Read / Articles /

Where Was God in My Time of Despair?

Self | Marcy Nielsen | 8 mins

I want to start by saying: This isn't a typical article but a story I need to tell. Get ready for some ups and downs because this is the journey that brought me here today, told straight from my heart. It won't include every detail, but it will take you from my lowest lows to my highest highs. Whatever your story is, I know that every person has experienced loneliness, and I hope my sharing this will help you know you aren't alone.  

Back in 2008, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. As an only child, I was used to seeing my single mother tackle obstacles that life brought her way. In theory, I “knew” about Alzheimer’s, but in reality, I had no idea what the next nine and a half years were going to be like for me. Within five years after her diagnosis, my life was turned upside down. I faced the loss of my aunt on my own. She was my mom’s younger sister and like a second mother to me. Part of the first phase of Alzheimer’s is the repetitive questions just a few minutes apart. Keeping the reality from my mother was very difficult, but her doctor advised me not to share the sad news with her because it would only upset her. It was not a habit of mine to keep things from my mom, as we had good communication for the most part. Suddenly, I found myself doing nothing but omitting the truth to her about almost everything. I started my own research and sat down with an advocate from the Alzheimer's Association. As much as I read about it, nothing could compare to the reality I was living at home.

One evening after a ten-hour shift at work, I came home to find the front door unlocked, the lights off, and my mom “missing in action.” It was the beginning of winter in the Midwest, and my first thought was terrifying. She had left without her jacket, and I had no idea for how long she had been exposed to the elements of the weather. I drove around for about 50 minutes, which felt like hours. After not being able to find her, I called 911. Thankfully, someone had seen her wandering on the street. She seemed lost or confused, they said, so they decided to call the police. After speaking to the 911 operator, a police officer met me at the address where she was, which wasn’t too far from our place. The shocking realization that I could have lost my mother while I was at work was overwhelming and numbing at the same time.

At that time, I had been attending the same church for several years. I had some acquaintances but no friends and no community. I have never yearned for community as I did in that season of my life. I was surrounded by so much loneliness and isolation it was literally painful. I found myself trying harder to reach out to people at my church. The rest of my family was mostly out of state, so my need for socialization and friendship was indescribable. My husband and I had gotten married at that church, and he also had been baptized there, but no matter how much we tried, it felt like there wasn’t room for us. In 2017, I went through the loss of my mother. A year later,  my husband lost his mother. Still, I didn’t find comfort at my own church. Where was God in the middle of my despair?

In 2020, my husband and I moved to Arizona right before the Covid shutdown, and we were invited to Sun Valley Community Church by a family member. The following year we joined the team of volunteers and began to serve as greeters. I started working at Sun Valley’s office not too long after.

Working at the front desk for Sun Valley, I sometimes receive calls that amaze me. Some of those people have moved from other states, as I did. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be one of the voices on the other side of the line that can talk to others about hope. I can share the opportunities for connection through serving, accessing healing recovery through any of our care ministries, or simply joining one of our small groups.

In my personal walk with God through the years, I have learned a few things. One is to thank Him for the opportunity He gives me to serve Him. Colossians 3:23 reminds us, “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” And second, try to remember that opportunities from God can still come with obstacles. I once heard a preacher say that “Sometimes you find the opportunity in the obstacle.” Isn’t that the truth! Never talk yourself out of doing something because you think someone could do it better or because there are people more equipped than you to do it. God will use you if you let Him.

There are difficult times we go through in life that we may not understand. We might not know what God is about to do in that season or how He will bring us through it, but we know for sure that He is a God of mercy, love, and compassion. He wants to heal us and help us form connections. Having faith in a time of despair sometimes means taking small steps to keep moving one moment at a time. God is there with you as He was with me in that season of my life. Even when I couldn’t hear Him or feel Him, He was walking side by side with me. How do I know that? Because of His Word. Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

It’s easier to talk about my pain now than it was when I was in it. I still don’t clearly know the purpose of that season, but I remind myself that I don’t need to understand everything in my life. All Jesus wants from me is to give Him control of whatever I’m going through, to open my hand, and let it go into the hands of God. All I need to do is trust Him as I take my next breath. 

 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”  - Proverbs 3:5-6

Written By

Marcy Nielsen

Creative, aspiring writer, and passionate member of the Sun Valley team. 

Published on May 31, 2023