Where is God When My Heart is Broken?

Being loved is a hard concept to grasp when our dreams lie shattered around us, and the God whom we thought loved us, has let them shatter.

Vaneetha Risner

If the title of this blog gave the impression that I have the answer to this question, I want to let you know up front that I don't. I am still in the trenches and I wrestle with this often. I wondered if someone else might too, so I decided to talk about it. Faith is such a personal journey, so I can only offer what has been my experience, and in no way do I assume others will necessarily see or feel it the same way. Maybe this conversation can validate your experience if this is an area in which you have struggled, or are still struggling. Maybe you have figured it out and can share a comment below to guide the rest of us.

After the grenade of infidelity was thrown into my lap and basically obliterated everything that mattered to me, I searched in desperation for answers. Being a Christian, that led me to look toward God for comfort and healing. I searched endlessly for relief. I read testimony after testimony from writers who spoke about the comfort they had found in God, and described feeling His love as they walked through this experience of pain and confusion. I felt neither God's comfort nor His presence. Truthfully, this left me more depressed and disconnected than before I read their words. If that was their experience, then I clearly was not doing this right, or more likely I just was not someone with the capacity to heal. Maybe God just didn't love me as much as He loved them. Maybe I was being punished (I actually lingered on that one for a very long time). Maybe this was just God's plan for my life, in which I was never going to feel any relief, but had unwillingly sacrificed my joy and peace for some kind of cosmic greater good that I couldn't see or understand.

Initially after D-day I felt desperate for God, clinging to Bible verses and pleading with Him to somehow make this NOT be my reality. He can do all things, and He could change any circumstance, so I wanted Him to just make this not be my life. As time went on, I felt angry at God. Very angry. Resentful and untrusting. How could He let this happen and then leave me here? Then, I felt totally distant and disconnected from God. As though I was giving Him the silent treatment and pretending He wasn't there. If He wasn't going to help me, then I wasn't going to talk to Him anymore. Then I felt guilty. I knew I was supposed to be faithful to God and worship him even in suffering. But I didn't see anything worthy of worship. So I obediently prayed prayers of gratitude for things like air, food, and shelter. But truthfully I didn't mean any of it. I didn't care if I ate or breathed and I really just wanted to be dead, so I wasn't grateful for the life for which I was pretending to express gratitude.

What did I hear from God? Still nothing. No lightning bolts for my disobedience and angry words, and no warm enveloping comfort for my desperate tearful pleas choked out with my face literally pressed into the floor. Nothing. Nothing at all. The silence was deafening, and I felt abandoned.

As I continued to struggle to hear from God, I often came across well-meaning "resources" trying to oversimplify an overwhelming situation and I read that I should "just" think about something else, or focus on "good things," like Phillipians 4:8. While there is merit and truth in this, there is also a time and a place. In the midst of trauma and deep depression, this just made me want to punch someone. If you saw someone's house on fire you wouldn't tell them to "think about something else." The internal "house fire" of betrayal trauma required a lot of resources and time to get me to a place where thinking about good things applied at all. It's still a day to day struggle for me, but I know as a Christian I am supposed to have faith, right? I'm not supposed to question God or be resentful or angry, and I'm supposed to trust that it's all working for the good of those who love Him. Right? Turns out it isn't that easy. At least not for me.

For a time, I didn't feel like I was supposed to say anything to God that wasn't thankful or honoring, or at the very least - polite. Early on I couldn't find any words at all. Thoughts and feelings were all jumbled up in my head, like one of those old spin art toys that twirls around and mixes up the paint colors into haphazard designs. The confusion and desperation were paralyzing, and then the anger would kick in. It felt wrong to be angry at God, but eventually I realized God already knows what I'm feeling anyway, so there was no reason to keep my thoughts from Him. He can handle my anger and disappointment. As with any human relationship with our children, we would rather have them be honest with us about being angry, than have them not talk to us at all. I'm guessing He probably looks at us like that too.

Over time, I decided that I think some aspect of hearing from God has to do with selective listening. When my kids were young, they were magically oblivious to hearing words like "homework" or "bedtime" but I could practically whisper the word "snack" from around the block - and suddenly they had hearing superpowers. I think it works kind of like that. I wanted to hear "This betrayal didn't really happen" or "I will take your pain away" or even "I will cover the AP's face with boils" - but that was not what He was going to say, and I really wasn't interested in hearing from Him about anything else.

After a while, I did "hear" from God (not audibly or literally). But the things He was showing me weren't necessarily things I could have "heard" early on. People and circumstances were placed in my path that I didn't know I needed until... I did. Over time I began to sense things that were shifting within me. Alongside the pain, I grew in perspective, compassion, forgiveness, humility, and patience... So. Much. Patience. These were not things that I necessarily wanted to learn, especially not like this, but I think they are results of the whispers and nudges of God through this season. It is still very much a work in progress, but I can see the framework now. Honestly I'd still rather hear "I'll take your pain away" or "I'll turn back the clock and it will all go away" but I don't see that happening. Sometimes I wonder if even writing these blogs is something placed by Him in my heart to offer comfort and validation to someone else who needs it right now.

It feels like I ride waves of faith. At times I feel hopeful and almost feel God's presence and see glimmers of His work in my life. At other times, all I hear from God is deafening silence and I feel very alone, unmoored and totally adrift in my pain and hopelessness, like He doesn't even see me at all. I think that is the struggle of faith. If it was easy or obvious, then it wouldn't really be faith.

Leslie Hardie, co-author of Affair Recovery's Harboring Hope course, routinely reminded participants that God helped her through her betrayal, and that He didn't love her more than He loved the rest of us. I doubted that (a lot) at the time, but I have thought of her words often since then. I am certainly not a poster child for faith in recovery, but I am real. I have real doubts and real disappointments and now, I have very real conversations with God. They are not all praise and gratitude, they are very honest. As I mentioned in a previous blog, I do genuinely feel gratitude that I couldn't fathom before, even amidst the presence of pain. So my conversations with God are a mix of those things, along with the frustration and disappointment I continue to face. It's okay. He can handle it. And I know He hears me.

In a Q&A video, Rick Reynolds responds to a person who questioned her faith as a result of her pain, and asked how a just God could have allowed the infidelity to occur. Rick's answer pointed out that Jesus was perfect. He was the Son of God and never sinned, and yet he was crucified. Many of the apostles were martyred. The point he made was that even in those circumstances, God did not prevent pain. He allowed things to happen to people who least deserved it, because he created humans to have free will to make decisions - good and bad - and we have to live with the consequences. Fairness does not factor in. We know we will have trouble in this world (John 16:33). Sometimes it is through the mistakes we make, or those of others who impact us, that changes us, makes us grow, and leads us to God to deepen our dependence on Him, which is His ultimate goal because His heart's desire is to be in true relationship with us.

I don't know how you feel about God's role in your situation, but I know I'm not alone in my struggle to understand. I don't have all the answers, but I hope sharing my thoughts might help someone feel less alone.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

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Comments

Thank you

I know that our journeys are all unique but you put words to things that I feel yet can never express!
I am taking Harboring Hope because of your blogs. They have touched me to my soul. Your words are closer and clearer than anyone I have ever read!

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, pain and healing journey!

Thank you pitter

I deeply appreciate your kind words and am so glad you enrolled in Harboring Hope! I hope you benefit from the support of the group and feel less alone. For me that was the best part of taking the course.

It means a lot to hear that my blogs resonate with you. Thank you for sharing that with me :)

Thank you

There you go (once again), Jen—taking words right out of my mouth and my heart. I don’t know why it is so freeing, but just reading your words and knowing how closely they line up with my own personal struggles is the equivalent to the biggest, most relaxing exhale one’s lungs could withstand.
Practically every point you made in your article resonated with me, but one thing that stuck out the most (like a blaring horn and flashing red light) was the feeling of “riding waves of faith”. And how beautifully expressed that “if it were easy or obvious, then it wouldn’t really be faith”…Exactly!!!

So, to add to your gratitude list of things to be thankful for, consider yourself blessed with these two things, Jen: a way with words, and the vulnerability and bravery to openly share them with others.
Thank you (once again).

Thank you kc0827

Your comments are very kind and it touches me deeply to know this impacted you. Sometimes just being validated and understood is more meaningful than we can ever anticipate.

Thank you for sharing this with me.

I'm grateful that I found you

I'm grateful that I found you to talk to through all of this. You've helped me in our conversations. That, to me, was God sent.

anniecake1

Thank you my friend. I'm grateful for you too and I hope you are doing well. :)

This

You don’t know how much I needed to hear this today. I have literally been praying and wrestling through this. I keep trying to pray, to trust and to ask for God to guide me. I keep asking to feel Him, to hear Him and I hear and feel nothing. I feel like I could deal with the pain and trauma if I could feel Him/hear him but I don’t. Then God sent this to me today. This was an answer to prayer and God speaking. It’s interesting to see the way God speaks. Thank you for sharing this.

Thank you Kel3

Your comment really means a lot to me. You're absolutely right - it definitely is interesting to see the way God speaks - often in ways we don't anticipate.

Thank you for sharing how this reached you. I am so grateful this blog found you on a day that you needed it.

OFTEN I ASKED WHY DIDN'T GOD ANSWER MY PRAYERS

Jen, Thank you again for sharing your thoughts that are helping so many. For almost three years since discovery, I had questioned where was GOD and why didn't HE care about me during these painful decades? But HE did care. It was my husband who didn't care about GOD or our family and most of all he didn't care about me. I struggle with the 'free will' aspect of the unfaithful's choices, yet I sort of get it. I pray we all can heal from this nightmare and live as if we do matter and to really feel the comfort that GOD intends for us. Thank you for all you write to help us get there together.

Paulette

Thank you for your kind words and all you have given to me these last years. I appreciate having you on this journey with me and am so glad any of my writings can help anyone else feel more understood and less alone.

Another hard faith journey

Thank you for your post. After losing our first child (daughter-stillborn at 40 wks), I thought then that my faith being tested was a mountain I’d never fully climb. Now 10 months after DDay (married 26 years and he was unfaithful with three women for the last 8), I’m struggling with my faith once again. I know everyone has struggles, but the two major ones for me have been more than I can take.

Jen Lynn

I'm so sorry for all of your grief and loss. You have been through a great deal and it is understandable that you are struggling with your faith.

In the midst of my own struggle I have found myself drawn to this verse and even bought a canvas print of it to hang where I can see it every day:

James 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

This doesn't take any of the pain away, but helps me understand how even these very hard times are not wasted. Should this have ever happened? No. But free will allows us and those in our lives to make choices that can be destructive and create painful consequences. Even so, God can use those circumstances to grow us into the people we need to be. But it isn't easy and it isn't pain free.

I wish you the best Jen Lynn. You are in the right place here and you are not alone.

Questions never go away

I just read this. You mentioned writing this wondering if it was being written to help someone today. YES!! I have been feeling this way but being very much alone. My friends tell me I shouldn’t question God or even have the nerve to be angry with Him. To know I’m not alone is so comforting. So thank you so very very much. You have made my recovery journey feel not so lonely. GOD BLESS YOU!!

Hutch69

Thank you so much for your comment. I am so sorry you have felt alone and so misunderstood by your friends. I'm sure they don't understand and are just trying to help, but only you know how you feel. God certainly knows and He will be there to listen no matter what you are feeling on a given day. Eventually you will probably not blame Him for your pain anymore but it is pretty normal to feel that way for a time.

This journey can feel so isolating but you are definitely not alone. :)

Where Is God When My Heart Is Broken

Thank you Jen. This is so eloquent. I am 90 days in, and I still struggle with my fiance's affair on a daily basis. I didn't think I could pray this much but sometimes breathing and praying is about all I can do. If I'm getting "better" if I'm "healing" it is so gradual that I am not aware of it. I have managed to stop crying all the time, and outwardly it appears to my friends that I am recovering, but I am masking my Pain because I don't want to worry them. My betrayal also included complete abandonment: she's moved on and I'm left cleaning up a mess I had nothing to do with creating. My prayerful Hope is that God will remove this obsession, these memories, and let me continue on with my life.

Raphael

I'm so sorry for your situation and your pain. It is something no one really understands until they experience it directly.

90 days is so fresh. I empathize with you. I know it probably feels like every day is an eternity in the midst of so much pain and depression, but in reality this journey is long (I'm sorry to say) so it would be very hard to feel improvement quite yet. You're absolutely right - sometimes breathing and praying is about all we can do.

However - even though the journey is longer than any of us would like, it doesn't mean you will feel exactly like you do today for a long time. We are all different, but looking back, I can say there are many layers and stages. Pain is difficult no matter what, but the intensity does lessen over time and with good intentional work. I'm sorry you are left to do this on your own without your fiance, but I gently ask you to consider being more realistic with the people closest to you. I masked my pain for an extended time (I will be writing about that sometime) and it was very counterproductive. If you are not already in therapy I also highly suggest trauma therapy, even for a short time, to validate what you are feeling and set you on the right track.

I wish you well and am glad you found this community to support you in this very difficult time.

Jen's Where Is God article

Dear Jen -- I am very impressed and humbled and grateful that you took the time to respond to me. I will get thru this, somehow my faith in God tells me to just keep going, to place my trust there. When I read your words, and the other great supportive material on the Affair Recovery site, I feel not so alone, and I get inspiration: thank you. One of the positives I will take away from this wretched experience is to be more patient with myself (and with others), and more compassionate with myself (and other people). I will also take your suggestion to find a good trauma therapist: I do not want to get stuck here. Raphael

Raphael

:)

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I would highly recommend giving this a try.
 
-D, Texas