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Why does God seem distant at times?

05.28.19 | Inspirational | by Rev. Susan Robb

Why does God seem distant at times?

    In the moments we experience the awe, delight, and peace of God, we are tempted to remove our shoes, as Moses did at the burning bush, because the ground on which we are standing is surely holy.

    There are times in our lives when God seems as near as our breath, when God’s presence palpably permeates our very being: in the quiet moments of our devotional time, in the quiet darkness of late-night hours cradling a newborn baby, or in quietly watching a breathtaking sunset.

    In the moments we experience the awe, delight, and peace of God, we are tempted to remove our shoes, as Moses did at the burning bush, because the ground on which we are standing is surely holy. The thin space between the divine and our humanity completely disappears, and we sense Jesus sitting by our side.

    Then there are times when we desperately desire God’s presence, when we need to feel surrounded by the comfort of our loving God and we, like the psalmist, wonder why God seems distant.

    “How long, O Lord, will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1).

    As a child, I couldn’t remember a time when Jesus wasn’t my friend. My relationship with God was as close as my relationship with my brother. And yet, at age 39, I found myself standing, rising from my knees in prayer and shaking my fist at God, “I would like an answer to my prayer, but I don’t really expect one anymore!”

    For months, God seemed distant as I prayed over my father’s declining health. On this day, I cried out, “Lord, I prayed for Daddy’s healing and that didn’t happen. Then I prayed he wouldn’t suffer and he has. Now we are resigned to his death, and I have prayed that you would take him quickly, and he continues to linger. Do you not care? Do you not hear? Where are you?”

    Lowering my raised fist, I grabbed my Bible and slammed the back door as I headed to the gym to work off my anger and disappointment. While furiously and feverishly climbing the StairMaster to nowhere, I randomly opened my Bible, and a piece of paper came floating out. Before it could hit the ground, I reached out and grabbed it. Looking down at the tiny page I had torn from a devotional book over two years before, a message I desperately needed came rushing off the page to speak directly to me:

    Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.” Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands. (Isaiah 49: 13-16)

    Tears flowed down my cheeks as I realized I was standing on holy ground right in the middle of the gym. In that moment, I was assured that God was present, God was devoted, and God was caring for me and my father as deeply as a nursing mother cares for her child.

    In the following weeks surrounding my father’s death, that comfort, peace, and presence became even more palpable, and I knew, that I knew, that I knew, I would never need to question God’s presence or care ever again.

    What I’ve learned through the years is that our relationship with God is much like other close relationships. It can naturally ebb and flow.

    Sometimes we have control over the intimacy in the relationship based on how much time we put into the relationship. I can’t expect to feel close to my friends, children, spouse or God unless I make spending time with them a priority. Sometimes if there’s distance in the relationship, it’s because I haven’t spent time nurturing the relationship as I should.

    But there are also times when, even though we look, listen, and pray, God appears to be silent, quiet, and as distant as the stars above. Why is that?

    Quiet doesn’t mean absent. Sometimes it’s difficult to recognize God’s presence in our midst because our spiritual eyes can be clouded by life’s dark moments. In those times, when you feel most forlorn, forgotten, and forsaken, keep talking. Be honest with God, and be assured that God is sitting quietly with you in the dark as compassionately as a mother cradling her newborn.  

    Honest to God Sermon Series

    It’s okay to ask questions. Yes, even the difficult ones about God and faith. In our current sermon series, “Honest to God,” Rev. Paul Rasmussen and Rev. Matt Tuggle answer some of the tough questions that we all have.

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