The Sovereign Lord is my strength;he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,he enables me to tread on the heights. Habakkuk 3:19
When I read and contemplate this verse, my mind imagining a deer. Deer is not a strong animal. A deer is always prone to attacks of wild animals such as lions or tigers. Every time its life could be at risk because there is always the target of the jungle predators. But God gave the deer tapering legs are able to bring it to jump quickly. Deer’s legs even able to jump on hard and sharp rocks to get to the top of the hill, a place where the deer will be in a much safer situation. Deer is a weak animal, but the legs are able to set foot on rocky hill, past the obstacles until finally arriving at the high…
The Bible is about God’s presence. His creating presence, his intervening presence, his sustaining presence and his incarnate presence all resonate through the pages of Scripture. But the Bible is occasionally about God’s absence: his presence withdrawn, his presence withheld, his presence expected.
I recently released a book that examines God’s absence throughout the Bible called When God Isn’t There. People are regularly caught off guard by the book’s title and topic. But feeling like God isn’t there is a feeling with which many Christians are familiar. Below is a very small sampling of verses about God’s absence. Verses about God’s absence should elevate our view of God. They should make us feel more full of awe and fear. They should increase our appreciation and love for God, since he became present with us even though our presence is something he did not need. Verses on God’s absence should also make us long for his presence, not just in the here and now, but in the full majesty of the long-awaited second coming of Jesus.
1. Jeremiah 11:14 – God Stops Listening to Prayers
“Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble.” Israel has fallen into paganism, idolatry and rampant polytheism. In his anger, God rightly says that, “the inhabitants of Jerusalem will go and cry to the gods to whom they make offerings, but they cannot save them in the time of their trouble” (11:12). Therefore, in an ironic twist, God decrees that he will act like the false gods and worthless idols by, likewise, not listening to the prayers of his people. Even though the prayers are coming from the people God once called, “a green olive tree, beautiful with good fruit” (11:16), and a nation he planted himself (11:17), God promises that he will not listen to their prayers. God wrapped himself with a cloud so that no prayer could pass through (Lam. 3:44). God repeats this idea in Zechariah 7:13: “As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear.” This is an extreme example of God becoming absent in prayer.
“Therefore, as I live, declares the Lord God, surely, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your detestable things and with all your abominations, therefore I will withdraw.”
The temple was the one place God had chosen to dwell with the people of Israel. But Israel broke their covenant with God due to their sin and idolatry. Therefore, God promises upon his own existence that he is leaving the temple. His presence will withdraw. Because of the promises of God, Israel thought they could tie God’s presence down and live however they wanted. The liberty they took with God’s presence, led to God’s absence.
“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”
David, the Psalmist, is going through a season of feeling far from God. He depicts his feeling of God’s absence as God forgetting him and hiding his face. While it is impossible for God to forget anything, David felt forgotten by God. This expression refers to a period in which one feels estranged from God. The face of God is a metaphorical way to speak of God’s presence. David felt God’s presence being hidden from him. Psalm 13 is not the only place in which David laments these feelings. Psalm 88:14 expresses a similar struggle: “O Lord, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me?” Psalm 30:7 phrases this pain most succinctly: “You hid your face; I was dismayed.” There are times when God feels hidden.
“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
Paul describes Christians as those who groan, aching for the future. They have been given the Spirit, but the Spirit points them to something they don’t yet have. The presence of the Spirit of God points to a current absence of God. So, they groan. Paul explains this same truth in 2 Corinthians 1:22: “[God] set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” When God becomes present with a Christian on earth, it makes them long for a richer experience of his presence in heaven.
“I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”
For the last several chapters of John, Jesus has been trying to comfort his disciples. They are confused and afraid because Jesus has told them he is going away. Yet, it is to the disciple’s advantage that Jesus goes away so that they may receive the Holy Spirit. This absence is advantageous because the Spirit will testify about Jesus and bring to remembrance everything he said. However, this was never meant to be a permanent condition. In this same final talk to his disciples Jesus said, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (14:3). Even though we have the Spirit (an inexpressibly great treasure), Jesus is absent from us in the way we most desire. Our deepest longing is to be present where he is.
What Does God’s Absence Mean?
Working through the real pain and theological difficulties of God’s absence is no easy task. However, it will be sufficient to make these three observations given the texts above.
1. When we take advantage of God’s presence, we should expect his absence.
2. Feeling like God isn’t there is a Biblically verified reality.
3. Since Christians are waiting for the return of Jesus, even the current expressions of God’s presence can occasionally feel like absence.
Think about this: As a believer, you already have enough faith on the inside of you to overcome any obstacle. It doesn’t matter if you grew up in church or not; it doesn’t matter what you know or don’t know; God wants to work in your life today. You may not see how things will work out, and that’s okay. All you have to do is believe God. With God, all things are possible!
Today, put your faith into action by declaring that your trust and hope are in Him. Thank Him for working behind the scenes in your life. Use your mustard-seed faith, and it will go stronger and stronger. Always remember, you have everything you need when you have mustard-seed faith!
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“He said the them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31
In this passage above we learn that Jesus and His apostles were doing ministry. In fact, they had worked with such vigor that they hadn’t even gotten a decent meal in their belly. In response, Jesus invited them to get away with Him so they could find some rest and rejuvenation in His presence. ” “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” We do need to withdraw — not once-in-a-while, but often, daily! What is incredible is that Jesus invites his disciples to withdraw with him to a quiet place and rest with Him. This same invitation given to the apostles is extended to you and I. Jesus invited them to get away with Him so they could find some rest and rejuvenation in His presence. God wants you to pause and be His captive audience in this very moment. Go with Him to a quiet place: to be still, to gaze into His eyes, to worship Him in Spirit and in truth, to be lost in His glory, and found by His grace – to find rest. Fix your gaze on His beautiful, blazing, mercy-filled eyes, and give Him your full attention. He will meet you at your need and sustain you one day at a time. Spend some sacred quiet time with Jesus today.
In 2008 I was in a drug addiction rehabilitation center. I heard from a counselor that the majority (90%) of people who are in addiction are also the victims of much loss! Loss of loved ones mainly but there are many types of losses that affect us.
Well, as time has gone by, I have observed many who are dealing with losses. I see the pain, I feel their sadness and at times even their bitterness. Many immediately blame God. After all He is the one in charge, right? And yes, we all know death is imminent and that no one lives forever, but we also believe when a loss comes our way that it wasn’t the right time. (“They were too young”, or something the like.)
I have also noticed that our loved ones and friends aren’t able to console and comfort us. They try. They love us, but at times they say the ‘Wrong Thing’. One of the worse is to tell a person still mourning, to stop. No one can put a time limit on your time of mourning. And please Understand this, they just want you to be happy again. From their point of view, they see you still hurting and mourning, they love you and thus they want it to end. Have compassion for them because they hurt too.
Losses are not easy sometimes even unimaginable and our human lack of understanding and knowledge as to “why” can and will drive you crazy if you allow it.
God cries with us. It may seem so difficult to imagine that since he allowed this loss to your life, but he is all knowing and sovereign. We must trust him even when we don’t understand as hard as that may be. And know he cries right along with us. He comforts us. He strengthens us. He shows us signs and wonders that gifts to console us! He loves us.
Psalms 118:17 I will not die, but live, and I will proclaim what the Lord has done.
A farmer and his friend went duck hunting. Eventually, they got to talking about the things of God, as they always would. “You’re always talking about these battles you have with the devil,” the farmer’s friend said to him. “It’s so silly – I mean, I’m not even a Christian and I’ve never experienced anything like that.”
“Yes my friend,” the wise farmer answered, “but if you shot two ducks — one was wounded and one was dead — which would you go after first?”
“Well,” he said, “I guess I’d go after the wounded duck – I can always get the dead one later.”
“Mmm-hmm,” said the farmer, “The devil knows you’re a dead duck.”
For those of us who are walking with the Lord today, be encouraged! Our enemy knows that we have potential to do great things for God, and out of fear, he’ll try anything to take us out. This is so very evident by the constant battle we all face.
Let’s stand strong against the devil today! And rise up to the Lord’s calling upon our lives! We will fight and we will WIN! Because if God is for us, who can be against us?! And you know it — there’s still SO much work to be done!!
God opens doors of opportunity before us that no one is able to shut. But we have to realize, sometimes He also closes doors because He has something better in store. We may see a logical opportunity, but just because it’s the logical way doesn’t mean that it’s God’s way. Just because it happened that way before doesn’t mean it’s going to happen that way next time. That’s why you have to stay open and keep trusting in God. If you’re narrow-minded and only look at the door that’s been closed, you may miss the door He has opened behind you!
My friends when you are able to let go of your own agenda and trust God, He’ll make sure you see those open doors. Scripture says His Word is what lights our path. Our attitude should always be, “God, I surrender all to You. Have Your way in my life. I trust Your timing. God, I trust You to do it Your way.” Then, step back and see the open door He has prepared for you!
God has an amazing purpose and destiny for you, but the degree to which you’ll fulfill your purpose is largely determined by the decisions you make today about your past. It’s hard to grab hold of your future if you’re still clinging to your past.
Every one of us has a yesterday, a past. For some, it was wonderful; for others, it was bad.
Paul reminds us in the passage below that he was determined to let go of everything that was in his yesterday (good and bad) so that he could be free to reach forward into his tomorrow.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead… —Philippians 3:13 (NIV)
God is faithful and He’ll fulfill every promise He’s made. There’s no disease God cannot heal (Jeremiah 30:17), no heart He cannot mend (Psalm 147:3), no bondage He cannot break (Galatians 5:1), no enemy He cannot defeat (Psalm 138:7), no mountain He cannot move (Micah 1:4), and no need He cannot meet (2 Corinthians 9:8).