Faithful Living: God is essential to our lives

There have been very few times in my life when I felt completely alone, away from the soothing presence of God.

Five years ago this month I experienced that profound kind of aloneness in a place I never imagined being: sitting behind a prosecutor in a superior courtroom, observing the week-long trial of a young man accused of planning the robbery and murder of my first cousin.

For months I had viewed the tragedy of my cousin’s death from afar. While closely related to me, my cousin was half my age and had lived the entirety of his young life several states away. I did what seemed right after learning about his tragic, untimely death, and I regularly prayed for my aunt, uncle and their children. Yet I realized that my response was in some ways only academic, even though I believe that prayer is powerful and life changing.

Then came word of arrests, indictments and trial dates. I wondered about all of the raw grief such events were bound to release once again. It occurred to me that it was time I stepped up to the plate, to become an active family member and offer what support and love I could muster.

I understood that God was asking me to share their grief in a profound way. Yet I privately worried about my ability to help as I had no experience and could only guess at how I might react to the trial. Neither did I hear God’s voice urging me to go. Yet an out-of-the blue, strong desire to leave my mothering for a time seemed so right I could make sense of no other choice.

I flew out of state to attend the trial and immediately faced two great surprises. The first was total heartbreak. I was old enough to be his mother and my heart hurt as I had never experienced before. The second was abandonment. God stepped back and left me alone to experience it all. There was no shield of comfort. There were no heavenly words to blow through my mind at just the right moments. Even the Bible I packed in my suitcase stayed unopened when numbness and emotional exhaustion dominated my private moments. Each night in the hotel, I could gather no more energy than to brush my teeth and drop into bed.

What I discovered was darkness and void. What I felt and observed was nothing less than horror, grief and anger. There was also tension and sadness that rolled in like waves on a beach. I felt completely robbed of any innocence that may have remained deep inside of me and remained too tired that week to pray about it.

I walked a path I had never walked before and came to understand another dynamic of faith: Most of us will not be exempt from the worst life has to offer. It is how we respond that defines who we are.

As the trial progressed and the details of my cousin’s death, as well as the role he played in his own demise, began fitting together like a puzzle, I began to observe what a life devoid of morals, values, character, courage and God is like.

I also began to face conflicting feelings: I saw a young, attractive defendant and wanted to think the best of him. I did not want to face the growing evidence that he had chosen to associate with dangerous people, had personally profited from the crime, and did not take advantage of the many opportunities to prevent my cousin’s death.

Lest I get too comfortable in my world, God left me alone to face the horror of sin and the ripple effect sin has had on my extended family, the defendant’s young children and our society in general.

Try as I might, I could not lift my own spirits.

“Where are you, God?” I asked.

“I can’t rise above this darkness alone. I’m spent and I have a life to get back to,” I prayed as I flew home at trial’s end.

God came back to me — quietly and gradually. When I returned home I began digging in my Bible once again and God’s words began to restore my hope. Five years later I look back on the experience as a defining moment.

While it is good to be independent, looking back on the trial reminds me that I cannot not do it alone. While interdependency is good, I cannot solely depend on those around me to supply my energy, hope and strength. While I can depend on my own inner reserves, there are times when God is the only available reservoir of hope and courage.

Lives go awry outside the presence of God. How essential it is to find ways to move into the presence of a personal, devoted God, each and every day.

Freelance writer Joan Bay Klope’s e-mail address is

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