Feeling Lost in the Desert

I’ve found your answers to the questions many of us have to be very helpful. Thank you! Although the following has nothing to do with being gay, I hope that you can shed some light on my confusion over a couple of issues.

1) Since my diagnosis with AIDS in 1992, I’ve gone through many physical, emotional and spiritual changes and upheavals. In 1995, I was led to a healing ministry that provided me with a sense of peace I never knew was possible. At times, I have been totally overwhelmed by the power of His love. I have noticed through my journey, that there are “ebb” and “flow” times within my spiritual life. I don’t know if this is typical or unusual. Could this be the process that one goes through in order to continue to grow spiritually? Do spiritual leaders like you go through this? I’ve read about “the desert” (i.e., darkness, feeling cut off from God) some have gone through (St. Therese, Thomas Merton) and wonder if what I am experiencing is similar.

2) I recently lost my best buddy and loving companion (Golden Retriever) to cancer at the age of 8. It all happened very suddenly. He stuck by me through the very worst times of my life (my family hasn’t been supportive) and we were just about to begin visiting hospitals through a pet visitation program. I am a total mess and my heart is broken. I turned my back on God and gave in to my feelings of despair, anger and loneliness. It is the most difficult thing I’ve had to endure so far. Now I am slowly crawling back to Him through prayer and asking for forgiveness and help. I know that I acted like a child and it was foolish for me to act like this after all the love He has shown me. I’m wondering if this is a “test” (that I failed miserably at) and if my self imposed “desert” is something all together different from the ebb times of my spiritual life that I have experienced before.

Thank you in advance, and God Bless.

Dear Jeff,

First, please know that I will continue to pray for your complete healing. The answer to your question about “ebb and flow” times is, “Yes.” Everyone goes through this regardless of how strong their faith is. We all have moments where we are tired, frustrated, aggravated, or confused. Life is not easy … especially when you are trying to be faithful to serving God. When we try to be faithful in this it is really hard work because we must take life seriously. Taking things seriously will cause us to be tired at the end of the day. So, our emotions, our desire to continue sometimes “ebbs”… but we learn in these times God indeed will carry us or comfort us, whichever is needed.

A good example of you reaching an “ebb” time in your life was the loss of your dog. This is always a very difficult time because our pets, in many ways, are our children. Death of any loved one will cause a person to go through the emotional roller coaster of anger, denial, bargaining, acceptance. There is no set time or order one has these emotions or feelings but they are natural and God certainty understands them.

You have not acted like a child, but rather you have acted as an adult who lost something that was meaningful to you. You were meaningful to the dog as well. It is not childish to be angry over the loss of a pet. It is not a test. You loved this four-legged companion. when he died before his time (your need), you got angry and hurt. God understands this. Remember the story of the Prodigal Son? Remember the older brother who was angry about the party for the younger brother? Remember, how the father went looking for the older brother to console and comfort him? We know that Jesus was making the father out to be God so we then know that in our moments of anger and despair we don’t have to come crawling back to God, but rather God will come to us with assurance and love. My friend know this day everything that God has is yours.

On a personal note, go and get another dog. A puppy can’t exactly replace your beloved pet but it will help you break out of your “self-imposed” desert. Besides, there is a puppy out there that needs your love.

God bless,
Pastor Paul