Transparency and the Nagging Absence of God

Lately I have been experiencing something that has been troubling. Rather than sensing the joyful presence of God, I have been feeling what I would describe as a nagging absence of God. I really cannot identify why I might be feeling this way; my life has no catastrophic events, no serious crises, no stressful changes. I have felt as if I have been slipping toward spiritual depression though I have not yet reached that point.

This past week I was away at a conference and I decided to skip some of the sessions and take some extended time with God. As I approached the time I thought of the Book of Psalms and the transparency that the psalmists felt in approaching God with their questions, complaints, doubts, laments and protests. By doing this the psalmists were not giving God new information, since He is omniscient, but they were dealing with their feelings and circumstances in the context of their relationship with a living and personal God. In that relationship they were transparent with the Lord and honest about how they felt.

I decided I would take a psalmic approach to this time with the Lord. I began with a time of repentance because I did not want to come before the Lord in a presumptuous way. After that I laid out my complaint to the Lord and told Him that though I knew intellectually that He would not leave me or forsake me, I felt a nagging absence of His presence in my life. Though I had continued to read the Bible and pray, I told the Lord that it seemed that He was withholding Himself from me. I asked “Why?” but got no answer. When I came away from that time I was glad that I was honest with the Lord but still felt that nagging absence.

I left the conference and on my flight home I noticed that the man next to me was working on what looked like a Bible study for men. So I asked him about it and we began to talk and, to my surprise, he turned out to be Claude King, the man who co-wrote the book Experiencing God with Henry Blackaby. I told him that I had really benefitted from the accompanying workbook which was primarily composed by him. He shared some of the things he was presently involved in and how the Lord was really at work in a number of these things. He even gave me three books which I am planning to use for my personal devotions starting tomorrow. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

When I got home, I picked up a Tabletalk (a devotional magazine by R.C. Sproul) and the topic was “Spiritual Depression.” I read the first article which spoke of the reality of spiritual depression and how some of the great saints of church history struggled with this. It emphasized that though it was a reality, it was usually temporary and that there was always light at the end of the tunnel. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

It was as if the Lord was letting me know that even though I had a nagging sense of His absence, He was really not absent. He brought into my life a person and a truth that spoke directly to my complaint. I would like to say that the nagging sense of God’s absence was completely gone but that would not be true. Though it is not as strong as it was, it is still present. However, I am committed now to preaching the truth of God’s presence to myself. I am looking to the grace of Christ to renew my mind as I seek to fill it with His truth.

Do you have a need for a time of transparency?

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About Dr. John H. Harbison

Son of God, Husband, Father, Author of "Keeping Christ in Ministry,"Vice-President for Academic Affairs, College Pastor, Runner, Writer
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