4 Things on God’s distance and absence

distance
There are moments in every honest believer’s journey when God seems distant. It can be hard to sort out. Sometimes knowing with your mind God is omnipresent makes the sense of his absence all the more painful.

Those moments it feels as though your prayers bounce off the ceiling and walls only to return to you, we lose touch with the sense of God’s intimate tenderness as we once knew. These are moments and periods of time when we ought to know a few things.

1. Every honest believer has known this place.
Every believer has or will come to a point when God feels absent or distant at best. It is important off-the-bat to know you are not alone.

2. Do not assume you made this happen.
Do not assume you have done something wrong to drive God away. While our sin does separate us from God, that is not always the reason for this distance. There are times when the experience of distance is simply part of the experience of limited beings attempting intimate connection with a limitless God.

3. God has the freedom to come and go.
What kind of god would you have created who answers your every beck and call? What limited god would you have created who only comes and goes as you wish? If God appears at your beck and call, it is not likely the Biblical God you are relating to. God will not be formed in our image. He is free to come and go at His will; not yours.

4. The experience of absence is not the absence of experience
What might God be doing with you in this time? St. John of the Cross wrote about this part of our journey, calling it “The Dark Night of the Soul”. He says there are two “purifiers” at play during this time. One, you are learning not to depend on external things as proof of God’s presence. We can move further within ourselves to know the truer senses of spiritual connection. The second purifier is stripping us of our interior dependence. We are forced to challenge what we really believe about the character of God. Is God truly good and loving? What things have I created in my own image to demand God to do in order for me to believe he is good or loving? These times of feeling absent or distant make me truly realize God does not have to fit in my limited understanding of goodness and love.

I am forced to let go of my stipulations and come to know the God whose love is a reckless raging fury I cannot form as I wish. Then, I can finally let go and trust.

Sit still in the presence

affectheartmind
Today, God, I want your Word to affect both my mind and my heart. I need to know your tenderness, your intimacy, and your love in a way that I have not known it in some time. I will soak up your Word today. Please help my heart understand. Speak to my heart and may I come to know you more?

“and though you have not seen Him, YOU LOVE HIM, and though you do not see Him now, you BELIEVE in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” -1 Peter 1:8-9

I greatly desire my heart to know the joy of salvation my mind knows it is. My soul is saved, and my mind knows the good news of the reality, but my heart does not often sit and rest with the very good news that this truly is for my soul eternal. God, help my heart rejoice today. I want to love you more.

Help my heart today. Give me a heart of flesh to replace the bits of built up stone.

Taught to hear

So here I stand with you, God. I want to see my nature become more and more like you so that your Word speaks more clearly to me. If my character is more and more like yours, then your Word would make more sense to me. It would speak more clearly to me. Your Spirit speaks to that which is within me, but my natural and sinful heart will not hear Your words as they are intended to speak. Only as I become more and more like you through increased obedience, your voice in your Word grow that much clearer.

Teach me to hear you, and draw me closer to you that you would be all I ever needed.

The trouble with self-reliant leaders

island
Self-reliant leaders are relying on limited resources.

I became a self-reliant leader over time, and in so doing, I was dependent upon limited resources. I had not really learned to rely on God and others.

The self-reliant leader is, first, not dependent upon the Holy Spirit. In his book Lion and Lamb, Brennan Manning wrote, “How vast are the resources of His power open to us who believe in Him!” This self-reliant leader is not resembling the gospel of Jesus Christ which has said all of this vast power of God has been available to you to depend upon.

Secondly, the self-reliant leader relies on limited resources in his lack of dependence upon others. Self-reliant leaders lead in isolation from others, and pride is the reason for all our isolation. Often those who lead alone find an interesting resistance in their heart and lfie. Perhaps they blame it on Satan, but that resistance is not Satan; it is God. For “God resists the proud, and he lifts up the humble.” (James 4:6)

Great leaders are not self-reliant. They learn to rely wholly on God and also on others for strength.

Abba, I belong to you

abba
Abba, I belong to You. Abba! I have allowed the fact I can address You with such intimacy and tenderness to become far too plain and pallid. It has been years since I have allowed myself to wonder and gawk at the fact You have given me a spirit of Sonship by which I can address you as “Abba Father!” (Rom. 8:15)

I have known for too long or too familiarly that “Abba” is the equivalent of our English “Daddy”. I have known that children would slowly learn the term Abba to address their father with an intimate tenderness. I have known it was and has been a scandal to the pious and righteous that you would be addressed with such intimacy.

That You who created this world out of the power of your voice, You by whose beauty and glory the Grand Canyon is dwarfed, You who hold all things together in life-sustaining precision, would ask to be addressed in such tenderly intimate terms has truly become too common and plain to me.

This is my confession and my repentance today. May I recognize and rest today in the wonder of the intimate spirit within me, who can address you so tenderly as my Abba!

Save some for Me

savetime
Last night I had a real hard time sleeping likely due to the great hunger from eating less and less these days on a diet, but I believe it was equally a spiritual hunger from less and less experience of God’s presence these days. When I could not sleep, I chose to listen to that spiritual hunger. God spoke to my listening heart last night, and it was to say, “Save room for me.”

Over and over God spoke these words to my heart last night. “Save room for me.” I laid in my bed hearing those words over and over until the word “enough” was added to the phrase. God spoke to my heart and said, “Save enough room for me.”

In a time of spiritual hunger and wilderness, God has made clear to me I need to begin setting aside and saving time for Him. Also, that time needs to be enough for Him to fit. I am not to save time for my God in the forced margins of time I concoct.

With no job, I have been surprised how little time it seems I have now. I am walking a wilderness. D.T. Olson said, “When one is forced to endure the wilderness for a time, it may be experienced either as a place of maturing and learning or as a place of disintegration and death.” At this point, I feel more pressed than I did when I was employed in full time ministry, and right now has been a difficult wilderness season for me.

I have been challenged to begin asking WHAT instead of WHY. “O my God, what are you doing in my heart and life while I am waiting?” I do not need to ask WHY God is doing anything, because most likely is a question to which I will never get the answer.

Right now, though, I am to save enough time for my God, my Abba, and my Jesus. I am to save time that is enough for Him to fill rather than cram tightly within.

The grammar of power

2 Timothy 1:7
“For God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and discipline.”

Here is a verse so many Christians love to misuse for the courage to face daunting moments in life. We are reminded in quoting this verse you ought to not be fearful because God has placed within you power. We will quote this verse and challenge one another to live in the power God has given to you instead of neglecting it by living in fear.

But there is a misuse here, and it is entirely grammatical. We are placing a period where there are commas. We read and quote this passage as though all we need to do is not be afraid, but be powerful, PERIOD! We have removed the commas and cut off the rest of the passage.

No! You are not given a spirit of fear. Yes! You have been given a spirit of power, COMMA, AND love, COMMA, AND discipline. In the moments most daunting, you are given a spirit of power, and love, and discipline. In the most difficult and “fearful” moments of life how often have you ever been challenged to draw upon love and discipline as much as power? Could the spirit of power only be found in the compound of love and discipline? In the daunting moments of life when you are tempted to fear, will you discipline yourself to love God and people; because there is power in that!