Seasons come when God seems far away, when we just don’t sense His Presence. Others speak of knowing Him, of His love, but they might as well be speaking a foreign language to our hearts. Even in church we sit unmoved, our heart like a stone, our prayers just words without emotional engagement.
Have you had times when these words are yours? “O God my rock,” I cry, “Why have you forsaken me? Why must I wander in darkness, oppressed by my enemies?” Their taunts pierce me like a fatal wound. They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?” (Psalm 42:9-10, NLT)
In my decades of discipleship I have experienced times of passionate love of Christ, knowing the overflow of the Spirit, and times when, to my ears, Heaven is silent. Such times have many names. St. John of the Cross called them the “dark night of the soul.” Others refer to “dry desert journeying” when the soul is thirsty for God’s love. Some refer to this as “faith walking time!”
David, the Psalmist, wrote ancient words that comfort me. “I will praise you with songs. I will be careful to live a blameless life— when will you come to help me?” (Psalm 101:1-2, NLT) Apparently, he was not feeling God’s Presence at that time. In a much more desperate tone he cries: “Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly. For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food.” (Psalm 102:1-4, NIV)
The enemy of God and good often exploits the silence, accusing us, telling us that it is our fault that God is silent. “You’re a sinner, unworthy, rejected by your God,” he whispers when we are most vulnerable. It is true that when we persist in selfish ways, ignoring the voice of the Spirit, we can grieve Him. But, He we are never unloved or rejected. WE may push Him to the edge of our conscious mind, but He is always there, the waiting Father, calling us back to Himself.
So, what should we do when we do not sense Him near, when prayer and worship are an effort, not a ready response?
First, above all, is to hold onto the Truth. John reminds us that “God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” (1 John 3:20) Jesus assures us that “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). Write a meaningful passage of Scripture on a card and commit it to memory. When the accusing thoughts come, speak the Truth to them.
Second, choose to love – God and others. When we are struggling with doubts, when God seems far away, often we are tempted to isolate ourselves, to retreat from church, from friends, perhaps even from family. There words of faith, their songs of hope, may grate on us. But, the choice to engage, though difficult, is part of finding our way to the Light again.
Third, remember eternity, that we are more than flesh and bone. It is impossible that the things of this earth will heal the wound of the soul. Christ, alone, can make us alive to God.
Fourth, we tell ourselves to go “Steady on, to endure!” This is the directive of the Word for such times. “Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” (Hebrews 12:13, NLT) Paul, in his final letter, wrote to Timothy who was struggling and fearful. I love the old preacher’s challenge to the younger man- “keep your head in all situations, endure hardship.” (2 Timothy 4:5) Remember, these words were not written by a man sitting in a resort by the sea, but rather from a man on death row in a Roman prison!
Fifth, we express real emotion; we weep, but we refuse the poisons of self-pity and bitterness. To question God’s seeming absence is no sin. To wonder why we are not able to hear His voice or sense the comfort of the Spirit is quite acceptable. To accuse Him of being uncaring, unloving, or unjust only creates a place for doubt to flourish and bitterness to take root. The Word warns that from that root of bitterness comes great and troubling discontent! When the stormy emotions come, seek out a mature Christian who knows how to listen, how to pray, and find a release for those troubled emotions.
Lastly, I counsel you to keep praying earnestly for faithfulness, focused on God’s ability, not your own! He is a faithful God. He has overcome the world. He is able to keep you, even when you cannot feel Him near.
The word from the Word is lengthy, but rich. It was written at a low point in Paul’s ministry, a time when he thought that death was imminent. Meditate on them today.
“All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. You can be sure that the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.
So when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your benefit and salvation! For when God comforts us, it is so that we, in turn, can be an encouragement to you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in suffering, you will also share God’s comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-7, NLT)
(Video of this blog at this link)
I keep fighting voices in my mind
That say I’m not enough
Ev’ry single lie that tells me
I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of
Ev’ry high and ev’ry low
Remind me once again just who I am
Because I need to know oo oh
You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
And when I don’t belong oh You say I am Yours
And I believe oh I believe
What You say of me I believe
The only thing that matters now
Is ev’rything You think of me
In You I find my worth
In You I find my identity
Taking all I have and now I’m laying it at Your feet
You’ll have ev’ry failure God
You’ll have ev’ry victory
Oh I believe yes I believe
What You say of me I believe
Bebo Norman | Jason Ingram | Lauren Daigle | Mike Donehey | Paul Mabury
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