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?