A Woman of Bleak Faith


Shortly after Mama died, I abandoned my position as a “Christian Blogger.” Now I mostly refer to myself as a woman of bleak faith.

I didn’t leave my position as a Christian writer because I was angry at God. I wasn’t.

Mama’s dying silenced me. For nearly a year after her death, I quit writing. I think at first it was because I was so emotionally exhausted there was really nothing left to say. Mama’s dying ended the love story I had written about for so long – hers and daddy’s.

Her dying left me mute in more ways than just my writing. I fell silent before the Lord, and I remain in that place to this day. It’s not that I don’t pray, I do. It’s just that there is more silence than words in my prayers. I can’t tell if the silence is due to mine and God’s disappointment in each other, or if it’s because we know each other so well by now that there is no need for words. Perhaps it’s a bit of both.

Shortly before Trump became president, I quit calling myself a Christian at all. The minute he took to the stage and said terrible things about Mr. Kahn, the father of a fallen soldier, and former POW Senator John McCain, I wrote Trump off. I went on Social Media and declared that anyone who supported Trump should just go ahead and unfriend me immediately. And a wide swath of my life-long Christian friends did just that. High school friends. Childhood friends. Some preachers I knew. Some authors I knew. Some folks in the Christian publishing field. They all did exactly as I had asked.

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt me, that it hurts me, yet. But don’t mistake my sorrow for my being sorry. I will never ever regret not aligning myself with Trump or his Evangelical followers.

When my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, I implored God on her behalf. But even those prayers were not the wailing kind of prayers that she and I had both prayed over Mama the day she died.

No. It was more of a constant state of prayer.

In our family, when we need the prayers of a righteous person, we call my sister. When she needs the prayers of a righteous person, I urge her to call somebody besides me. I am not a righteous person. I seriously question a lot of the time whether God even listens to me anymore, or whether he, like so many of my former friends, has just tuned me out because he’s sick of hearing me carry on.

For the past couple of weeks, I, like thousands around the world, have been praying for the healing of Rachel Held Evans. I first encountered Rachel’s writing years ago when she wrote her stirring memoir Evolving in Monkey Town.  Rachel had sent me a copy of her memoir and asked me to consider endorsing it. I was blown away that someone as young as Rachel could write such a powerful memoir. I was more than happy to blurb the book.

Rachel and I had many discussions offline and online about the challenges of living out the Christian faith in an Evangelical climate. We disagreed, sometimes vehemently, but I always respected her voice and her brilliant use of that voice.

I had not yet shed myself of the constraints of the Evangelical community I’d grown up in. Misogyny wasn’t something I concerned myself with much. I was a traditionalist in ways I didn’t even begin to understand until Trump arrived on the scene and people I had once respected became ardent followers of his.

Rachel was brilliant in that regard.She not only recognized the dangers of the patriarchal structure of the church, she wasn’t the least bit shy about naming it. I honestly don’t think I gave it much thought until these past two years. Trump shook me loose from the bonds of patriarchy in ways I never imagined. Rachel had long been free from those bonds.

Several times over the past week or so, I have woken in the middle of the night praying for Rachel, for Dan, for their children, for Rachel’s mother. I have implored God to heal her, to restore her, to save her life.

My own daughter Konnie contracted Influenza A in late March. I was in Tennessee when she called me from the doctor’s office crying, terrified because she was six months pregnant. I called upon all my closest friends and asked them to be in prayer for Konnie. I flew home the next day to find my daughter the sickest I’ve ever seen her as an adult. So I had some idea of the threat Rachel was up against. I prayed for Rachel as I had prayed for my own daughter’s health. And I worried for her as I had for my own daughter.

I cannot tell you why Konnie recovered and Rachel died. Nothing about the world makes any sense to me. It hasn’t for several years now. It is not God I have fallen away from. It’s the notion that being a Believer means everything will turn out alright. I don’t believe that any more, if I ever did.

I don’t understand a world in which the voices of evil men are magnified while those of righteous women like Rachel are silenced. And I got no use for the platitudes that maintain Rachel is in a better place. That she’s in Gloryland. That she’s beyond all pain. That God needed another angel.


Rachel was a mother. Her young children need her. I know. I was a young girl who grew up grieving  a parent. God doesn’t need any more angels. He’s surrounded by them. Children need their mothers. And we all need the voice of prophets like Rachel Held Evans to call us outside the constraints of a patriarchy propagated in the hallowed hallways of religious, academic, and governmental structures across this land.

I have serious misgivings about God’s decisions, as I’m sure he does mine. I’m sure we will work out our differences eventually, but until we do I am definitely wrestling with what little faith I have left.

Karen Spears Zacharias is a woman of bleak faith who used to be certain of everything. Now she finds herself silently doubting almost everything. If you would like to help support Dan Evans and his children during this time, please consider donating to the GoFundMe account on behalf of Rachel Held Evans. Click here.

Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.


Susan Richmond

about 5 years ago

Karen. I so identify with this piece and am struggling myself to get my bearings in this world. I read Lisa Terkeursts book yesterday on a flight to Anchorage. Same theme. Fourth anniversary of the sudden death of my nephew, Justin, father of three. And I sit this morning in grieving solidarity and questioning in his parent’s Living room. I have no doubt God knows and grieves too, I just struggle with where He is day to day. Facing many hard things in my life and family right now. Prayers don’t seem to be answered and I feel frightened and alone. Glad He loves the doubters, too


Karen Spears Zacharias

about 5 years ago

Susan: Sent you a private message. And yes, I am most thankful that God hasn't dismissed us doubters the way so many religious folks are prone to do. Hugs.


Janice Bridges

about 5 years ago

Karen: I see you and hear you. Right with you. Jan


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