[Most articles can be downloaded; if you see no download form, write to us.]
I shivered in the February wind as I followed my husband and two young children to the car. Glancing at the “For Sale” sign in our frozen yard, I remembered how soft with summer grass the ground had been when we placed that sign. We had prayed confidently back then for our house to sell quickly. Why was God ignoring us? I couldn’t shake the sense that He had abandoned us. But maybe, just maybe, if I went to church today, God would finally break His silence.
After locking David and Tammy into their seat belts, we headed down the road. “There didn’t used to be this much traffic,” I said.
“This town is growing too fast,” Ralph replied as he waited to steer through the intersection. The conversation went the same way every time we talked about moving into the rural neighborhood 10 miles away.
“I’m tired of living in a cramped house that is constantly in need of repairs,” I groaned.
“I want to throw a rock from our front door and not have it land in a neighbor’s yard.” Ralph manipulated the stick shift as we moved slowly behind the lane of cars. The whitened knuckles on his strong hands revealed his own inner turmoil. Surely God could see what this long wait was doing to our family.
“Look,” I said, pointing to a house that had put up a “for sale” sign in January. “There’s another one that sold quickly. Our house is at least as good. Why do all the other houses sell except ours?” Ralph slowly shook his head. I lowered my voice. “We asked for God’s help from the very beginning. But did that make any difference?”
“The guys at work never ask for His help and everything seems to work out great for them.”
“I feel like if we had never asked for God’s help, we would have sold our house a long time ago.” Our confidence was eroding fast.
When we arrived at the church parking lot, I stared at the doors. What would I do if I couldn’t find God, like I’d felt increasingly in the past several weeks?
The children ran gleefully ahead. Mechanically, I moved down the cement walk after them.
Leaving them at the nursery, Ralph and I entered the sanctuary. The greeters smiled like old friends and the wall of windows transformed the winter air into warm light, but I felt empty and forgotten.
“Have you sold your house yet?” asked Sister Cathy, who had been praying for us.
“No,” I answered and hurried on. Taking a seat, I prayed, Oh God, let me know You haven’t abandoned us. Show me that You’re going to answer our prayers.
Then the service began. The congregation sang, “I am your God. No longer be afraid. I know your every need; My love will never end.”
My voice cracked, my chin quivered, and my eyes blurred with tears. My soul cried out, But I am afraid, Lord! I’m afraid what I want isn’t important to You. In all this waiting I feel only torment. Your love never ends for everyone else. God, why have You abandoned me?
I barely managed to get through the service. To keep from weeping, I thought about a needlepoint project I was designing at home.
Finally, Mass ended. On the way home I told Ralph, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to go back next week. This feeling that God is ignoring us is destroying my faith, maybe beyond repair. If God doesn’t do something soon, I can’t see how I’ll ever be able to trust Him again.”
Ralph silently gripped the wheel.
I continued. “Intellectually, I believe God is holding up the sale of our house for some good reason only He knows. But spiritually, I feel abandoned. If only I could hear God assuring us that it’s all for the best.”
That afternoon two couples came by to look at the house, but again, no one wanted to buy. The next day we got a call from the woman who owned the house we wanted to buy in the country.
“Any interest on your house yet?” she asked.
“A family came through here yesterday. They really like the place. They’ll probably draw up a contract this week. You know I’d rather sell it to you, but I’ll have to take the first good offer I get.”
“Well,” I tried to laugh. “If your house really is the one God thinks is best for us, they won’t buy it.” I said it more out of habit than belief. Inside, I was panicking. We were going to lose the house we wanted because God was ignoring our prayers.
After I hung up, my heart thumped forlornly while my hand still cradled the receiver. I needed someone to talk to. I needed help overcoming this crisis in my faith. But who could I call? Who had enough faith and was willing to listen to me?
I remembered my brief encounter with Sister Cathy. She had seemed genuinely interested and she had counseling skills. I looked up her number. My hand trembled as I dialed.
“Hello, Sister Cathy? Can we get together?” My voice quivered. We set up an appointment for Tuesday afternoon.
Another wait. Tuesday afternoon came slowly and I spent the time wondering what my faith would be like when all this waiting was finally over.
As we sat together at the kitchen table in her convent, I told Sister Cathy why I felt so discouraged.
“Depression is anger turned inward,” she said. “Who do you really feel angry toward?”
I shrugged. “God, I guess. But I know I shouldn’t. It’s just that, well, it seems like He answers everyone’s prayers but mine.”
“Sometimes we project toward God images or feelings we have toward friends. For example, a son who’s never known his father’s love often finds it hard to understand God’s love.”
That made sense, but I couldn’t see how it applied to me. It wasn’t my family or friends who were interfering with the selling of our house. It was God.
Driving home, I thought about what she’d said. I wondered, Have I ever felt abandoned by friends? Yes. There were times when I’d been hurt because people had let me down.
“But God’s not like that!” I exclaimed. “He’s a Friend with a capital F, the only true Friend!” There was the real source of my problem. Because friends had abandoned me, I expected God to do the same. But God is not like human friends!
As if a switch had been thrown, I saw God in a whole new light. Joy flooded in and replaced months of depression. It was still another month before we sold our house, but for the first time, I was able to wait without worry. In the end, we got our proof that God had never abandoned us. We sold our house for a better price, God saved for us the house in the country we wanted, mortgage rates were lower by then, and our son was able to finish kindergarten in the same school before we moved.
More than that, the timing was also perfect for the family who bought our old house and for the one who sold us the other house. In the end, my faith was stronger than ever.
© 1988 by Terry A. Modica