Month after month, I ignored God. I didn’t open my Bible. I didn’t play worship and praise music, which so often lifted my spirits in the past. I took down the handwritten passages of Scripture taped to my bathroom mirror and my kitchen cabinets.

And yet … I missed God. I missed leaning on him when life was hard. And it was. I missed thanking him when life was joy-filled. And it was. Somewhere, buried beneath my doubt, I still desired to live my life as a believer.

Five years after I told God I no longer believed he was trustworthy, I wrote these words inside the cover of my Bible: Lord, please forgive me for doubting that you were trustworthy. I’m sorry. I want my relationship with You to be restored. I know I don’t deserve it — but I’m standing in your grace and asking for you mercy.

I heard no celestial choir. Time didn’t stand still. But I felt as if God moved closer to me — as if he’d only been one tiny step away all those long, miserable months of my silence.

It was an almost tangible expression of God’s grace. When I turned back, I figured he’d say something like, “You can do X months of penance and then we’ll talk.”

Instead, I instantly felt restored to intimacy with God.

I learned a hard lesson during the years I turned away from God: If I focus on the circumstances of my life, I can easily run aground — brought to my knees by discouragement and doubt. Instead, I need to keep my eyes trained on God and his provision during the tough times so I am not pulled off course.

I made agreements with the enemy

And lost my heart.

Oh, God

Forgive me when I agreed with the enemy when he said,

“Maybe God isn’t trustworthy”

and I thought,

“I don’t think I can trust You, God.”

I am driving a stake in the ground.

God is trustworthy.

He is trustworthy.

He is trustworthy. 

In Your Words: How has God revealed his grace to you during times of doubt? 

What helps you trust God in times of doubt? Click to Tweet 

Grace, grace, God’s grace … Click to Tweet

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35 Comments

  1. July 12, 2013, 7:38 am   /  Reply

    Probably the times when I’ve been the most doubtful have also been the times where God has been so amazing about plopping the most perfect reminders of his faithfulness in my path–either through happening upon the right verse at the right time, a perfectly spoken encouragement (or sometimes blunt challenge) from a friend or family member…thing is, in my stubbornness, I’m not always open to seeing or hearing those reminders…

    But the amazing thing is, God waits me out every time. And I love that about him.

    • July 12, 2013, 7:47 am   /  Reply

      Absolutely agree with everything you said, Melissa.
      My prayer warriors, Pamela and Faith? They didn’t hesitate to finally confront me — with love and care and concern. But only the truest of friends can do this. They’ve earned the right … the freedom to boldly go where others cannot go.

    • Andrea Cox
      July 12, 2013, 8:49 am   /  Reply

      I know that feeling, Melissa. Been there many times myself. I love when the light bulb clicks on and I realize, once again, that God never left my side, is trustworthy and has more patience than I do.

  2. July 12, 2013, 7:41 am   /  Reply

    Beth, I have a lump in my throat as I read “the rest of the story.” Just beautiful. I love how you were still able to see the joy, the good in the days of your turning away. No doubt God still gave you good things, because His love for you (and each of us never changed). I also love how when you stepped closer to God, He met you there, stepped closer to you. Isn’t that just like Him?

    A couple of times when I’ve been doubting, He has spoken to my heart (I can count three times in my life when I “heard” His voice in my heart), speaking the message I needed to hear. He’s also brought people around me who spoke His truths to me. Sometimes, He has spoken words as I’ve journaled out my doubt, my hurt, my confusion to Him. He’s reminded me over and over again that He will never leave or forsake me. Such a reassuring truth.

    • July 12, 2013, 7:48 am   /  Reply

      The rest of the story … one of the most amazing experiences of my life, Jeanne. To this day, I remember that moment of tangible grace. I remember his touch … and know He’d never forsaken me.
      It’s who he is … and grace is not dependent on who we are.

  3. July 12, 2013, 7:42 am   /  Reply

    I’m so glad that even though we jerk our hand away from God’s, He never lets go. He’s only a heartfelt cry away. Great post, Beth.

    • July 12, 2013, 7:49 am   /  Reply

      Thank you for being part of the conversation this week, Pat. Your words have blessed me.

  4. July 12, 2013, 8:07 am   /  Reply

    A parable, if I may…of the last twelve hours in our life.

    Last night I was driving Barbara home from the train station (we do have commuter rail in NM!). We were less than a quarter mile from home when she said, “Turn around.”

    When I did, she said, “There’s a crippled dog lying in the ditch.”

    And indeed, there was a small terrier, desperately trying to keep her head above the muddy rainwater that had fallen the night before. She was trying to pull herself free of the clinging mud, but her back legs weren’t working, and she couldn’t get a grip. She was tiring quickly.

    We got out, and Barbara handed me an old drape we had in the car. The little dog used her last bit of energy to crawl to me, and I wrapped her up. She was too tired to shiver.

    And, long story short – she is six feet from me as I write this, clean and dry, in a crate, attended by two older females who are making happy noises for her. Her back is broken; she won’t walk again, but she will have a cart for her hindquarters.

    She will have friends to play with.

    She will be loved.

    Is this an allegory of our transcendence? That one minute we are drowning in mud, wondering what went wrong, and then suddenly we are pulled up, wrapped up warm and secure, and taken to a place of light and love and laughter, and told “You’re safe…the nightmare’s over”?

    If so, then perhaps our faith doesn’t really matter. It is in being Christ for others – even young, broken dogs – that we live in God’s pocket. We serve a real God who made, and lives in a real world, and to be close to him we’d best roll up our sleeves and pitch in.

    Even when it’s dark, and we think we’re working alone.

    • Andrea Cox
      July 12, 2013, 8:53 am   /  Reply

      Andrew, thanks for sharing your parable. As if I wasn’t crying enough already from Beth’s! Your words and the way y’all helped that dog touched my heart today. Thank you.

      Blessings,
      Andrea

      • July 12, 2013, 9:05 am   /  Reply

        Thank you!

        You may like to know – she just barked, a very high, clear bell-tone.

        And she’s HUNGRY!

        (But with her near-drowning in the ditch yesterday, water isn’t really high on her agenda.)

        • Andrea Cox
          July 12, 2013, 9:08 am   /  Reply

          Lol! I wouldn’t be too keen on water in her position either. At least for a while. I’m glad to hear she’s a happy critter. Sometimes disabled dogs make the best pets. Are y’all keeping her?

      • July 12, 2013, 9:31 am   /  Reply

        Oh, yes, Andrea … I’m in tears right along with you … Andrew wove beautiful truths today …

    • July 12, 2013, 9:30 am   /  Reply

      No words, Andrew.
      None needed.
      You said it all, so beautifully.

    • July 12, 2013, 1:31 pm   /  Reply

      Andrew, I love your way of sharing parables. Just beautiful.

    • July 12, 2013, 1:46 pm   /  Reply

      Oh mercy, my brother, you and Barbara are such an amazing pair.
      That little pup just walked into the best home on the planet.

      • July 12, 2013, 2:38 pm   /  Reply

        Did I just type ‘walked’? Mercy, what a twit…”was carried…”

  5. Andrea Cox
    July 12, 2013, 9:06 am   /  Reply

    Beth… thank you for laying your heart out there for us to see your pain and joy. Did you know you were going to make me cry? I kind of figured it was coming with this last installment, especially since my eyes got misty on the first two. My heart is truly touched at the journey you’ve had and that you had the guts to be brutally honest about your experiences. Thank you for having the guts. Thank you for being real. And thank you for being my friend.

    For me, I’ve questioned God’s wisdom when I had no friends. I had my parents and sister, but I’m a person that craves being around others. When we changed schools, churches, started homeschooling in a time when enrichment classes weren’t yet popular, and began home churching with just the four of us and God… I questioned Him. I doubted Him. I thought I knew better than He did of what I needed.

    I was wrong. So wrong!

    Just last night, I pulled out my journal and thanked God for His wisdom. He wasn’t drawing me away from people/friends/the world, but rather He was drawing me closer to His heart. I’ve learned so much over the “lonely” years, and He’s formed me into a deeper, more compassionate, more firm-in-my-faith kind of woman, for which I will forever be grateful.

    Not only that, but He has given me true friends that care about and pray for me in a way former friends weren’t equipped to. I’m thankful for these new-found friends and the bond we already have. I love that our friendships are founded in God because He’s brought us together. Maybe it’s just for a season, maybe it’s for life. Only God knows at this point, and I’m cool with that. I’m trusting Him to work things out His way.

    I’m not used to being able to lay my heart out there and be vulnerable. Hearing your story, Beth, and seeing how open and real you are has been God’s way of giving me the freedom to bare my soul and be the real me in a way I never have before. Thanks for letting God use you. Thanks for listening when He said to tell your story. I didn’t realize it was partially for my benefit until this very moment.

    Blessings from my heart to yours,
    Andrea

    • July 12, 2013, 9:37 am   /  Reply

      And now you made me cry, Andrea.
      I can’t wait until the day we meet face to face and share a long-awaited hug! Thank you for your beautiful honesty — and your friendship.

      • Andrea Cox
        July 12, 2013, 10:34 am   /  Reply

        Can we just have a crying party today? 🙂

        I’m anxious for that day, too! (And Cheddar’s here we come!)

        • July 12, 2013, 12:19 pm   /  Reply

          Oooh, Cheddar’s. Yes! 🙂

          • Andrea Cox
            July 15, 2013, 8:50 pm   / 

            🙂

  6. July 12, 2013, 9:30 am   /  Reply

    I’m so glad you turned back to Him, Beth. Because if you hadn’t, you might not be writing the books you write today. I might never have met you. And my life wouldn’t be as bright if you weren’t in it!

    There definitely comes a choice with every bad circumstance in life: turn toward God or turn away. We can’t stay neutral. I’ve turned away before but don’t ever want to do that again. Like you, I’ve seen how much more miserable anger, doubt, and being far away from Him can feel. The circumstances might not change whether we turn to Him or away — but our heart, and thus, our whole lives, do.

    • July 12, 2013, 9:39 am   /  Reply

      Amen and Amen and Amen, Lindsay. I take comfort in knowing that I was always in the palm of his hand — that nothing can separate me from him. Nothing.

  7. July 12, 2013, 2:07 pm   /  Reply

    Praying friends…they make all the difference. Thank you so much for sharing your journey here, Beth. You are an encourager, His light in the darkness, and I’m thankful to call you Friend.

    • July 12, 2013, 2:29 pm   /  Reply

      Sometimes we don’t realize the difference praying friends make this side of heaven.
      Thank you for encouraging me again, Donna.

  8. July 12, 2013, 2:16 pm   /  Reply

    You are quite a woman, Beth, to be so transparent.

    One thing my husband and I agreed on is that we’d always stand together , no matter what happened outside our little keep. No matter who or what stormed the walls, we’d stay together. Like Mont Saint Michel, the sea could come and go, but we stayed rock solid in place.
    I can honestly say, I hear “I love you, honey” about 10 times each and every day.

    That is grace, both from my husband, and my God. Because God knew I needed to hear I was loved. And when nothing else sunk in, those words did.

    • July 13, 2013, 6:15 am   /  Reply

      Looking forward to seeing you in September, JZM, because I’m betting you’re transparent too.
      😉

  9. July 12, 2013, 4:41 pm   /  Reply

    “I felt as if God moved closer to me — as if he’d only been one tiny step away all those long, miserable months of my silence. It was an almost tangible expression of God’s grace. ”
    So beautifully articulated. You have captured the reality that grace is so wonderfully-counter-intuitive that it always feels surprising to us somehow. You and the others have said it all. I have nothing to add. I am so happy to see all the responses from people who were touched by your story because I was praying that there would be someone out there who could benefit from your encouragement 🙂

    • July 13, 2013, 6:16 am   /  Reply

      Thank you, Dave. Thank you for those prayers.

  10. terri tiffany
    July 13, 2013, 6:26 am   /  Reply

    Thank you thank you for sharing your whole story! You don’t realize but I have been searching and praying for my husband and reading what you said that others prayed for you and when you turned back God was there immediately helps. My husband won’t pray anymore as he is so disappointed in what he believes God let happen to him. It breaks my heart and I decided just this week to begin in earnest to pray for him since he can’t. Thank you so much for ministering to so many.

    • July 13, 2013, 6:33 am   /  Reply

      James 5:16 (NIV) The prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective.

      Joining you in prayer, Terri.

  11. July 15, 2013, 12:05 am   /  Reply

    Thank you for sharing the rest of the story, Beth. I love that God is always near. Even when we’ve turned away, He is still our rear guard. Without His grace, I couldn’t walk through a single day.

    I agree with Lindsay, thank you for turning back. Thank you for answering the call to write fiction and thank you for being the amazing lady you are.

  12. Sonia Meeter
    July 15, 2013, 9:45 am   /  Reply

    Wow…. This series hit real close to home. Of course, the final part brought tears to my eyes. Yes, I’m feeling abandoned now. Yes, I’m tempted to isolate myself and all the other mistakes you did. I guess that is why you’re my friend. The Lord knew I needed a tour guide to tell me, “I’ve been down that road before and you do NOT want to go there.”

    “DO NOT CROSS THIS LINE!” (Think “Night at the Museum, Part II”.)

    Love you dear friend.

  13. July 17, 2013, 10:58 pm   /  Reply

    He is trustworthy – I appreciate reading that over and over. Thanks for this series, Beth. I can relate.

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