How to Keep Going When It Feels the Heavens Are Shut

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We’ve all heard countless stories of people finding God in their trials—I know I have. I’m sure you even have a few of those stories yourself. But what happens when our trials lead us away from God, rather than toward Him?

I’ve found myself in this predicament most recently, and it’s rather frustrating.

You see, whatever my struggles in life have been, they were always resolved relatively fast and painlessly. (I say “relatively” because they have been, but only in comparison to what I am currently dealing with.) I laugh at the memory of what I used to “freak out” about. If only someone could have warned me of what was to come.

As a child, I had tremendous faith that managed to follow me into my teenage years. I attribute this to both my tenacious character and faithful parents who taught by loving example. Praying every day, reading my scriptures, and attending church all came quite naturally to me.

Then I served a mission. This is when I truly began to question life and God, but my struggles only brought me closer to Him. I turned to Him because I had nothing else. I couldn’t even fathom the thought of leaving the Church or blaming God for my struggles—those were never options for me.

So what changed? I’m still not really sure.

Lately, anger at God is a common emotion for me. I’m angry that I can’t talk to my mom anymore because she recently passed on. I’m angry that other people have told me they can feel her presence, but I never do. I’m angry that I was led to a relationship that ended in heartache and brokenness. I’m angry that I wasted time and money at a school I felt prompted to attend, only to be rejected by my desired program and transferring with no academic progress made.

But mostly, I’m angry that even though God is perfectly able to take the pain away, He never does. And it seems as though it’s only getting worse.

How did I get here? Why are anger and resentment my first reactions rather than prayer, scripture study, and faithful endurance?

The only answer I can come up with is that God has never been this silent for this long before. No aspect of my life has remained untouched in the last year, and I feel completely untethered.

Related: The Trials That Don’t Go Away

I try to talk myself out of these emotions all the time. Thoughts like, “He hasn’t left you, He’s carrying you,” and “The longer the wait, the greater the reward,” are little pep-talks that often come to mind. But nothing quite satisfies me.

There are always the primary answers of reading, praying, and fasting, but they aren’t doing the trick this time.

So what am I to do? I’ll tell you what has been keeping my head just above water lately.

Being creative

Lightbulb, bulb, lightWriting, painting, up-cycling old clothes, etc. Though I may not feel inspired by God right now, it helps to feel inspired by other things. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said,

As you take the normal opportunities of your daily life and create something of beauty and helpfulness, you improve not only the world around you but also the world within you.

The ability to create is one of God’s greatest abilities. What better way to draw closer to Him than to perform the god-like act of creation?

Expressing my feelings to God—ALL of them

PrayIt’s okay to tell God you’re angry. It’s okay to tell Him you don’t want to wait anymore. Just spill it all. Leave no thought unspoken.

Related: On Being Mad at God

You might not probably won’t get the answer you want, but you’ll feel better having it all out in the open. And when every feeling has finally been shared, you’ll have room to receive whatever He wishes to give you at the time: peace—if only for a moment, comfort, an encouraging thought, a clear mind, etc.

Remembering I’m not alone

Atonement of Jesus ChristEven Jesus felt forsaken. He, too, asked God to remove the bitter cup. He, too, asked God why He had been abandoned. He, too, felt hurt, alone, and discouraged. Even if no one else in the world knows how you’re feeling at this moment, I promise your Savior does.

I’ve seen this quote floating around, although I don’t know who wrote it. Hopefully it brings you the same comfort it has brought me:

God is no stranger to pain. When you cry to Him, He isn’t looking down on you and saying, “Here we go again.” He’s leaning down, feeling every tear of betrayal, anxiety, and grief that you are crying and saying, “I know, I remember, and I love you.”

Being kind to myself

Self loveWhen you’re running out of faith, it’s easy to beat yourself up. DON’T DO IT. This will only make matters worse. Whenever I find myself thinking, “You’ve been taught better than this,” or “How could you let yourself sink this low?” I must remember the things I am still doing right.

President Thomas S. Monson once said,

No one has failed who keeps trying and keeps praying.

Even when I skip my prayers for the night, a tear-soaked pillow is still a plea unto God. Sometimes the formalities are forgotten, and I talk to Him in my car (where most of our conversations happen) or simply look up to the sky in gratitude when something goes right. Don’t discount the small things—He notices them all.

Reading my patriarchal blessing

Beautiful evening sunsetThe Lord never breaks His promises (as long as we do our part). There are so many beautiful promises in my patriarchal blessing that give me hope. It’s frustrating that I must wait for some of them, but I know of God’s promise that if I keep “trying and praying,” He will keep His word.

There’s hope on the horizon, and even if it’s far away, we can at least admire the sunset for now.

Connecting with God through nature

ExploringSometimes, church isn’t the answer. I know you’re probably thinking, “Whoa, I can’t believe she just said that,” but it’s true. Still go on Sunday. Still show Him you’re willing to do what He asks. Then go for a drive. Climb a mountain. Walk on the beach.

Nature can bring you closer to God faster than most things, especially when you aren’t
“feeling it.” Sometimes, it’s not sacred words spoken over a podium that I need (though they do have their purpose)—it’s a cool breeze or the smell of pine or a cotton candy sky that brings me back to Him.

Concluding thoughts

Smiley, emoticon, angerThere’s one more quote I want to share. Ultimately, President Ezra Taft Benson said it better in 1986 than I can today:

There are times when you simply have to righteously hang on and outlast the Devil.

When all is said and done, I know that it will come back to me if I just hold on a little (or a lot) longer. Don’t give up! You and I and God are in this together.

Becca is an adventure-seeking, music-loving, student and blogger who would prefer to live her life barefoot in the great outdoors. Her passions include backpacking, reading, dancing, and violining. She is convinced she has the greatest sisters in the world.