Spiritual Disconnection

Prayer and personal revelation have always been the foundation of my religious life. I’ve counted on them. When the church has done crazy things and I’ve wondered why I was still a believer, I’ve come back to them as the core of my faith.

But lately I’m losing that core. I’m not sure what happened, but it’s been a long time since I felt like I was getting divine communication, since I felt spiritually connected. It’s been an adjustment. It’s not like I haven’t had patches of feeling distant before; I’ve always felt like it was kind of on-and-off. But this has been a long “off” period. And the timing has made it particularly difficult. My life currently feels like a disaster area. With this happening on top of that, I feel like God has abandoned me when I’ve been especially desperate for help. I want to believe in a God who’s loving and faithful, not random and capricious. But right now, it’s taking all I have to hang on to that belief.

For a while, I wondered whether my meds might have something to do with this. If religious experience is mediated through the brain, surely medication that alters your brain chemistry could impact that. But looking at the patterns of when I’ve been on meds and off of them, I don’t see any evidence that it’s made a difference.

And sometimes it’s almost as if God’s still there, but just out of reach. I feel a block that stops me from having any connection. The block could, I realize, be my rage. Because, if I’m honest, I am enraged about the ways in which my life has dramatically fallen apart. Part of me wonders if the anger is fair. But it’s there regardless. And while in the past, honestly expressing anger has actually brought me closer to God, now it’s just another form of communication that goes nowhere.

Church is hard. Church has always been hard—being single and gay is no picnic—but this adds another dimension. People share experiences which revealed to them that God was aware of them and cared about them. Even more biting, I hear about how God has intervened in other people’s lives to solve their problems. At times in my life, I’ve found this sort of thing inspirational. I can’t begrudge people sharing this stuff; it’s part of what church is for. But right now it’s hard to listen to it.

I can imagine some of the responses I might get to sharing this. Perhaps questions about my life and whether I’m keeping the commandments, whether I’m worthy to get answers. I’ll freely admit that there is much room for improvement in my life. But this is the thing. Nothing has radically changed. Historically, despite my many flaws and failings, I’ve had times of spiritual connection. Moments of grace. I’m not saying I couldn’t do better, but it seems like there must be more to the story.

I remember hearing as a teenager from a CES speaker that if you feel more distant from God, guess who moved (you). I’ve always had reservations about that assumption, and I have them even more now. The New Testament says that the Spirit bloweth where it listeth. It’s a nice idea that we can stay connected to God through doing all the right things, but I suspect that ultimately it’s not a relationship under our control.

There’s also, of course, the “Footprints” answer in which God is there all along, but I have to admit that I find that assertion to be a little annoying. If God’s there, why on earth can’t God say something? What possible good does it do anyone for God to be there but completely uncommunicative?

Maybe I’m learning some empathy from this. I realize that many people go through longer dry spells than I’ve been experiencing. And I can only imagine what it’s like for members of the church who simply don’t have spiritual experiences. I’ve talked to people who say that that’s the case for them, and this gives me a glimpse of what it’s like to be in that situation, in a church that is so focused on personal revelation.

I really like the hymn “Where Can I Turn for Peace?” But I’ve always found it a bit unsettling when, for reasons of time, we’ve just sung the first verse in a meeting—because it leaves you hanging, with the questions unanswered. Right now, though, that’s where I feel like I am. Left with emptiness and unanswered questions.

17 thoughts on “Spiritual Disconnection

  1. 1

    I desperately needed to read this today. All I can say is “me too.” Thank you so much for helping me feel a little less alone.

  2. 2

    You are not alone. Not only can I relate to everything you have said, I think most people can as well. I believe what we are taught in the temple: that this life is for us to learn, by experience, good from evil. I reject the idea that we are here to prove ourselves, or be tested or any other foolish notion that says God is putting the screws to us just to see how we will react. We are hear to learn, and specifically, the difference between good and evil. That requires us to experience both good, and unfortunately, evil. I also believe it is why we feel so alone some times and so removed from God. If I understand the scriptures, even the Savior felt abandoned by God in his most desperate hour.

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    Anybody who questions your righteousness can go shove it.

    When I started feeling a lot like you describe, I got a lot of questions, assumptions and gossip like that aimed in my direction. If anything, this made me keep the commandments even more – but largely for the sake of proving them wrong about me.

    It took a long time before I started feeling anything again, but I think this was mostly because I had given up. I really wish I hadn’t. That’s pretty much the only advice that I can give: don’t give up too early.

    Then again, you don’t strike me as being anywhere near as contrarian as I am, so I’m guessing that these experiences and this advice might not match yours exactly.

  5. 5

    just me, thank you so much for letting me know that. I too am glad not to be alone with this.

    Lily, thanks for your thoughts. Like you, I don’t like the idea that this is all some kind of test—it makes more sense to me to think about it in terms of learning and experience. (Though I have to admit that while I find that theologically appealing, at the moment I’m thinking, okay enough with the experience already! I’d like a break. 😉 ) But that’s a good point that even Christ experienced God’s absence.

    Last Lemming, thanks for the link. I remember reading that about Mother Teresa, and finding it quite poignant. It’s helpful to be reminded that others have gone through this—sometimes it seems like church is all faith-promoting.

    Jeff G, thanks for sharing your own experience. I don’t really know how contrarian I am, but not giving up too early sounds like good advice.

  6. 6

    I can totally relate to this. I went through a long “dry spell” several years ago when it felt to me like God just didn’t care about me anymore. The first time I had an identifiable spiritual experience after all that silence is one of the sweetest memories of my life. And I definitely feel like the dry spell helped me understand and feel compassion for people who are going through what I went through. Hang in there. I hope the light returns soon for you.

  7. 7

    I’m thinking about you, Lynnette. I’m so sorry you’re going through a bad time.

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    Catholic theologians including John of the Cross, and Teresa d’Avila have written extensively about this phenomenon. Therese of Lisieux also experienced it. Perhaps they have something to say to you.

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    I’m sorry to hear this, and I agree it isn’t that you have moved away from your former grace. Sometimes I think we may be so terribly disconnected from God in order to give us space to connect with each other. I glad to see many comments offering earthly connection, I hope you don’t think you’re all alone. I think this is likely more of the norm than we’ll admit. Thank you for writing and sharing it, it helps me.

  13. 13

    I felt like the church broke over the agency-denying, discounting-the-Savior’s-direct-teaching policy about children of gay parents not being blessed/baptized. But then I wondered if something inside of me broke. Now your post has me wondering if it might be both, the policy resulted in a severing of communication, or maybe a more apt description would be a blockage, something that has us all floundering as the revelatory communication, both institutionally and individually is broken.

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    Autumn Meadow, thanks for sharing your experience, and for the encouragement.

    sarabay, thanks so much.

    Jason K, your kind thoughts are always appreciated.

    Vajra2, I’m familiar with John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila—but I haven’t read either of them in a long time. Thanks for the suggestion! That could be what I need right now.

    Ardis, thanks for the comment—it’s good to know I’m not the only one!

    Ziff, thanks for the kindness.

    MDearest, I really like that idea about disconnection from God giving us space to connect with each other. I definitely value those human connections!

    Vadel, you raise some really good questions. You’ve gotten me thinking about how the policy may have affected my personal spirituality. I hadn’t thought that it really had—it’s had more of an impact on my relationship to the church—but the two aren’t entirely separate, at least not for me. Tough stuff.

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  17. 17

    I hear you, Lynette. I hope knowing you’re not alone makes things a bit easier. Rainer Maria Rilke knew this territory, too. From his Book of Hours:

    You, God, who live next door –

    If at times, through the long night, I trouble you
    with my urgent knocking –
    this is why: I hear you so seldom.
    I know you’re all alone in that room.
    If you should be thirsty, there’s no one
    to get you a glass of water.
    I wait listening, always. Just give me a sign!
    I’m right here.

    As it happens, the wall between us
    is very thin. Why couldn’t a cry
    from one of us
    break it down? It would crumble
    easily,

    it would barely make a sound.

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