God’s absence because of lack of faith

Published 9:17 pm Monday, August 14, 2017

Joseph Grizone, author of the “Joshua” series, has written a book entitled “My Struggle with Faith.” In that book, he spoke of his own crisis of faith which occurred during his second year in seminary.

At that time, he stated that he could no longer feel God’s presence and that his heart had turned cold and empty. He wondered if anybody could ever understand what he was going through.

Well, one person who could understand what Grizone was going through was the psalmist in the 42nd psalm. This psalmist had enjoyed better days.

He remembered the time when he used to be in God’s house, when he had a real place in the temple worship and religious festivals in Jerusalem. There he enjoyed and experienced the presence of God.

His mind was filled with wonderful memories even while tears were rushing down his face.

You see, now this psalmist is helpless. Perhaps leprosy or some other illness or being in exile has caused him to feel forsaken of God.

At any rate, I want us to focus on the times when God seems absent.

Firstly, our sense of God’s absence may be due to our lack of thirst! The psalmist sees the deer’s desperate search for water as symbolically representing his own equally desperate search for God. And the psalmist also sees that the yearning raises his hope of sensing God’s presence again.

Later, Jesus picked up on this when he said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). This is Jesus’ way of saying that our thirst for God and the ways of God must be constant, compelling and consuming.

It is not enough that it be an occasional thirst or a part-time thirst or an after-thought thirst. It must be a consuming thirst for God.

Recently, I read John Grisham’s book, “Camino Island.” Without spoiling the plot, I’ll just say that the main character, Bruce Cable, owned a bookstore and had a real thirst for books, especially rare or first edition books.

He put everything into his books and his book store “Bay Books.”  At one point, Grisham described Bruce Cable this way, “He loved rare books, especially those by Twentieth Century authors, and he collected them with a passion.”

Our thirst for God must not be any less passionate than Bruce Cable’s quest for books.

The prophet Jeremiah stated for God, “When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). But if there is no genuine thirst for God, the possibility of our sense of God’s absence will grow stronger.

Secondly, our sense of God’s absence may be due to our failure to pray! The troubling question the psalmist seemed to be facing is, how can I find God away from the people and familiar surroundings of Jerusalem, where I have known and loved him? His enemies’ taunt, “Where is your God?” has now become his question, “Dear God, where are you?”

There is no relief until he brings his troubling question to God in prayer.

The psalmist observes, “By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.” (Psalm 42:8).

  A wise physician shared that when we pray we start with three large assumptions: God exists, God is capable of hearing our prayers and that God cares about our prayers.

They must be believed or disbelieved.

Years ago when one of our grandsons was four years old, he was caught cutting up during the blessing in the kindergarten lunch line. His teacher said, “Hal, since you were cutting up during the blessing you will have to say it by yourself.”

Hal bowed his head and said the blessing, and then he added these words, “And dear God forgive me for cutting up on your time.” When we cut up on God’s time, chances are we will sense more of God’s absence.

Lastly, our sense of God’s absence may just be the very token of his presence!

As the late Walter Russell Bowie, Episcopal priest and author, put it, “God is in the hungers of men, women and young people, in your hungers and my hungers; ‘God hungers’ if you please, born of a sense of futility, born of a sense of frustration, born of a sense of utter emptiness without God.”

Emptiness is perhaps the flip side of God demanding to be our God, saying to us, “I want to be contemporary in your life.

I believe Bowie is correct when he says, “Maybe we know God best through his absence.”

We know him best in our missing him and longing for him.

A woman told her minister that she was empty inside.

“Great!” the minister replied.

The woman said, “Evidently, you didn’t hear me. I said I was empty inside.”

The minister stated, “Congratulations! God is trying to bring you to a higher relationship.”

It’s good that God only seems absent.

Hal Brady operates Hal Brady Ministries in Decatur with the stated goal of presenting the good news of Jesus and offering encouragement in positive ways. halbradyministries.com