When God is not there

written by Rev Gary Heard

Where is God when we really need him? Perhaps these are not words that have crossed our lips, but for many they represent a thought which has crossed the heart in moments of deep struggle.  It is a question which strikes at the heart of the Christian faith. "He who is faithful" (1 Thess 5:24) is sometimes apparently absent.

What are the indications of the presence of God?  Are we to think that his coming only brings joy, peace, etc? Or does God come also to us as a righteous judge, or a loving but disciplining parent? Are there times when God is at work in our lives but we don't want him there?  It is those times that we want God to leave us alone, but he wants to complete his work of sanctification (making us holy).  We must recognise that there is an internal conflict between what we want for our lives and what God wants. We want to be competent, self-assured: God wants us to be dependent, finding assurance in Christ. Here is that basis for our dilemma.

Let us contemplate the cross for a moment: the place where God was revealed in a mighty way; where the centurion declared the identity of Jesus (Mk 15:39); where the cry of Jesus had just pierced the silent skies, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Was God there or not?  Nouwen comments, "When Jesus spoke those words, total aloneness and full acceptance touched each other. In that moment of complete emptiness, all was fulfilled. In that hour of darkness, new light was seen. While death was witnessed, life was affirmed.  Where God's absence was most loudly expressed, God's presence, was most profoundly revealed." (from Reaching Out)

Where is God in the midst of our struggles?  He is there, but sometimes not in the way we might expect. It is times like that when we most acutely feel his absence.  Can we trust him enough to believe that he is doing what is best for us?

August 1, 1993


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