Thursday, September 18, 2008

Blog Tour - If God Disappears

If God Disappears
Author: David Sanford
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Tyndale

Does it seem as if God turned out the lights and slipped away?

God often seems absent when we need him most. Some people respond to this by seeking him even more wholeheartedly. Others feel shunned and abandoned, and slowly drift away from their faith. Why do some individuals emerge from such crises with their faith seemingly intact while others all but give up on God, the church, and spiritual life? How can we walk through troubling, even devastating times without shipwrecking our trust in God?

If God Disappears comes alongside those who are already spiritually drifting—or are on the verge—and compassionately empowers them to re-embrace their faith. Author David Sanford explores a series of nine "faith wreckers" and nine sometimes counterintuitive "faith builders" to help us better understand which circumstances and attitudes undermine our faith and which ones draw us closer to God. You may feel that it's impossible to come back to God. You may fear God wouldn't take you back anyway. But even if it feels like God has disappeared . . . it's never too late.

Thanks to Tyndale, I have an excerpt here for your reading pleasure.


Sometimes it takes the experience of losing someone to shake us out of complacency. I lost someone when I was eleven. My dad and mom and brother and two sisters and I were near Snoqualmie Pass, about fifty miles east of Seattle.

Waiting in line near the top of the mountain slope was a girl about my age with a new, red snow saucer. Compared to my black, smelly inner tube, it was high tech. I’d never seen anyone fly so fast down the mountain before. I continued to watch the girl as I made my own way down at less than breakneck speed. Most kids stopped shortly after the slope flattened out. But this girl just kept going and going. And then she disappeared. I swung around quickly to my left, to my right. Everyone around me was getting up and trudging back up the hill. But I didn’t see the girl. She had been right in front of me. And then she was gone.

No one believed me.

I insisted I had seen her disappear. “We can’t just walk away. Come back. Help me look for her.”

Still no one believed. Except me.

The snow was wet and heavy that day. Off the beaten track, I soon found my boots sinking deeper and deeper into the snowpack. It took a full minute to cover ten yards. But I would not stop. Looking carefully, I could see the slight depression where the girl’s red saucer had flown across the surface of the snow. Scattered alpine trees stuck out of the snow just ahead of me. I looked back and realized I was well off the beaten track. But I knew I had seen the girl go this far.

My heart stopped when I found the dark hole. There, in front of me, the saucer’s track stopped. I lay on the snow with my head sticking out over the hole. The second I heard her crying, I started yelling. “Are you all right? Don’t worry. I’ll get help. I promise—I’ll be back right away.”

I didn’t have time to go all the way back up the slope to my parents, so I accosted the first adult I found and breathlessly told him my story. He started yelling, and other adults came running. Someone called up the slope, and within minutes someone else was running toward us with a rope. I led everyone along the path I had taken earlier. It took a while, but eventually a very wet and cold girl was fished out of the creek fourteen feet below the snowpack. She was reunited with her father, and all was well again.

For a long time afterward I pondered what would have happened if I had been the one riding the red saucer. I also wondered why it was so hard to get anyone to believe me.

The fact is, sometimes the bottom does fall out from under us, God seems to disappear, and it’s almost impossible to get anyone to believe us.

I believe you.


What’s yours? Have you ever reached a point in your life where God seemed to disappear? Have you ever felt as if things couldn’t get any worse? As if someone has turned out the lights and God just slipped away?

Martin Luther called this Anfechtung. Saint John of the Cross called it the “dark night of the soul.” Only it doesn’t usually last a night. It can last for days. Weeks. Months. Even longer. And when God steps back into the picture, it often feels too late.

Throughout literature, music, and movies, we see the themes of God’s (or gods’) abandonment, the hero(ine)’s resultant agnosticism, and the immense struggles that ensue. In real life, there’s not always a happy ending.


Remember Superman Returns? By the time our messiah-like super-hero shows up, five years after disappearing unexpectedly, LoisLane has won a Pulitzer for her op-ed piece, “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman.” Just when Lois thinks she’s completely processed her pain and suffering, she faces a second crisis: Can she make room in her life for Superman again?

Like the shaken believer who feels that God walked away without even waving good-bye, Lois has to decide: Does she even want him back?

We all need to answer that question at some point. Do I want God back?

This is the central question to those who feel God has walked out on them. Everyone has faced—or will face—such crises of faith. For some reason beyond our human understanding, such crises are part of everyone’s spiritual journey.

Of course, Superman did return to Lois. But for Christians, sometimes it seems impossible to wait when we have no idea whether or not God is ever coming back. In the darkest times—the death of a close friend or loved one, a horrible accident, acts of terrorism and war, natural disasters, and other tragedies—he seems infinitely far away.

When I was nineteen, a close family friend, Darrell, fell victim to intense headaches. A CAT scan technician first spotted the problem: a massive tumor. Brain surgery followed. Darrell was practically my adopted brother, so I visited him every day. The first day he looked pretty roughed up, but the nurses said he was doing fine. As is customary after such surgeries, they were checking on him every thirty minutes, which was reassuring. The second day Darrell looked about the same. The third day his bed was empty. His mother stood in the corner of the room, weeping. Two hours earlier, the nurse on duty had been in to check on Darrell, only to discover he had stopped breathing. The hospital staff rushed to revive him, and now was desperately fighting for his life.

Darrell’s mother looked up as I entered the room. Seven years earlier, her first husband and oldest son had died in a tragic boating accident. She then married Darrell’s stepfather, but two years later, he had a fatal heart attack. Now this. She looked down to her right. I’m not even sure she was talking to me. If she was, she certainly wasn’t expecting me to say anything in reply. In her anger she demanded, “Doesn’t God know I’ve suffered enough?”

She was absolutely exhausted. The attending physician came into the room and said there was nothing more they could do. Still in shock, Darrell’s mother left. “Darrell’s situation is serious,” the doctor told me. “It appears he stopped breathing for fifteen, maybe twenty, minutes. We can’t pick up any brain waves. But I don’t want to unplug him until we’ve tried everything we can. Would you sit with Darrell and talk with him? If you get him to respond in any way—a word, a motion, a blink—we’ll keep him alive.” The doctor took me to Darrell’s room in ICU. For three days, I stayed with Darrell. I talked with him. I stroked his hand. I pleaded with him to let me know he was still there. I desperately looked for any sign of life. Nothing.

After three days, they turned off life support. I never realized how powerless I was until that experience. Not only was I unable to save my friend, but I also had nothing to say to his mother in her moment of deepest grief.

Where was God? Where was anyone when Darrell’s mom and I felt overwhelmed with such intense feelings of loss and grief? Who could blame her or me for feeling abandoned?

In the face of unspeakable suffering and pain, why would anyone still believe in God? When asked what they would like to ask God if given the opportunity, 44 percent of Americans said they want to know why there is evil or suffering in this world.

--- End of Excerpt ---

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  1. Wow, poweful.. Just the excerpt has got me hooked. I hope my local library has this

  2. Thanks for publishing a synopsis and excerpt from my new book, If God Disappears (Tyndale) -- much appreciated!

    I've been asked a lot of questions. Here are three with my answers:

    Q. What’s the greatest crisis among Christians today?

    A. The greatest crisis among Christians is our inability to talk with each other when we find we’re losing our faith. Not losing our salvation—but losing faith in the Lord, in the Bible, in the church, or in traditional Christian beliefs.

    Like most people, you probably have more than one relative or friend who has left the church and experientially lost his or her Christian faith. Maybe it’s been your own experience. Sadly, many people feel their church isn’t a safe place to talk about losing one’s faith.

    Q. Is it really possible to lose your faith?

    A. Yes. Granted, most people don’t talk about it. That’s half the problem. But it’s no secret that “losing” one’s faith is absolutely real.

    It’s real throughout Church history.

    It’s real in Christian biography after biography.

    It’s real in contemporary experience.

    It’s also real throughout Scripture.

    What happened to mighty Judge Samson (Judges 14-16)? What happened to powerful King Saul (1 Samuel 15-31)? What happened to wise King Solomon (1 Kings 11)? They all fell away.

    What about the good kings of Judah—Asa (2 Chronicles 16), Joash (2 Chronicles 24), Amaziah (2 Chronicles 25, 2 Kings 14), Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26), and Hezekiah (2 Kings 20)? They followed God for a number of years, then (with the exception of Jotham) each one turned away, at least for a time. They didn’t lose their final reward, but they lost God’s blessings and reward for staying true to Him until the end. We see this throughout the Old Testament.

    When we get to the New Testament, what is the single greatest warning in the Gospels and Acts? In the New Testament letters from Romans to Jude? In the book of Revelation? Keep following the Lord—endure to the end—don’t fall away.

    Jesus himself repeated warned against losing one’s faith—or causing others to lose their faith. In fact, Jesus said it would be better to be drowned (a huge fear for most ancient Israelites) than to cause someone to lose his or her faith.

    It’s not just real—it’s a very serious matter.

    Q. Why do some people emerge from a crisis of life or faith with their faith intact while others give up on God, the church, and living in a way that honors the Lord?

    A. Not everyone experientially loses his or her faith. But everyone has or will face crises of life and faith. These pivotal times are part of each person’s spiritual journey.

    No Christian is exempt.

    Not even Billy Graham, who suffered a profound faith struggle in the late 1940s, shortly before his evangelistic ministry captured worldwide media attention. This largely unknown part of his life story is an integral part of the movie Billy (about his early years) due out this fall.

    Not even Mother Teresa, who had a close, vital relationship with God until she started fulfilling her calling in Calcutta, India. Suddenly, prayer, Scripture, music, meditation, and other spiritual disciplines felt dry. Except for a marvelous five-week reprieve in 1959, that remained true to her dying day. Yet she obeyed God’s calling.

    In biography after biography, in interview after interview, I see the same pattern. God allows us to go through a deeply troubling, faith-testing period that can last for weeks, months, years, even decades. The question is always the same: Will we remain true to God no matter what?

    If we persevere, God does something remarkable. He blesses our life’s work and impact to an extent we never could have imagined.

    To read my complete Q&A, I invite you to visit .