There is a truth about all of us and that truth is that we will wrestle at times with the absence of God, a divine distance if you will. As we have learned, the greatest promise of the Bible is that God is with us. Even in the most difficult moments of our lives, God promises, “I will be with you.” Yet even with this great promise from God, each of us will at one time or another struggle with the perceived absence of God’s comforting presence. The challenge for each of us is to find a way to hold on to God when we feel as if He has let go of us often causing us to fall into a painful disorientation of our faith leading to a perceived absence of God.
A disorientation of faith may come when someone has lost a job or experienced vocational failure. A disorientation of faith may happen when the word comes back from the doctor’s lab that the test was positive. A disorientation of faith comes when you feel you have failed as a parent. Or it arrives the day someone you loved with all your heart has died. You prayed; you hoped; you don’t understand.
Any of these events will cause us to question the presence of God. Church historian Martin Marty entered a dark time following the death of his wife, Elsa, from cancer. Disoriented by his loss, Marty lamented, “Why, O Absence, when the cry is most intense is the silence most stunning? The passionate heart searches for answers.” Similarly, C. S. Lewis wrote after the death of his wife, “Where is God?…Go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.”
You see, the hardest part of divine distance is the aversion of God’s face, what feels like his absence, that is the greatest pain…“I cry to you for help, O Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you. Why, O Lord, do you reject me and hide your face me?” (Psalm 88:13-14). It was the cry of Job after he was stripped of his children, possessions and health, “Why do you hide your face and consider me your enemy?” (Job 13:24).
Friends, there will be a time in your life that you will struggle with the absence of God in your life. This will likely be one of the darkest times of your life. When this does occur and you are experiencing a divine distance in your life, now this, you are in good company and you are not alone. As the psalmist wrote, “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Psalm 23)
You are not alone, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave your nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)
“Today I shall behave, as if this is the day I will be remembered.” Dr. Seuss