Screaming into Nothingness (when God disappears)


Christmas moimages-2rning. As our girls tore into their stockings hung by the chimney with care, the phone rang. The phone call that changed everything. From now on, life will be defined as either “before” the call, or “after” the call.


My 45 yr. old sister had been rushed to the hospital after waking up with right-sided paralysis, vomiting and headache.


We’re a tight family. Without a second thought, we trashed our Christmas plans and bolted up to the hospital as well. And by “we” I mean, everybody – Grandmas, aunties, uncles, brothers, sisters, kids, and cousins. Someone pointed out how we must have looked like the Bravermans in the final episode of Parenthood.


Together, we exited this comfortable and familiar world called “normalcy” and were forced to enter a foreign galaxy called: “Neurology ICU”. Here, no English is spoken. Here, the air is thin and breathing is difficult. Here, minutes are hours and waiting becomes your livelihood. Here, appetite’s no longer exist. Here, sleep is stolen in 10 minute increments – in chairs – next to strangers who smell as if they haven’t showered in days. Here, you don’t remember if you’ve combed your hair or changed your underwear or brushed your teeth – but also, you don’t care. Here, you cry a lot.


ICU. IV. CT scan. MRI. Decadron. Dilaudid. Emesis. Norco. Emesis. Toradol. Emesis. Hemmorhage left parietal lobe. MRI. CT scan. PET scan. ICU. Tumor in eloquent area of brain. Differential diagnosis: Glioma. MRI. Surgery. MRI. ICU. EEG. Seizure? EEG. MRI. Diagnosis: High-grade Glioblastoma.


Welcome to our newest Galaxy: Brain Cancer.


And the common denominator of all those gathered in this galaxy? We are lost. None of us know our way around here. None of us know what to say, what to do. None of us know what we want, what we need. None of us know what questions to ask. None of us want to go home, none of us want to stay. None of us can eat.


None of us can pray.


None of us feel God anymore. We are told He inhabits this galaxy, too – but it doesn’t seem possible. There is so much pain and suffering and heartache and anguish here – this feels more like hell. God cannot inhabit hell, can He?


We wail and cry and mourn in this galaxy. It’s the only thing that comes naturally. And our cries turn into screams. And we scream into what feels like nothingness…


And yet…..


And yet….. our phones were lighting up from all the saints – the incarnate Jesus people – saying they were praying and giving us scripture to hold onto.  All the things we could not do.


Screaming into nothingness was all we knew to do. But the Jesus-people took it from there:


  • If you’ve ever hit “like” on the Facebook post for the hospitalized person simply to show you’re out there and you care – it mattered.


  • If you’ve ever typed the simple word, “praying” on a carepages post – it mattered.


  • If you’ve ever dropped off bar-b-que on the porch of someone going through a crisis because you know they’ll eventually need it – it mattered.


  • If you’ve ever just showed up in the ICU waiting room with a basket-full of munchies and a tray full of subs – it mattered.


  • If you’ve ever awaken in the middle of the night and thought of someone in a crisis and then prayed for them – it mattered.


  • If you’ve ever felt God supernaturally gave you scripture to be shared with someone in crisis – it mattered.


  • If you’ve ever just hugged someone – really hard and really long – because the deep pain of the situation left you with nothing to say – it mattered.


  • If you’ve ever brought food to the home of someone in crisis even though they said they didn’t need any more – it mattered.


  • If you ever sent a “thinking of you” card – even a lame, dusty, covered-with-pink-grandma-style-peonies, cheap one that you resurrected from the bottom of your “card drawer” – it mattered.



When lost in the galaxy of brain cancer – or lung cancer, or breast cancer, or any cancer for that matter; or divorce, or reactive-attachment disorder, or death, or job loss, or the rejection of adult children, or alzheimers, or heart failure, or marriage infidelity, or financial ruin, or ALS, or any other crisis that launches you from earth – you cannot find your own way back. You truly are lost. And you cannot pray.


And the thing is, you’d stay lost in that galaxy forever – screaming into nothingness forever – if it weren’t for the Jesus-people who stepped up and prayed. In a crisis, the Jesus-people aren’t praying with you, they are praying for you.


I wonder.


I wonder if the Holy Spirit speaks through the prayers, the actions, the cards, the hugs and the bar-b-que, of the Jesus-people and if that’s what this scripture means:


“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how we ought to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words.” Romans 8:26







20 thoughts on “Screaming into Nothingness (when God disappears)

  1. Love you dearest friend. I am so saddened and so sorry for all of this. I just want to hug you and cry with because, honestly, I don’t know what to say… praying for you sister and your family.

    1. Sweet, sweet Linda. I accept this comment from you JUST AS IF you hugged me! I feel it! I do not know if I’ll ever make it to Taiwan, and I do not know if you’ll ever make it to Michigan…. but I DO KNOW you will forever be my sister. We love you guys!!! Thanks for your prayers and may you, too, feel the love and prayers of all the Jesus-people that uphold you in your ministry! Love you!!!

  2. Felt the same way when our two step-grandchildren were killed in a semi/van accident ten years ago. We spent a few days in the Helen De Vos Children’s Hospital with the two surviving step-grandchildren. Food came in by the bushels, and we fed many families on the floor. There was no way we could thank people for all their prayers, notes, food, etc. We were so blessed by the Jesus-people!Makes me more aware of the needs of those who are going through tough times.

    1. Oh my. Pain and unspeakable suffering and loss. I can’t even. But – as you say, the Jesus-people knew just what to do, even when nothing could really be done, they stepped in and LOVED you in the midst of the suffering. That must be the work of the Holy Spirit! And I so agree – when you’ve been through the dark valley, you’re much more in tune to the sufferings of others. For that, I am grateful. Peace, sister.

  3. Cindy, I have been praying for you and your sister ever since your first post. I appreciate your honesty. How is she doing?

    1. Hi Kathy – Thank-you so, so much for your prayers! And also that book you sent on the healing power of God. I devoured it. You are such an inspiration and encouragement – thank-you for that! Heidi is weak and worn – she just finished chemo and radiation and we’re praying and waiting for her strength to return. Her spirit is unwaveringly strong, though, and that’s a wonderful thing to have going for you in this situation! We truly covet your prayers. We are never going to stop praying for total healing for her! Because GOD CAN!!!

    1. Thanks, Steve. Your prayers mean more than I could ever express. We feel them! And, I’d have to say – your words are pure truth: Life IS just sad and beautiful all at the same time! We’re learning to live in that tension. Peace.

  4. I just know you but not that well. I have been praying for you each nite. I am Sara Vanzyll’s mother. Stay strong🌈🙏🏻

    1. Oh Jan – thank-you so much for the prayers. We feel them! I know that’s the only reason we are still standing! What a humbling state to be in – to be so dependent on the prayers of others. God is teaching us MUCH during this season of life!

  5. We have been through grief and the prayers of the “saints” have seen us through. Praying for you.

    1. Thanks for your prayers, Mary. Now you are one of those “saints” for me! The kingdom of God is so cool like that.

  6. Cindy, I heard you read this post at Mars Hill last week. My friend and I who both went through breast cancer last year happened to be sitting next to each other as you spoke. Your words describing the experience of being unable to pray, feeling that you are screaming into nothingness and that God has disappeared, perfectly put to words what we both had felt for almost 2 years. We talked about this reality, wondered about it, were sometimes frustrated with God over it. Thank you for your words and for legitimizing our feelings and removing the guilt that sometimes crept in that maybe we weren’t being spiritual enough or trusting enough and that was causing God’s silence. Your willingness to be vulnerable is a true blessing. Thank you.

    1. Oh my Cori – that’s definitely suffering upon suffering, and grief upon grief – that BOTH you and your friend would battle through breast cancer in the same year. All those feelings you’ve described are so real, so raw, and so exhausting when in the middle of a crisis. And because our culture (especially our Christian culture) is so hesitant to face and embrace pain, we’re often left with guilt! What a tragedy! I am so humbled that somehow God used my story of hurt and brokenness to encourage others and to help us all to see we are not alone in our sufferings. Thank-YOU for sharing with me! Grace and peace.

  7. What a beautiful post Cindy…. I can’t even tell you how often I send up a prayer for Heidi and ya’ll. With Saydee being the same age as Ashley, I pray extra hard for her too. Keep the faith, feel the prayers, and know how much you ALL are loved….

  8. brought me to absolute tears as I thought of the long march towards my father’s death almost one year ago now… all the prayers on Facebook literally keeping my faith alive, strengthening me when I had none, hoping for me when i couldn’t, praying for all of us when words would fail. Oh how He ministers to us through those Jesus -people

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