A Wilderness Experience: To Share or Not to Share

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.

7 thoughts on “A Wilderness Experience: To Share or Not to Share

  1. Thank you for sharing Lesa. It is sad that often the more real and honest we are about struggles for self/family the more uncomfortable some people get. I believe that is satan trying to make us not share, support and encourage one another. In church, of all places we should be able to be real and not worry about condemnation. I also agree
    about having a small group of christian friends
    who you feel safe to be completely open with.

    1. Charleen, thanks for sharing. yes the church should be the place we feel safe in. I think a part of the good of the bad of my dark night, has been me helping others in the church to be more real….about what ever hard time, or struggle, or imperfection they are going through! :o) Thanks!

  2. So glad this is here. I have been in the wilderness for so long and I dont even know if Im hearing from God. Glad to know that others are there and there is hope to get out of this place.

    1. Tyshan, thanks so much for telling me this. you are not alone. I am right there with you but more importantly, as crazy as it sounds, God is never closer than in the dark. He has not abandoned you. I will pray for you. do not abandon your faith. “We have this hope as an anchor for our soul”–that is what the writer of Hebrews says.

  3. thank you for this post. I feel like I am in the wilderness or in a dark valley these past months. I want to be honest with people, especially with my disciples and teammates that I am not okay. But they can’t seem to understand. 😦 Or I can’t feel that they do. Praise God for real accountability! I also have three other ladies whom I meet in a regular basis to help me process things and to journey with me. When God seems to be silent, I go back to His Word. I need to constantly “brainwash” myself with His Truths.

  4. Kashieya, thank you so much for your thoughts and sharing your experience. I am grateful that you have some “Soul Sisters” to walk beside you in this dark time. They are being God to you, and that is a gift in the dark. I like your idea of going back to the Word, for me I spent most of my time in the Psalms and Lamentations. It was good to read others raw disappointment in God and their frustration. When I had no prayers of my own, I prayed out-loud by my bedside (like a child) Ps 23, it was such a comfort when nothing much else helped. prayed for you. love, Lesa

  5. Please note, Lesa will be sharing on Mission:Momentum on the topic:
    Leading in Darkness

    Webinar on August 15

    Space is limited. Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

    http://www.missionmomentum.org/?page_id=93

    How do we lead when we’ve lost our way ourselves? Join Lesa Englethaler and explore the rich subject of Leading In Darkness.
    Title: Leading in Darkness
    Date: Wednesday, August 15, 2012
    Time: 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM MDT
    After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

    I pray that this opportunity will be an encouragement to you. Blessings,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s