Seeking God When God's Not There
There are seasons when the most accessible emotion to me is numbness or disorientation. Sometimes they come with a sense of grief. Other times, they seem mysterious and relentless. The old reliable comforts lose their warmth and grow rigidly frail. Relief is difficult to find except by way of distraction, but it is a shallow answer for a deep condition and only painfully prolongs the numbness, incasing it in callousness. It is an arduous season that, I believe, everyone experiences on a cyclical basis.
When I reflect on seasons like these in my past, two instances quickly come to mind:
- Years ago, there was a time when I was going through this season of numbness that was especially heavy. Still, I continued in my regular practice of Silent Prayer. Those times were filled with frustration and internal anguish. Eventually though, I had a personal revelation. It came to mind that I was stuck on trying to “hear” God like I had grown accustom to, but God was wanting and teaching me to “see.”
I had become so used to “hearing” God (sensing the draw of God’s nature in one way or another), that I was oblivious to the fact that my eyes were closed. When there was only silence, I felt abandoned and angry; but I had only forgotten to open my eyes and see. God seeks to make us whole, not remaining internally blind or deaf.
- One of the most painful and agonizing experiences of my life was the loss of our first child. The numbness I felt to God’s presence and worth was overwhelming. I prayed and strenuously strained to find the comfort I had known I could find in God’s simple presence. But there was nothing. It was less than nothing. There was a felt absence. It felt as if I were being abandoned and intentionally neglected. It was excruciating. I felt no love, comfort, or peace.
Something Jerry Cook said years ago has been a guiding light for me, “God is always good. God is always Love. Always work backward from that truth.” So, I persisted in Silent Prayer. It was like sitting in the presence of a shut and locked door with someone looking through the peephole waiting for me to give up and leave. But I knew that God wasn’t wrong; my feelings were. So, I persisted.
Eventually, I had an awakening: Why would God lessen then pain of our child dying? Was his little, brief life not meaningful enough to feel the agony and pain of loss? No. Of course not. His life was worth mourning and I was trying to use God to numb me to his worth.
In both of those cases, I was stuck feeling that God is not there. That emotion led me to feel lied to and betrayed. But each time as I persisted, understanding my emotions were what was betraying me, I realized something: God is not there. God is here.
When I can’t be “here,” (meaning: I cannot emotionally and mentally be where I am and in the circumstances I am in) I can’t see, hear, or feel God because God is "here" and I am too busy wishing I was “there.” Silent Prayer allows a stillness for my roots to grow Here, in the present moment. No matter the condition.
Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!
– Jesus, Matthew 5.3 (Amplified Bible Translation)