When God seems distant, He’s still near
I have been told that I am overly introspective at times. It is obvious that I can over-examine the circumstances of life as well as the emotions that surround them rather than simply living. Perhaps I am the only person on the planet that struggles with this approach to life as well as my personal spiritual growth. However, as I spend time with other believers, it seems that I am not alone.
Recently I read a book that God used to help me see some things about my spiritual journey that you might find useful. The book is entitled The Lazarus Life by Stephen W. Smith. It is a look at spiritual transformation through Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus in the gospel of John.
One chapter in particular caught my attention. It was entitled, “The Lingering Jesus: Waiting for His Presence.” In this chapter the author discusses how those times when God doesn’t act as quickly as we think He should are often times of tremendous spiritual transformation and growth.
Smith writes, “We have hope in our transformation when we realize that we see today, and God sees eternity.”
Much of our frustration in our spiritual development comes from our unwillingness to attempt to see things from an eternal perspective. It is so easy for me to look at life through goggles focused upon the here and now rather than those with heaven in view.
Everything that happens to us in life should help us to see God’s handiwork in our lives. Of course, many of these things do not bring us joy. Instead, they may actually cause us pain and frustration.
Some of us have a tendency to believe that if things are not going well, then God is disappointed in us. We seem to view all struggles in life as some sort of sign of God’s judgment upon us for a particular sin. Of course, the book of Job shares some powerful insights regarding this distorted perspective of our walk with God.
Simply because God seems distant or absent in a particular situation does not mean that He has abandoned us, or is displeased with us. Actually, it may be through this “dark night of the soul” that we are being given the opportunity to experience His work in our lives in a manner that we would otherwise ignore.
Have you ever noticed that God seems closest to us in difficult times? It is not that God has moved closer to us, rather we are more spiritually sensitive to His working in our lives when everything in which we usually find our comfort and security is absent.
Our journey with Jesus is not all flowers and puppy dogs. There will be some times when thorns or Rottweilers make an appearance. After all, if everything went as we desired, we would probably swim in our contentment and safety without ever giving our Heavenly Father a passing thought.
It is obvious that we need those times of waiting to help refocus our attention upon what is truly most important in life. My guess is that many of you, like me, have times when things are going so well that you almost put your faith on auto-pilot. In these times of superficial devotion and inch-deep prayers we are anxiously going from one day to the next without a thought or care about our place in God’s plan.
The truth is that most of us tend to develop most effectively in our faith when we have lost those things in life that we tend to rely upon apart from God. Perhaps this is why our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, who do not have all the material things that we do, tend to focus more upon their need for God’s provision for even their most basic necessities.
If God is seeking to transform us, it only makes sense that He will use the things that we experience in our lives to draw us toward Christ’s likeness. Is not that the goal that He has for each of us?
Rather than complaining about the way things are, perhaps it is best for us to ask God to help us see what He is trying to accomplish in our lives and to trust Him to do what He knows is best.
Obviously, it is the desire of each believer to become more like Jesus. As John the Baptist said, “He must increase and I must decrease (John 3:30).”
Hopefully, the words of this prophet of God can be said of all of us as we travel along on our journey of faith. (Mike Cooper is Missouri Baptist Convention’s director of Sunday School / Discipleship.)