19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.” Matthew 28:19-20, CEB
Yesterday I wrote about how, sometimes, we talk about God’s absence when really all we want is to be able to control him. I want him to do this and, since he’s not, I wonder if he even exists? I think we’ve all been there.
And then there are times of much more profound absence. I don’t know how to define that, necessarily, other than to say that sometimes we talk as if we think God is absent when we’re just kind of annoyed. Other times, we are deeply and profoundly distressed by the perception that he is gone. Some people will emphasize that “perception” word. They’ll say, it’s not that he’s gone, it’s just that you can’t feel his nearness. There might be truth to that. I have no idea. I don’t think anyone really does.
I don’t think it’s fair to really try to pin down “the truth” of spiritual feelings, perceptions, and experiences. Is it really all that important to determine whether God isn’t speaking or if we just can’t hear him? Practically speaking, what’s the difference? Either way, there is no voice. If we sense a profound absence, isn’t the important thing to consider what it looks like and what it means to deal with that absence?
In the midst of great suffering, Job’s friends attempted to correct his thinking. They didn’t help Job. In fact, God asked them to repent. So, why bother correcting our thinking when we have bigger problems…such as the isolation, depression, and whatever else is going on during these times?
Whether the absence is real or perceived, the experience is the same. There’s no easy way to deal with it. I personally happen to believe that God is always present in faithful communities. But I also believe that his presence can be more intense at some times than others. I have some reasons for this, but they’re not really important for the sake of this devotional. We want that intensity all the time- and we don’t always get it. That can be very disappointing.
Sometimes the best we can do is just hang in there.