When God doesn’t intervene

I grew up hearing a message that Heavenly Father answers prayers and brings peace and assurance to us in our pain. This is a beautiful message, but I have often struggled to see it manifested in my life.

Five years ago, I was in a dark place. My family had recently moved to Provo, Utah, and I was struggling to make new friends. I was frequently fasting and praying for spiritual guidance as I had entered what felt like a ‘faith crisis’, and the heavens were silent. I was pregnant and we had just purchased our first home and were struggling to fix it up while caring for our many children and my husband was adjusting to his new job.

I had begun to tell people about my pregnancy at 12 weeks, but a few days later my morning sickness cut off suddenly and I began to have a sinking feeling that all was not well. At 14 weeks, my husband and older children gone for the day, I leant forward in my chair to pick up something and felt a gush of blood. I went into my bathroom and confirmed that there was a lot of blood and I knew I was having a miscarriage. I was alone with two of my two young children and didn’t really know my neighbors yet, but I was continually praying for someone to stop by and help. We had only been in the house for 3 months. I removed my bloody clothing and sat on the toilet, not knowing what to do.  I felt the pressure of something descending, and climbed into the bathtub to squat. It was slow and stuck.

Meanwhile, my newly-potty-trained 3-year-old was calling to me from the other bathroom. She needed help wiping. I girt myself up with a towel, and went to help her. The 1-year-old needed a diaper change as well, so I changed her. I put on a video to try to distract my girls, grabbed the phone, and returned to my bathroom for privacy, and climbed into the tub again. My husband is a schoolteacher and often hard to reach during the day. I called him and told him I was miscarrying and alone and scared, and he said he would come as soon as he could. But I had our only car and knew it would be a while before he could return.

In time, I was able to deliver the ‘products of conception’, an intact bag of waters and a small placenta on my own in the tub. I was able to clean myself up. I don’t know whether I’ve ever felt so alone in my life. My baby was dead, I didn’t feel God answering my prayers, I didn’t know where to turn for help. My little girls were fighting in the other room and I had to get up and be responsible when I had nothing to give. I had to dig a hole in the yard and bury my hope. I had to be strong caring for the rest of the family; and with no baby to care for, I had no excuse to sit and give myself time to recover.

 

A few weeks later was General Conference. President Monson gave a talk in the Women’s session “We Never Walk Alone”, wherein he shared the story of a sister ‘Tiffany’ who was struggling and felt alone. A virtual stranger was inspired to gift her with a loaf of homemade bread, the only thing she felt she could eat. It was a miracle story, implying that God knows us and our struggles, cares about our desires, and intervenes on our behalf. Yet I felt so unknown and uncared for by God. Why would he send a fresh loaf of homemade bread to one woman who wanted bread and send no one to me while I was miscarrying all alone? I cried crocodile tears through the entire meeting, questions plaguing my mind.

Soon after, we had a special Relief Society evening meeting. The main point of the activity was that God wants to help us achieve our dreams. A few sisters told of their own personal miracles that showed them God was helping them do something they greatly desired. One sister told of how she was unexpectedly able to find a way to participate in a ballet class, which had been once one of her great loves but she hadn’t been able to do for some time. Another told of how as a young mom she would daydream about traveling to Hawaii in the midst of difficult winters and stressful child-rearing. Another told about how she had just decided she’d like to consider law school and took the LSAT as a practice. Before she knew it, she was accepted to the University where her husband worked and got a free tuition benefit. She hadn’t been planning to go for a few years and suddenly she was in law school and didn’t even have to pay. These stories, while beautiful made me feel increasingly bad about myself. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me that God was so silent and absent in my life and I had to leave the meeting in tears.

In the past few years, my faith journey has led me to change my views on a lot of things. I still think it would have been beautiful to have a stranger pop by during my miscarriage and say “I’ve been thinking about you and wondered if you needed help?” That would have been a faith-building miracle for me in an hour of need. I can see why sometimes people feel that their prayers are answered because they feel loved when they need it. I can see why other people feel unloved and invisible when their prayers are not answered or they feel their needs are unregarded by God. The way we interpret what happens to us changes over time and we often impose our current views on past events or reinterpret them.

I imagine readers will have their own opinions about why sometimes people get answers to their prayers and sometimes they don’t. Or they may opine that all prayers are answered, but sometimes the answers are simply not recognized. The question of whether God loves some of his children more than others is too painful to examine. The question of whether God is really aware of our needs and wants to alleviate our suffering is too heretical. The question of whether his hands on earth are open to his inspiration to lift one another’s burdens. The question of who really deserves a miracle, or what a miracle really is. Who is God? Does God really intervene in the lives of some and not others?

Chiaroscuro

Chiaroscuro is a play of light and shadow. Finding noisy messy lovely life in all the shades between.

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19 Responses

  1. Tessa says:

    Chiaroscuro, thank you for sharing your experience. I am so sorry for your lost and that you are alone when it happened.

    Stories like yours are who I can’t believe in an interventionary god.

  2. Mary says:

    I cannot imagine how terrible that must have been for you. I’m so sorry. I have been in periods of my life when things miraculously fell into place. I have also had a very long time in my life when things fell miraculously not into place. I was struggling with personal issues that were the result of making choices I’d always been taught were righteous and obedient choices. Following that very counsel had put me and my children in a dangerous position and I knew getting to safety was not likely to be supported .

    I was so scared and alone and put off those negative vibes. People weren’t anxious to be my friend and I understand why, but at the same time, I badly needed support. I prayed for a very long time for that friend, that support, some miracle. None came and I finally had to bootstrap myself. I sought out the help I needed and developed my own inner strength in the process. I also had a major shift in my faith. A shift that would support my standing up to my spiritual leaders and face their intense opposition to my divorce.

    I know this may seem strange to you, but I no longer have a testimony and I consider that miraculous. I think the Heavens seemed to remain closed, because the church is not where I’m supposed to be. You can call that my hindsight confirmation bias, if you like, but I do see the Lord’s hand in it. I am happier and more contented on the other side.

    I glean from your post you may not agree and that is fine. The life lessons you choose to learn are your conclusions to reach and–believe it or not–I also think those are divinely inspired .

    • Chiaroscuro says:

      <3 thank you so much for sharing your story. It is so powerful to claim your own authority!
      I don't even know what testimony means anymore. The things I was taught about testimony don't make sense anymore, in the same way my past understanding of god no longer makes sense.

  3. Amelia Christensen says:

    I don’t know what the answer is anymore. I try to be mindful of how I talk about this in church. I think K we have become obsessed with prosperity gospel, and I can’t stand it. I’m so sorry for what happened to you. I wish I could have been there.

  4. Angenette says:

    I am so sorry you had to go through this alone. Isolation and silence are so huge and loud that it’s hard to find a way around them.

  5. Rachel says:

    I don’t even know if words alone can express the pain, loneliness, and heartache of losing your child. And to do it without someone physically there to brace you, hold you, and cry with you had to have been so incredibly hard. I am so sorry, and along with everyone else reading this, wish I could have been there for you. I have so many questions about why things happen the way they do. I’m one that struggles not being able to have all the answers right now. So I make up my own sometimes. My little brother had to come home early from his mission because of severe, crippling depression. He asked me why this trial? Why him? He wanted to serve and share his testimony so badly and felt horrible about not being able to do this. I didn’t know what else to tell him except that maybe he would be able to help someone else struggling someday because he knew how awful it was. Ten years later, I was the one he was helping. I was in the depths of what I considered my hell. I wished for death. I never felt God’s presence then. Not like I’ve felt in previous occasions. I actually felt so alone, abandoned, and scared that He was actually never there, or if He was, He didn’t care. My little brother was the one who gave me hope, who helped me heal, who knew exactly how I felt. He reminded me of what I had told him years before. He reminded me that we really are never alone. Even in our hell when we don’t feel anything at all. It was hard to imagine it at the time, but my children, whose diapers I had to change while I was barely functioning, were the very ones who kept me alive. If it weren’t for thought of them having a life without their mom, I would have taken my own life. I still don’t really understand why some people feel God’s presence during difficult times or why some people get bread and others do not. I just know that those difficult times in my life helped me become more sympathetic, more thoughtful and sensitive to others and their situations, and more willing to reach out. Maybe I wouldn’t have grown this strong if I wasn’t forced to carry such a load on my own. I do believe He was there even though I couldn’t feel Him. I do believe He cried with me. I do believe He cheered for me. I believe He knew I needed my brother and my children to keep me going. And I do believe He now guides me to others who are hurting. I believe He loves us so much that He sometimes allows us to suffer so that we can grow. It’s like the jack-hammering that is happening right across the street at my neighbor’s house. It’s ear-piercing loud. It’s dang hard work, and their poor hands probably tingle for hours after they’ve quit for the day. The dirt and sweat suck, but the result is going to be a beautiful addition to their house for their oldest son, who has Autism, to have his own space as he grows into an adult. It’s going to be amazing! And definitely worth the endless hours, popped blisters, and crazy mess they’re currently experiencing. Their future selves are going to love it. This helps me. Again, I’m so sorry you have suffered so much. I hope you find peace.

    • Chiaroscuro says:

      thank you for sharing your story. it is true that our dark times can help us be a better support to others in theirs. I hope I have the opportunity to be someone else’s support in their critical hour of need.

  6. Amelia Christensen says:

    Sunday school is all about miracles today and I can’t stop thinking of you. I got so mad at one point I put my hand up and said we can be the miracle for others instead of expecting them to “have enough faith” to “reach that miracle.” Stories like yours make me realise how much we have it all wrong. I never want someone to go through what you did.

  7. Stacy says:

    I don’t know the answer to your question. But I know the heartache of silent heavens, and sitting alone in a bathroom crying for someone, anyone to knock on the door, call on the phone, send a text, anything, to let me know I wasn’t alone. I’m so sorry you had to do that on your own.

    • Lily says:

      There are many of us reading this post that don’t know what to say and that don’t have any answers but we know the heartache of silent heavens.

  8. Ziff says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Chiaroscuro. I might just be overgeneralizing from my own experience, but I suspect that experiences like yours are far more common than ones where someone stops by with miraculously good timing to help out. It’s only the steady diet of such stories in Conference talks and Ensign articles that would make us think otherwise. I think that’s a super damaging message that we get from these. As you put it so well at the end of your post, this leads to questions about why God appears to love some of their children more than others. I think it would be better for us to realize that getting no help or answer is actually more common, and that if God is even there to help out, their ways of deciding who to help and when are completely inscrutable.

  9. Aislynn says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. This is something that has been on my mind a lot. You expressed it so eloquently and thoughtfully. Thank you.

  10. Nancy Ross says:

    I am sorry that you had to experience a miscarriage in the middle of demanding family responsibilities and alone. That sounds traumatic.

    I think that if we are having a lot of experiences where we miraculously receive the thing that we need when we need it, we want to credit God. We want to feel like we earned and deserved that expression of God’s love in that moment. So much of LDS teaching is about earning our worthiness under the guise of “If we are worthy, God will bless us.” But that is a terrible theology of suffering and doesn’t account for the millions of people in the world who suffer without miracles to relieve their suffering. I think that we end up identifying many elements of economic privilege and social privilege as “blessings from God.” This kind of thinking is so harmful.

    I prefer to believe that God is with us continually, without conditions, without having to earn it. Sometimes I can feel that sense of divine presence and other times I can’t.

    • Chiaroscuro says:

      totally agree about the danger of identifying elements of economic and social privilege as blessings from God; thanks for stating that so clearly. there has definitely a prosperity gospel taught in my religious experience. it definitely adds to the load many feel of feeling unworthy and unloved and unblessed (at least it did to me)

  11. Ceci says:

    Thanks for writing this. It hurts to read. I’m so sorry you were alone and in need of help with a hope that God cared enough to intervene. I call hope the “great destroyer”. Hope unanswered leads to despair. We’ve been filled with too many tales of miraculous intervention so now we feel if we don’t experience the same that something is wrong with us. We aren’t good enough. I’ve spent my whole life (in my fifties now) desperately trying to be “acceptable”. I saw God’s love as tiered. Only men could ever achieve the top tier so I hoped to be good enough to be second tier. Somehow despite my best efforts I’ve never made the second tier. In desperation, sobbing, pleading, begging I came to the understanding that miraculous intervention may happen but i was destroying myself waiting for it. I’ve had some tremendously sad, pain filled experiences in the last few years. (And still experiencing…..) in the back of my brain I still feel that hope of miracles but I push it down because it depletes the strength that I need to deal with difficult things. I don’t understand God. I just know that waiting for miracles in the form of intervention from God is toxic for me.

  12. Emily U says:

    I SO hear you on all of this. Telling stories of miraculous intervention is a setup for devastation, imo. The trouble with appropriating rescue stories into an argument for having faith is that the logic works both ways. I get the temptation – wouldn’t it be nice if building faith were as easy as collecting rescue stories? But it’s not. It’s really not. And I think that’s fundamentally because it’s not God’s “work and glory” to rescue us, but to change us.

  13. Liz says:

    I’m so sorry about your miscarriage, and having to do it alone. I completely agree that the idea that we are always “blessed” in our time of need if we’re worthy/if we ask, or that prayers are always answered, makes for a lot of suffering and doesn’t really square well with a God I know and would want to worship. I went through a period of feeling like the God I had been taught to believe in was more like an abusive person than a loving one… like somebody who you always have to contort yourself to please, lest you risk his wrath. I don’t have a lot of answers, honestly, but if God only comforts the “worthy” or the “righteous,” then I’m not super interested in that God.

  14. OregonMum says:

    I’m so sorry for the loss you had to endure on your own. It makes me wonder if, in brushing aside a thought to do service or kindness because of the “I’m too busy, I am the one who needs help or this just isn’t a good time” that I have missed an opportunity to lift someone in darkness and answered a prayer. Your story has inspired me to be more active when I get those thoughts (call it intuition or inspiration) to help someone else.

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