CHAPTER 14: When God Seems Distant

Day Fourteen: Thinking about my purpose.

Point to Ponder: God is real, No matter how I feel.

Verse to Remember: “For God has said, ‘I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.'” ~Hebrews 13:5

Question to Consider: How can I stay focused on God’s presence, especially when he feels distant?

“God is real, no matter how you feel.”

That is the first line of this chapter, and no matter your religious belief, it is true. Even if you are one of those people that says if I can’t see it, touch it, and feel it, it can’t be there.

God exists.

We exist because He exists.

We live because He lets us.

We thrive because He wants us to.

He sounds like He could be the kid with an ant colony. Peering in and giving us food from time to time. Letting us live our lives but watching our little world build, shaking us and we crumble.

Then watching us again as we rebuild.

Here is the thing about being a human. We were made in God’s image. We were made with the same emotions and tendancies. If we have an ant colony, even the kindest and most patient people want to shake the ant colony.

Why?

Just to see what happens.

No other reason than to make them fall and watch as the ants rebuild their homes. Rebuild their world.

Chapter fourteen is similar to this in that sometimes God strips us of all that we have; then just sits back to wait and see what happens. It’s a cruel joke really. It’s mean, but truly being in the faith and in friendship with Him means knowing that He is there whether He is just watching or being actively involved.

Unlike the kid with the ant farm, God is there to help us rebuild. Even though he is not active and giving you a warm fuzzy feeling that He is still hearing your prayers.

He is checking you on your faith.

How many people at the first sign of stress or failure give up?

How many people seek the warm fuzzies we feel on Sunday morning, but when that feeling disappears during the week between services they fall back to old ways? Not necessarily good or bad, they just give in to temptations. They speak ill of their friends. They do the things that on Sunday morning they criticize others for.

How many people are hippocrites?

The Biblical examples in the book are Job and David. Job lost everything he had and cried out to God. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” Although you have lost everything, He is still there. Simply by being there He is worthy of your praise.

David complained of God’s absence, “Why have you foresaken me? Why do you ignore my cries for help? Why have you abandoned me?” He was in constant denial of the fullfilled spirit of God. (You know the warm fuzzies.)

My own personal experience with this comes from when I was a teenager. I was 16. I was one of those fun, good, teenagers who loved to go to church, loved to volunteer for community projects, loved to help families in the neighborhood. I lived with my grandparents at the time and I wanted nothing more than to follow my grandfather around everywhere. We worked in the garden. Built things. I mowed the parts of the yard that he didn’t want to. I learned to cut keys, plant saplings, make weights and smelting metals. I got to do some really cool stuff.

Then he was taken from me. It was February 19, 1997. I was at school that day and had choir practice afterschool for a competition. He went out with our pastor on a fishing trip. They took out the pastor’s little boat, because ours was sanded in from the drought. They were only going to be gone a little while.

The county sheriff was parked in front of our house when we got home from school.

I think it was the only time I had ever riden in Lacee’s moms Legacy, but I can still see the image of the interior. Her mom in front with her sister, and me and Lacee in back. Cops in front of our little stone house.

They searched all through the night and into the next day. I can’t remember now if it was one day or two, but they found him on a cold morning. They being our neighbors, the neighbors who were like a second set of parents. They pulled my grandfather into their boat and held him in tears, just waiting for the search and rescue team to respond to their call.

My little 16 year old world shattered.

Over the course of the next year we had a new pastor start at our church and I felt an immediate connection with them. They were wonderful people who could relate to a younger crowd. The church started growing and changing and the older set didn’t like that. Our new wonderful pastors were pushed out and I quit church.

I quit religion.

I quit and threw myself into work and school and extra activities that didn’t involve churchy people.

These are the times that the book is talking about. I think that if I had read this book before that point in my life I would have remembered all of the things I had talked about doing with my grandfather. All of the big ideas. Big hopes. Big dreams.

But I was so lost and waning in anything but apathy that I just didn’t do anything.

I didn’t get the warm fuzzies from this experience and it handicapped me for the next decade.

So, now we are in 2011, although so much life has happened. I can still remember the immediate ache in my gut that I felt when I found the news of my grandfather. I can remember how pissed off I got at my church for what happened to the pastor.

I know what it is like to lose everyone you are close to just because of a choice that you made. But today, though I maybe like Job who lost everything. I am on the path to rebuild. I am not crying out, “Lord why have you foresaken me?” I am not even asking why. Now I am just accepting that these things will happen. They have to happen.

Our faith is tested in many ways and this is just another test. Like testing a relationship sometimes you just have to sit back and watch.

God must shake our ant colony to see what will happen. He has to know if we are going to roll over and die or simply start to pick up the pieces.

The book asks, “How can I stay focused on God’s presence, especially when he feels distant?”

There really isn’t a way other than to pray. Pray alone. Pray with your church. Pray with your family. Pray with your friends.

Praise be to God, have a blessed weekend.

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Day TEN: The Heart of Worship

Ugh – can we say timing is up to God. This week I have been busy, I haven’t read the book or posted anything. I started my training here at work so that has kept me busy. I probably won’t stay busy because I have nothing to do with the training once it is complete, but we will cross that bridge in time. Life is life I guess, I am still trying to figure out how to afford a place of my own. Found the perfect spot, but it will probably be gone by the time I can pay for it, so that got me thinking I should find a different new job. Then I started to read today after all this thinking about having to make more money and now I remember all the reasons I accepted this position and all of the wonderful people and quit thinking about the dollar signs…God has a plan. I just have to work with his plan and I am not sure if I will be able to figure out in my time, so I have to trust his. (And the patience of my Aunt and Uncle – Lord bless them for everything they do.) As for a new job…unless it will make me $100,000 a year or more I’m not interested.

Day 10: The Heart of Worship

Point to Ponder: The Heart of Worship is surrender.

Verse to Remember: “Surrender your whole being to him to be used for righteous purposes.” -Romans 6:13b

Question to consider: What area of my life am I holding back from God?

Here is the thing about surrendering..it’s hard! We think that we are in control because we live in the physical world, we react to physical proof and evidence and often don’t remember that it is the unseen that controls what we do see. We can’t see gravity but we know it is there, so we trust it and surrender to its forces upon our bodies. Many people are unable to do this with God. Why? We can’t see Him…we don’t know if he is really there (until we need him)…we think that we have to do some things for ourselves. Every time I contemplate complete surrender I think back to a line from Everafter, when Da Vinci is speaking about God, “He’s busy and he needs a little help.” Well, he is busy, but He doesn’t need your help. I am going to have to remind myself of that from now on because I do try to have some control over all areas of my life and I think I need to surrender to my faith and to God a lot more.

I think maybe it stems from a childhood that lacked order or an adulthood that has been um…tumultuous. I just have control issues, it doesn’t matter where they come from, so from today forward I know that I have to give that over to God. Trying to do this is no easy feat. I have been trying since I was 17, and my friend Sarah gave me a card with penguins on it (one was looking at the other and there was a fish having half swallowed one) that said, “Let go and let God.” Obviously, I am not good at it otherwise I would have a better idea of his plan for my finances. I know accepting my position is God’s doing because I will learn so much from the counselors I work with and once I complete my classes and transfer I will have a ready-made internship, but the trouble is with the amount of money…it’s soooo little when I am trying to provide for two sons. The portion of the chapter that sticks with me most is the part on trust which is where the money situation comes into play. “You know you’re surrendered to God when you rely on God to work things out instead of trying to manipulate others, force your agenda, and control the situation. You let go and let God work.” The penguins again…so how, why, and what do I need to do?

I need to write two lines on my heart and keep them there so that every time I look at finances I remember them.

“You cannot serve both God and money.” Said by Jesus.

“Wherever your treasure is, your heart will be also.” Also Jesus.

I have a plan these days and a vision for my future, a vision that I think is lining up with the Big Guys, but I live here and now. Once I am done with school my mission is clear but my path to that end is as yet a little hard to surrender…but I must…the battle within me is entirely selfish and my path will change course if I change what I am doing. It will not put me on course to fulfill my vision, even if it would be easier to pay the bills.

So, join with me, go to the Father and give him your surrender. “Father, if this problem, pain, sickness, or circumstance is needed to fulfill your purpose and glory in my life or in another’s, please don’t take it away.” This will not be easy, but it will be worth it.