I Felt Far From God, Then I Made These Simple Changes
Clinging to my faith now keeps me confident that whatever this crisis is supposed to teach me will be for my good.
From the editors: The Black community is coping with historic challenges relating to social justice, health and the economy. We’re all in this together. During this turbulent time, Sisters From AARP is prioritizing new and existing content that supports our readers’ mental, physical and economic safety and well-being, including this story. Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your thoughts on how we, as Black women, can best support one another now.
“I feel far from you, God.”
That’s what I said days after the New Year. My admission confused me. How could I feel far from God when I had just completed reading the Bible, cover to cover, for the third year in a row?
You see, I was a “churched” child. I attended Catholic school and Sunday school, was an altar server, a lector (reader of the scriptures), a member of my church youth group and a Junior Daughter for the Knights of Peter Claver (a historically African American Catholic lay organization). Eventually, the teachings from the priests became my own.
My faith has been the foundational rock upon which I return every time I face a crisis. This first manifested in my life at 16 years old. Upset over my parents’ divorce, eating to swallow my feelings and binging and purging so I could fit the ideal body type of a dancer, my eating disorder madness drove me to the only thing I could cry out to, God. In the middle of the night, between purges, I cried and rocked in my bed as I wrote a poem entitled, “Laying in God’s Hands.” Despite what I put myself through, I knew God was there, watching me and giving me grace. Too embarrassed and ashamed to admit what I was doing, I never sought professional help to specifically treat that behavior pattern. (As an adult, who now goes to therapy as part of regular self-care practices, I’ve been open with my therapist about my past body dysmorphic disorder and eating disorder.)
At 33, God has been my oasis in the midst of a storm. Misunderstandings in my marriage, burnout at my job, uncertainty over my recent career change from a news producer to working full time as a writer/publisher and coach, frustration with my child. My faith in God has seen me through it all.
The first time I read through the Bible was in 2017 when my pastor announced they were doing the Read Scripture plan from the Bible Project, with the goal of getting the congregation to create their own disciplined spiritual practice of reading God’s word every day. I participated because I didn’t want to be a message junkie dependent upon a pastor to give me a word to help me balance my life as a wife, mother, news producer and author. I craved to read and know God’s word for myself.
Each time I opened my Bible, from January 2017 through December 2019, I saw something different. My feelings in January 2020, when I felt far from God, were new. How could I feel that way when I was doing everything I knew to stay close? I was reading the Bible, going to church, listening to podcast sermons, praying, journaling and singing.
I continued my spiritual practice even though my heart wasn’t in it. One day I was reading from the YouVersion Bible app on my phone and felt the Holy Spirit say to switch from the New International Version (NIV) to the Amplified translation. Immediately, the Word was fresh. The added bracketed context of the Amplified translation, along with the slight variation in language rekindled the fire I previously had to read and feed from the Word.
This fire continued, and I went on to live the best two weeks of my life: I had a successful debut of my one-woman show and I signed two new authors to my independent publishing company. God had shown up and showed out for me, and I felt good about reaping His favor and blessing.
But then the pandemic hit. I didn’t know how to feel when the number of cases and deaths began to rise in the United States. I watched the news to stay informed, but seeing the scenes out of New York and Italy, and the number of Black people disproportionately affected by this disease, my heart ached. How could I be so joyful, so blessed, when the world was dying? I don’t have an answer. I have only continued to praise and say thank you that my family and I have been protected.
Today, after feeling far from God earlier, I am staying rooted to my faith. My faith has become even more of a necessity to keep me grounded and make it through my day, especially in the wake of the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and the unrest that has followed. I wake up every morning and read the daily devotional from the YouVersion app, before reading from my own Bible. I read a devotional from Jesus Calling and I journal my prayers. Yes, I am obedient. Yes, I am disciplined. But I am also hungry to know what God says and what He has next for my life. In this time of global crisis and racial tension, like in times of my own personal crisis, it’s been even more important for me to seek God.
I can’t say for myself whether the coronavirus is from God or that there is goodness in the continued systemic oppression of Black people. I can’t say it’s God’s plan to leave thousands dead and millions unemployed. The cynical news producer in me knows this does not sound like the work of a good God, but the faith-filled believer in me learned a long time ago not to concern myself with God’s business. He's going to do what He does, and I will never understand. His ways are not our ways, our thoughts are not His thoughts (Isaiah 55:8).
So far, I have learned, and am still learning, to be more patient with my son, a friend to my husband who is a first-responder and runs his own small business and to give myself enough grace to rest when there is absolutely no more work to do.
Clinging to my faith now keeps me confident that whatever this pandemic and the chaos in this country is supposed to teach me will be for my good (Romans 8:28).