I am going through one of those times when God feels far away. I take solace during times like this that I am in good company: David was the poster child for feeling distant from God. That is why I go to the Psalms to see what David did during those times himself. The reality that sustains me whenever I feel deserted by God, a reality that doesn’t change regardless of how I feel, is that God is always with me. I live in his presence 24 hours a day, seven days week, 52 weeks a year. God’s presence is not a feeling to be felt it is a faith to be lived.
This is the reality that sustained King David. He went through times when he didn’t feel God’s presence. During one such time he wrote a poem that is we know as Psalm 13:
“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.”
Have you ever felt like that? I have and if you haven’t, well, God bless you and hang on to your salad days because you will go through times in your life when God seems to be far away, and His presence seems like nothing more than a fading memory, or a distant dream.
David wrote Psalm 13 when he was going through an emotional valley; yet he continued to find strength and direction in his faith in God. David is a great example of what to do to overcome our feelings when God seems far away.
When David says in Ps 13:5 “But I trust in your unfailing love” he is saying: “I won’t let despair get the best of me. I will just assume God is with me…watching over me…taking care of me…loving me, regardless of how I feel.”
I have a friend who works for a company that is struggling to stay afloat. There have been some rumors that he might be transferred, or even laid off. This has put him in a state of limbo. He doesn’t know if he is staying or going, or if he’ll have a job next month. When he goes to the office he isn’t sure what he should do from day to day. As a result, he’s been afraid to begin any long-term projects and has found himself floundering — at a time when he can least afford to flounder. He told me, “Since I really didn’t know what was going to happen back when I started this job I’ve decided that the only thing that has changed is that back then I expected the best and now I’m expecting the worst. So I’m just going to trust God that everything will work out for the best, whether the company succeeds or fails, and keep doing my job the way it’s supposed to be done.” His situation hasn’t changed but he has because of where he placed his trust in God not his circumstance.
We have a new President. President O’bama’s election was historic, especially for those my age who lived through the tumultous civil rights movement. But talk about being elected at a bad time! The country fragmented over an unpopular war, the greedy side of capitalism rearing its ugly head, banks on the verge of collapse, automakers facing bankruptcy and everyone wanting him to solve all our woes in his first year in office! It must be a temptation to give in to the feeling of despair and just do nothing. But instead his attitude is “I’m going to assume that the American people elected me for a reason and I’m going to do the job I have been elected to do.” Even though he had no way of telling how all of this would pan out, the worst mistake Barack O’bama could make is to do nothing until he felt like it and letting the financial mess we are in just get worse and worse.
What I’m saying is when God feels distant ignore the feeling and “Trust in God’s unfailing love”. Assume God’s presence regardless of your feeling and get on with doing what you know you should be doing. Assume God’s presence. Assume God’s love. Assume God’s mercy. Assume God’s guidance. Assume God’s protection. Even though you don’t feel His presence, love, mercy, guidance or protection — trust that God is there by faith. “Trust in God’s unfailing love.”
This means continuing to spend time alone with God whether we feel like it or not. It means loving whether we feel like it or not. It means serving whether we feel like it or not. It means including God in our daily routines whether we feel like it or not. David’s example and what I am trying to do is to choose faith over feeling. I believe the tyranny of feeling over faith is often at the root of our sense of alienation from God.
If you are feeling distant from God and you don’t feel God’s presence in your life you have the opportunity to choose faith and assume He is there. Choose faith and assume God’s presence and act the same as if you felt His presence. This is how we “Trust in God’s unfailing love.” Trust says, “God, regardless of how I feel, I’m going to keep on doing what I know I should be doing, because by faith I trust that You are right here with me.” This isn’t easy, but it is Biblical and it works!