Sorry, I couldn’t help myself with the pop culture reference lol
It’s the best phrase I could come up with to describe the heart-wrenching horror that comes with those seasons when God is silent in our lives – when we feel most distant and most removed from our center in Christ. While a lot of times these seasons come when we ourselves have turned away from God and followed our own devices, there are times when we have not moved an inch, when we are still firmly planted in the Word and House of God, and yet there is a sudden unexpected chasm between our hearts and His.
If we have not moved away from God then it would reason that He must have moved away from us, wouldn’t it?
Suddenly we begin to question our faith: did we ever really believe in God? Are we really who we say we are? Or are we frauds, purporting a relationship with God when we have none to speak of and nothing to show for it? Was the closeness we felt before just a figment of our imagination?
We question our morals: did we do something wrong to drive God away from us? Surely this must be the case, because only sin could separate us from God (Isaiah 59:1,2). We begin to rack our brains for exactly which foul act – or series of acts – created a stench strong enough to drive the Omnipresent God away. Was it that lustful thought or act? Or that lie we told? Or perhaps it was the feeling of resentment we had for Him when He didn’t answer our prayer in the way we expected. Whatever it was, it must have been too ghastly for Him. We must have become too unclean to remain in His presence. And thinking that we are to blame for His absence, we are wrought with guilt.
Then we begin to feel shame – because guilt often turns to shame. We blame ourselves for the distance and become ashamed in our feelings of worthlessness. And shame works in such a way that it incites us to justify our shamefulness with even more shameful acts. We decide that if we are not worthy to dwell in God’s presence, then we might as well continue on in our destructive ways, because we have tried our very best and still found ourselves abandoned and feeling worthless. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, WE take to hiding, covering the parts of us that we think are just too shameful for Him to see.
I know all this because I have come victim to this cycle many times myself. But this morning I remembered something that God taught me a while ago:
The silence of God does not mean the absence of Him.
Emotional Roller Coaster
From the moment we are born, human beings are heavily reliant on our emotions to tell us and others what is wrong or not wrong with us. As babies, the only way anyone could ever tell what we needed or if we were OK was through our emotions – whether we cried, or frowned or laughed gave our parents some indication of what we required of them. It’s no wonder that even into adulthood, we are still heavily reliant on emotions to help us understand ourselves and the world around us. We even have medical practitioners whose sole job is to help us interpret our emotions, help us understand them, figure out what indicators lie beneath them.
But, if you’ve lived as long as I have (or longer, because I’m not that old lol), you’ve probably realized by now that emotions are highly deceptive. Love turns out to be lust. Fear is actually insecurity. Happiness as we define it is simply a rush of chemicals to our brain that lasts as long as the circumstances that triggered them do. And somewhere along the line we have confused God’s presence with an emotional feeling too – such that when we are not feeling that ‘God-ness’, then it means that He must be absent from our little spheres of life.
However, God’s presence is not confined to our feelings or to our awareness of it.
God promises never to leave nor forsake us, and that nothing can separate us from the love of God – not even sin anymore because of the sacrifice of his son (Romans 8:35-39). He is Omnipresent, and as such we can never really BE out of His presence. But sometimes God DOES hide Himself from us.
Hide and Go Seek.
As a child I was a horrible seeker and an even worse hider, so Hide and Seek was not a game I enjoyed playing with my friends. But I still understood that the premise of the game – that the point of people going into hiding was so that I would go out of my way to seek them.
In like manner, when God hides Himself and His presence from us, He does so in the expectation that we will come seeking Him. He hides Himself because He notices that perhaps we have become too comfortable in where we currently are in our walk with Him, and wants to draw us into deeper relationship with Him and into a deeper understanding of who He is and who we are in Him. To get us out of our comfort zone and to get us to grow, He has to incite us to move.
And so like a father playing hide and seek with his toddler, He hides right around the corner – silent and partially out of sight, but never really out of our presence – waiting for us to come find Him. And just like a father with his toddler, he leaves clues to make the search easier on us, and the clear map of His Word.
I can’t pretend like it is not a frustrating ‘game’ to play with Him. Just when you think you’ve found Him, and you get comfortable with Him, He goes off and hides again in an attempt to get you to come seek Him. But He hides because there is nothing more He wants than to see you grow and get you to exactly where He’s purposed for you.
So while the feeling of spiritual loneliness is a pain that I cannot even begin to describe, it propels me to spend more time seeking Him out in His Word. I find myself praying more, reading more, worshiping more, fellowshiping more – diving deeper all in an attempt to get closer to Him.
If you, like me, find yourself in a season where the Lamb is silent in your life or in your circumstance – where God is standing far off – I have but one piece of advice for you:
Go seek. He promises to be found by you.
“When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” God’s Decree. (Jer 29:13,14)
“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us.” (Acts 17:27)