"Then Job answered and said: “Today also my complaint is bitter; my hand is heavy on account of my groaning. Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? … No; he would pay attention to me. There an upright man could argue with him, and I would be acquitted forever by my judge. “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him.”
Job 23:1-3, 6-9 ESV
Ideally, a Christian would never have trouble being close to God. It would be wonderful if a godly person never felt apart from the Lord. However, times like these do happen. It is very possible for even the godly to feel God is silent. This is a particularly troubling time for a Christian because all of his or her theology is totally intact! I know the Lord answers those who call, so why don’t I have an answer? I know the Lord saves those who take refuge in Him, so why am I still miserable? I know the Lord is faithful to reveal His word, so why don’t I feel it? Spiritual anxiety over the presence of God happens to everyone. But, why? Allow me to give you four reasons:
You are on autopilot and have been for some time. Sometimes, it can be easy to do “godly” things without drawing near to God daily in prayer and supplication. We serve in the ministry because it is what we do. We teach our class because we know the material. We go to church because, who wouldn’t? However, if we were honest, it’s been a while since we have sat down in an uninterrupted space and just personally pursued the presence of God with no one watching and no lesson to prepare for. A faith like this will leave you vulnerable to apathy and make you unprepared for some very real trials down the road. You think God isn’t speaking to you now, but really you two haven’t been speaking for quite a while.
At times the suffering for doing the right thing becomes so intense you temporarily lose your ability to sense God because of the fear and pain. It may not be because you blame God or that you stop believing what you know about Him, but sometimes we are just so numb from hurting that all we know how to feel is pain. Our bodies and minds are so weak sometimes, it is hard for them to feel anything but hurt.
On occasion, the Lord can choose, in His sovereignty, to withdraw His presence for a time as an act of discipline to make us cry out for Him and to remind us how unacceptable life is without Him. Not all discipline is because you have done something wrong. A coach does not make his players run sprints only when he is angry with them. He does it so that they will play the game better. We must learn to desperately crave the Lord’s presence every day. Sometimes, not having it for a day is the exact wake up call we need to pour ourselves into the Lord even more.
This is the obvious one and probably the one we should at least question first. Sin in the heart of a person drives God away until he or she returns in repentance and confession. No matter how many people you know who are more evil than you or how many other Christians you think are getting away with worse things, you have no case before God to excuse evil. We are saved by grace through faith. How can we who have been delivered from sin still live in it? God will not stand for it, and if He has to take away every good thing in your life to get your attention, He is right to do so.
All four reasons are legitimate and could be in play at any given time. In Job’s case, it was probably a combination of #2 and #3. It was not a situation of personal sin on Job’s part, but God’s sovereign will to purify his faith and condemn Satan. There are times Job speaks out of the bitterness of his heart because he is hurting so bad he can’t think straight. However, God never left Job. He will never leave us either. His presence may withdraw for a season for a variety of reasons, but He will not depart forever. O Lord, break through! Break through should I go on autopilot and think I can be godly without seeking your face. Break through my fear and pain in the face of the oppression that comes from doing what you want me to do. Break through my complacency when I take your presence for granted. Finally, break through my sin. Should I ever return to the vomit that once was killing me, return and forgive me.
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