There are times when God seems very near. We feel his forgiveness, acceptance, comfort and peace. Our hearts are filled with joy and songs of praise for his goodness and beauty. But what about the times when God seems far away?
King David sometimes felt this way. Repeatedly he asked, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?” (Psalms 42:5, 11; 42:5). “O Lord, why do you reject my soul? Why do you hide your face from me?” (Psalms 88:14). After confronting the prophets of Baal, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life ... he went a day’s journey into the wilderness ... and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life, I am no better than my ancestors.’” (1 Kings 19:3).
Going through times when we feel God is far away is a normal human experience. The prophets felt it. God even allowed his own Son to experience it. At the moment he paid the penalty for our sins, he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). So, when those times come, what are we to do?
When we feel God is far away, we’re often filled with worry, uncertainty, doubt and despair. But this will not last. We will yet feel his presence again and praise him. Our feeling that God is distant is temporary. This is what sustained King David in his dark times. In every case, he declared, “Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him.”
We must rely on God’s promises and not on our feelings. Even when we don’t feel his presence, he is near. Repeatedly God has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deut. 31:6,8; Joshua 1:5; Hebrews 13:5). Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20). David wrote, “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, you are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there your hand will lead me, and your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,” Even the darkness is not dark to you, and the night is as bright as the day.” (Psalms 139:7-12).
We must continue to do everything that’s right and good in his sight. One of Jesus’ favorite parables was the story of a wealthy landowner who left for a long trip. In his absence, some of his servants decided he wasn’t coming back and began to abuse his property, doing things they knew the landowner would never condone. But the landowner returned, and when he did, there was a reckoning. The real evidence of our faith isn’t what we do when we feel his presence and know he is near. The real evidence of our faith is what we do when we feel God is far away. He will return.