Sometimes it feels like God is as real, and as close, as my breath. Other times, it feels like God is absent. It’s easy to have faith when I feel God’s presence, but what about when I don’t?
Reading the Psalms reminds me that I’m not the first (or only) person to feel distant from God.
Here’s a sampling of how the Psalmists address the absence of God:
God, don’t shut me out; don’t give me the silent treatment, O God. (Psalm 83:1, MSG).
I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. (Psalm 6:6, NIV)
O Lord, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I am in trouble? (Psalm 10:1, NLT)
Will the Lord walk off and leave us for good? Will he never smile again? Is his love worn threadbare? Has his salvation promise burned out? Has God forgotten his manners? Has he angrily stalked off and left us? “Just my luck,” I said. “The High God goes out of business just the moment I need him.” (Psalm 77:7-10, MSG)
The fact that the Bible includes these questions and lonely declarations reassures me that God can handle my feelings, but there’s more.
On the cross, Jesus experienced the absence of God. As he hung there, Jesus cried out the beginning of Psalm 22, saying: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34)
God found a way to experience what we experience—the absence of God!
As Rev. L. William Countryman explains: “Even in the face of the worst terror, abandonment itself, Jesus called on the God he felt had abandoned him. His faith continued to tell him where he was and with whom, even when he could no longer sense the place or the presence.”
Jesus went from the cross to resurrection and, later, ascension to heaven. On the cross, Jesus experienced the feeling that God was absent, but that wasn’t the end of the story.
My own feelings of distance and absence don’t have to be the end of the story, either.
I can be like Jesus and the psalmists before him. I can be guided by my faith to call on God even when God feels far away.
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