"Look, I go forward, but He is not there, and backward, but I cannot perceive Him; when He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him;
He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him. But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold" (Job. 23:8-10).
The other day, we saw that David frequently complained of God's apparent absence. But the truth is, God hadn't really left David, just as God will never leave you. He has promised repeatedly, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
Yet God has not promised that you will always feel His presence. In fact, God admits that sometimes He hides His face from us (see Isaiah 45:15).
There are times when He appears to be missing-in-action in your life.
Floyd McClung describes it this way: "You wake up one morning and all your spiritual feelings are gone. You pray, but nothing happens. You rebuke the devil, but it doesn't change anything. You go through spiritual exercises, you have your friends pray for you, you confess every sin you can imagine, then go around asking forgiveness of everyone you know. You fast—still nothing. You begin to wonder how long this spiritual gloom might last. Days? Weeks? Months? Will it ever end? It feels as if your prayers simply bounce off the ceiling. In utter desperation, you cry out, 'What's the matter with me?'" (Finding Friendship with God; page 186).
The truth is, there's nothing wrong with you! This is a normal part of the testing and maturing of your friendship with God. Every Christian goes through it at least once and usually several times. It is painful and disconcerting, but it is absolutely vital for the development of your faith.
Knowing this gave Job hope when he could not feel God's presence in his life. He said, Look, I go forward, but He is not there, and backward, but I cannot perceive Him; when He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him; He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him. But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold" (Job 23:8-10).
When God seems distant, you may feel He is angry with you or is disciplining you for some sin. In fact, sin does disconnect us from intimate fellowship with God. We grieve God's Spirit and quench our fellowship with Him by disobedience, conflict with others, busyness, friendship with the world and other sins (see Ps. 51; Eph. 4:29-30; 1 Thess. 5:19; Jer. 2:32; 1 Cor. 8:12; James 4:4).
But often this feeling of abandonment or estrangement from God has nothing to do with sin. It is a test of faith, one we all must face: Will you continue to love, trust, obey and worship God, even when you have no sense of His presence or visible evidence of His work in your life?
The most common mistake Christians make in worship today is seeking an experience rather than seeking God. They look for a feeling, and if it happens, they conclude that they have worshipped.
Wrong! In fact, God often removes our feelings so we won't depend on them. Seeking a feeling, even the feeling of closeness to Christ, is not worship.
Talk It Over
- How does understanding these truths about worship change your attitude about the time of worship in your church?
- Why do you think God tests our faith? What does He want to accomplish in your life?
- If you are experiencing a time in your life when you do not feel God's presence, how will you choose to respond?
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of pastors.com, a global internet community for pastors.
This article originally appeared on pastorrick.com.
Leaders are readers! Subscribe now and get 3 magazines for the price of 1. Get Ministry Today, Charisma and SpiritLed Woman all for $24. YES - I'm a leader!
Ministry Today Subscription Special - Subscribe to Ministry Today magazine today and get 12 issues (2 full years) plus Amplified Leadership, a free leadership book for only $24.