To Whisper a Doxology in the Darkness

To Whisper a Doxology in the Darkness

By: Susan Deborah Schiller 

Photo Credit: Akiane Gallery, License purchased in 2010

To be grateful for an unanswered prayer, to give thanks in a state of interior desolation, to trust in the love of God in the face of the marvels, cruel circumstances, obscenities, and commonplaces of life is to whisper a doxology in darkness. — Brennan Manning (Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin's Path to God)

"I trust you, Abba, you are Good. I'll go wherever you want me to go. I'll do whatever you want me do," I whispered in the darkness of my bedroom. That three-sentence prayer had become my doxology through many years of moving and profound change.

My bags were packed and I had reservations at a gorgeous mountain retreat in Northwestern Montana, but something I couldn't quite identify was making me restless. Something didn't fit.

In my mind's eye I gazed longingly at the room prepared for me, complete with its own fireplace and an upstairs window overlooking snow-capped mountains. The name of the room was "Elijah's Rest".  It was to be a place of solitude and self-care, for as long as I needed it.

Just then, the phone rang. A pastor in another state was on the line, saying, "Sue, I've got a woman here who's desperate. Her teenage daughter is screaming something awful and is slithering on the floor like a reptile and no one knows what to do!"

A woman's voice came on the line, the mother, and I calmly explained to her what was happening and how to bring peace to her home. Within a few seconds the daughter stopped screaming and the phone was given to the girl. I let her know that she was going to be okay and that I would come and help.

In some places, I'm known as the person to go to when all else fails. It's been like that for years. Pastors know I won't turn away the hard cases just because they are unusual.

I put my bags in my truck and left the state, not realizing it was God making the appointment and my own healing journey was about to begin. The girl was healed in a day, and even years later, she continues to be well, happy, and safe, experiencing the normal ups and down of a teenager. Children heal more easily than adults!

I don't counsel people. I just have a gift of bringing wholeness, peace, and serenity into situations that are tense and scary. But my own healing was not so quick, not so peaceful. In fact, there was a lot of intense, throbbing, in-God's-face thrashing.

I had no home to return to, as my husband had left me, after several years of intense trauma, abuse, and pain. My truck broke down in the desert, near a small town, and there I took refuge for two years. It was a beautiful resort town to the visible eyes, yet hosting a subtle and dangerous evi presence, with which I was about to come face-to-face.

While I had had many invitations to come and stay with friends and family, Someone was beckoning me all to Himself, to live in the wilderness… like David, Jesus, Paul, Moses, Ruth, Naomi, and so many of the heroes of my faith background.

I wanted to know what God could do for someone with very little money. Who didn't have a home. Who was living in the corner of hayfield.

So I purchased an old 1973, 16-foot camper for $800 and got permission to park it in a field for $50 a month. No bathroom, but I had electricity. Water was in an outdoor spicket, next door.  I'm sure the owner made no profit, for it was a very hot summer. Two homeless friends lived with me in the field, both in their own trailers.

It was there that I began to deconstruct the religious programming I had spent so many years carefully learning and applying. But my belief system had holes, cracks, and major defects, despite being a preacher and teacher of God's Word!

There were days when I felt I had no faith at all – it felt like even God had abandoned me. All I knew was that I was saying yes to the ride of my life.

"To be grateful for an unanswered prayer, to give thanks in a state of interior desolation, to trust in the love of God in the face of the marvels, cruel circumstances, obscenities, and commonplaces of life is to whisper a doxology in darkness." — Brennan Manning, in "Ruthless Trust"

Learning to trust cannot be learned academically or with the mind. Trust can only be found in experiencing the dark places.

The scorching desert with it's endless vista of starry skies was anything but barren, and it became my classroom for those two years. From living in the corner of a hayfield to camping alongside the Big Horn River, it's where I learned to survive… and through trust, to thrive. The desert was better than college and more intense than ministry school.

The desert is the place where I unlearned most of my life's beliefs and began to build a solid foundation for my life, based on trust in the Creator of the whole universe.

I embraced the mystery and let go of the need to understand everything.

"The most common form of presumption is the expectation that God will directly and secretly intervene in human affairs. We presume that by saying, 'Lord, Lord,' the cancer or bankruptcy or infidelity will disappear. We presume that God answers all prayers by assuring good outcomes…

The theological arguments that support an interventionary God are many and varied. Frequently people report that they have experienced a physical cure or an inner healing. And they have, 'Yet,' as John Shea writes, 'one brutal historical fact remians – Jesus is mercilessly nailed to the cross….

Often trust begins on the far side of despair. When all human resources are exhausted, when the craving for reassurances is stifled, when we forgo control, when we cease trying to manipulate God and demystify Mystery, then – at our wits' end – trust happens within us, and the untainted cry, 'Abba, into your hands I commend my spirit,' surges from the heart." – Brennan Manning, "Ruthless Trust"

A local pastor and business owner gave me a job. A pilot, he also took me up in the air and taught me what he calls, "the art of goofy-stupid"… which is the opposite of religion. It's the gift of living in joyful abandonment, rich in trust, and in the no-fear zone of life. Later that year I was to learn more lessons, from a Lakota family. I would have missed these opportunities if I had gone back to what was familiar and comfortable.

I'm still learning, to this day. The shortest path to God is through Trust and Gratitude. Not the intellect, not doctrine, not all the sermons in the world.

My heart will be broken. Illnesses, job losses, and relationships will break down. It's part of our dysfunctional world. My opportunity each day is to be happy, nevertheless. Whether I have a lot or a little, whether I am hungry or well fed, in sickness and in health, I can choose to trust that God is working all things out for my Good. Because He is Good.

Trust and Gratitude are the shortest path to God is one of the greatest life lessons I've learned.

How about you? Have you taken the time to write down a short story about one of your life's greatest lessons? These stories are more valuable than gold and silver and make for a living family legacy.

My Full Story     What I Believe    Contact Me

With all my love,


Susan Schiller knows how it feels to lose everything: marriage and family, church and reputation, finances and businesses, and more. Susan's upcoming, interactive memoir, "On the Way Home," tells the story of how she came to be known as "the most abused woman" her counselors had yet met and how she learned to navigate to freedom and fullness.  
Today Susan helps people write their life stories, unearthing the treasures of their past and sowing them into their future, creating new family legacies.

Copyright © 2010 to 2015 Team Family Online, All rights reserved.   For reprint permission or for any private or commercial use, in any form of media, please contact Susan Schiller

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara January 13, 2014 at 8:32 am

Yes, it is good to write down, reflect on and share what God has done. Your book sounds wonderful. My heart is glad to be starting my day off with reading your post. Thank you.

God is good.

Have a blessed day.


Susan Schiller January 13, 2014 at 8:34 am

Blessings to you, Barbara – thanks so much for coming and sharing 🙂


Linda Honea January 12, 2014 at 11:43 pm

Four years!?!? Wow and look at you Ms. Overcomer. 

We are so blessed that we can trust our loving Father to watch over all our paths; and that brilliant Holy Spirit to lead & guide us to all truth; and our beautiful Savior Jesus who has experienced all the trials we have. 

PS 16:6. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; indeed my heritage is beautiful to me. 


Susan Schiller January 13, 2014 at 7:29 am

Oh Linda, it’s so good to see you here! I’ve been thinking of you and watching the changes on Facebook as you made a recent move. I know what moving and change is like!

Yes, we have such a loving Father, even in the darkness, even when our faith is tested to the limits, he can be trusted! Amen!


Susan Schiller January 11, 2014 at 9:19 pm

The process of writing is powerful. Reading what you've written is even more revealing and redemptive.

As I look back on this story today, four years later, I realize how dangerous it would have been for me to go to the comfie mountain retreat with the special "Elijah's Rest" room. It would have been special, that's for sure. And it was FREE! For as long as I wanted to stay! What a deal!!!!

Instead, I spent two years in the Dark.

Painfully alone. Exploited by employers. Chased by predators wearing Christian masks.

Homeless. Vulnerable. Deceived.

But not really alone. No, not ever alone.

It was so good. So very good.

I'm so deeply grateful I took the unknown and risky path. It's where I learned life's greatest lessons and my faith really took off.

I can see it so  much more clearly now, for having written it.

A friend of mine who was associated with that retreat center has since told me that it was a cult.

It would have been a place of rest, yes…. but at what price? The price of being told, once again, what to think and why and who to serve and how… I would have ended up deeper in the pit of hell.



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