Times When God Is Hiding
When reading certain psalms one could get the impression that the writer was walking with God in high places at all times. Other psalms in comparison, do not sound such high praises. The 23rd Psalm is the great shout of joy of someone who has seen the presence of God. However, in the previous psalm a very different cry is heard:
"My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?" In another psalm the author asks the harsh question:
"Why standest thou afar off, O Lord? Why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?" (PSALM 10:1).
The writer would have undoubtedly understood a British preacher of old who said to his assembly: "There are times where we do not have a God." Naturally, we cannot take the statement of this British preacher literally, neither did he expect that of his listeners. He showed the people in a drastic manner that there are times in the lives of good Christians where the Lord at least appears to be at some distant place.
John Wesley wrote one year after the unforgettable event at Aldersgate that he does not feel the way he expected a Christian to feel. The "small giant who changed 3 kingdoms" through his testimony for Christ had to learn that faith and not feelings is the Christian motto.
We may call the apparent desertion on God's behalf whatever we want. It even happens in people who have built the altar of God in their hearts. Hence the following question arises: "Why should the Lord turn His back on His faithful servants? We might expect God to turn away from those that have deserted Him. But those, who held on in faith, prayed night and day and trembled at His Word - why should they feel as if there is a rift between themselves and God?"
Let's have a look at an episode in the life of the apostle Paul. Here we have a man bound to God; totally and eternally bound. But we read in Acts how he was beaten by the mob; he was hit on the mouth by one of the followers of the high priest; and he was thrown into prison. In spite of all these severe trials Paul glorified God and praised His mercy and love for the world. But God did not intervene in any spectacular way. No angel appeared with his sword drawn. No great miracle accompanied this event. Where was God at this time? Why did God leave him in the midst of these senseless and brutal people that had pleasure in mistreating him? The Lord certainly knew what was happening! Does He not count every hair on our heads and does He not watch out for every sparrow that falls?
Let us not lose sight of the facts. Being a believer can sometimes become a lonely task. One does not always get an immediate and clear answer when asking. At times, honoured preachers, just like Jeremiah, think of coming down from the pulpit. Sometimes hard-pressed believers wait on heavenly troops thundering down from above - and all remains silent.
Why does it have to be like this? It is said that this "state of being deserted is a time of rest for the soul, just like the vine sleeps in winter in order to bring forth fruit in time." Maybe God disappears sometimes in order for us to miss Him. An excessive consciousness of His presence can lead to a point where one thinks He is "nothing unusual". Too many miracles can turn miracles into something trivial.
Whatever may be the reason for God "standing at a distance" it cannot be without reason. We are not only Jesus' disciples when we are in the Spirit or when we are in contact with Him at the burning bush.
Christians can have big problems. Paul mentioned a few of them: He was in weariness, persecuted, beaten, whipped, in prisons, shipwrecked, in perils in the sea, in perils of robbers, in perils among false brethren, in perils by the heathen, worn out, hungry, wounded, without any means, anxious and tormented. But He declared: "Nothing of all this has touched me."
A ray of light enlightens the dark events in Acts when God's presence does not fill the scene. God shows Himself. Not with thunder or heavenly hosts or public miracles - but He came. Not to the mob or the religious persecutors, but to Paul himself. It was a quiet meeting!
"And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul" (ACTS 23:11). And that was enough. Paul was equipped for the battlefield yet again.
God's apparent absence from those that are His is never final. It is only temporary. In reality, God is never far away. Even when Jesus cried on the cross:
"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (MARK 15:34), God was watching Him. God stood at a distance until His beloved Son had fulfilled His commission - then He revealed His presence through the power of the Resurrection.
God does not go anywhere. He said:
"Do not I fill heaven and earth?" (JEREMIAH 23:24). He is always near. We don't have to feel Him near, because we know that He is present. And we have His Word:
"I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (HEBREWS 13:5).
by Lon Woodrum
Translated from the German original.
Source: 'Pentecostal Evangel'