To truth story and testimony from my friend, Lesa Engelthaler:
God was silent. I could not feel his presence. It was sparked by one “no” from God, followed by another, and another. Then a stretch of divine silence that lasted for over three years. Some would describe it as a Dark Night of the Soul. It was a wilderness time. It was excruciating and I had no idea how to talk about it or even if I should.
On occasion, I worked up the courage to offer an honest reply to the “How you doing?” question. “Actually not so good,” I would say. “God seems really silent lately.”
Choosing to share did not always go well, however. I was often taken aback by the lack of empathy from seasoned Christians. “Just remember that Moses had to wander for forty years in the desert.” I’d offer a weak smile but I wanted to shout, “Do you really think that is helpful?”
Yet other times fellow Dark Night strugglers came out of the woodwork when I came clean. At a women’s retreat for my church, I was asked to share about my experience of facing series of closed doors. Gripped the microphone with sweaty, shaky hands, I spilled my story. After the talk a support group of sorts formed spontaneously. We exchanged wordless hugs and tears. Some were dry-eyed but passed me notes with sobering messages: “It has been five years for me…you are not alone.”
I had coffee with two college students whom I knew shared some of my struggles. When they asked how I was, I responded candidly. “Well lately God is silent.” Immediately one replied, “That sucks.” The other said, “I am there right now.” That led to a long no-easy-answers conversation.
During this time, I didn’t attend church every Sunday. I love the community of Christians whom God has given my husband and me. But having to be “on” at church exhausted me. I knew I needed to be with Christians, and God provided people who were “church” for me during that stretch.
I became very close with four women who invited me to start meeting with them. With most people I refrained from sharing my struggles because doing so made people uncomfortable. But these women were different. They never flinched when I poured out the things that were breaking my heart. They were safe.
Today, I affectionately call them my Soul Sisters. J.R.R.Tolkien warns, “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.” When the road darkened for me, choosing to share with my Soul Sisters helped me remain faithful.
How do you remain faithful in the wilderness and in the times when it feels as if God is not listening?
For more on Lesa’s journey see her related article in Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal. Lesa also shared her experience here on Moody Radio’s Midday Connection. Connect with Lesa on Facebook here.