Cindy (not her real name) had stopped attending Young Life meetings, and was partying pretty hard again. She acknowledged as much when I asked her what was going on. Cindy had made a profession of faith in Christ, and tried the Christian life for a few months.
Then she walked away. “It’s not for me,” she said, owning her choice but avoiding eye contact with me after that. We hung around occasionally after that, but she drifted away. I chalked it up to imagining she felt convicted by my committment to Christ. Though maybe my committment played a factor in our estrangement, years later, Cindy’s always-averted eyes flickered onto my memory’s replay screen.
She’d grown up knowing she was a change-of-life “accident”. Her parents reminded her of it all the time, as if it was her fault. Both parents, well into their careers, were unable to make the shift in their lives to embrace her as they had her much older siblings. She wasn’t planned, wasn’t wanted. She wore shame like her newest boyfriend’s oversized varsity jacket and rarely smiled…
…except for that brief time after she told me she prayed to receive Christ. Cindy laughed like a child on a playground when she told a group of us about her prayer. Maybe she’d found the way to a Father who would be able to heal the deep wound in her soul.
But her newfound faith seemed to lose traction a few weeks…months at the most…after that. The lights went out, and she seemed to have pulled the shades down over her soul. She disappeared. Her pain obscured God, and she turned away from Him.**
I thought of my friend when I read David Sanford’s If God Disappears: 9 Faith Wreckers and What To Do About Them (SaltRiver). This slim 158-page hardcover is written in a conversational, approachable tone, designed to respond to the stuff that obscures God’s presence in our lives. Sanford discusses faith wreckers like:
- Neglecting time with God
- Experiencing crushing circumstances
- Being wounded by the church
- Living as an individualist
(and 5 more)
If God Disappears is meant to be a safe place for a reader to see some of their own struggles mirrored in the stories of others. There are some general Biblical principles presented in each chapter, along with an empathetic tone. A couple of times in this story-filled volume, the anecdotes of those who’ve made it through to the other side of a struggle can make the process sound simpler than it would be for a reader. (That’s the sometimes the problem with after-the-fact anecdotes: the mess and time passage of a struggle gets compressed into a nugget of a story.)
But that’s a small quibble, and it might just be me. The gentle, genuine care Sanford uses to address readers comes through loud and clear. The book is a helpful tool, especially if it’s accompanied by the kind of in-person continuing dialogue about its contents that I wish I could have had with Cindy when she first averted her eyes and disappeared from my life.
**I don’t know what happened to Cindy. I do know she is priceless to God, and that her story with Him isn’t over yet.