God Is Real, No Matter How You Feel
By Rick Warren
— May 21, 2014
The Lord has hidden himself from his people, but I trust him and place my hope in him. Isaiah 8:17
"To mature your friendship, God will test it with periods of seeming separation—times when it feels as if he has abandoned or forgotten you."
It is easy to worship God when things are going great in your life—when he has provided food, friends, family, health, and happy situations. But circumstances are not always pleasant. How do you worship God then? What do you do when God seems a million miles away?
The deepest level of worship is praising God in spite of pain, thanking God during a trial, trusting him when tempted, surrendering while suffering, and loving him when he seems distant.
Friendships are often tested by separation and silence; you are divided by physical distance or you are unable to talk. In your friendship with God, you won't always feel close to him.
Philip Yancey has wisely noted, "Any relationship involves times of closeness and times of distance, and in a relationship with God, no matter how intimate, the pendulum will swing from one side to the other." (Reaching for the Invisible God; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000, 242)
That's when worship gets difficult.
To mature your friendship, God will test it with periods of seeming separation—times when it feels as if he has abandoned or forgotten you. God feels a million miles away. St. John of the Cross referred to these days of spiritual dryness, doubt, and estrangement from God as "the dark night of the soul." Henri Nouwen called them "the ministry of absence." A. W. Tozer called them "the ministry of the night." Others refer to "the winter of the heart."
Besides Jesus, David probably had the closest friendship with God of anyone. God took pleasure in calling him "a man after my own heart." (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22)
Yet David frequently complained of God's apparent absence:
- "Lord, why are you standing aloof and far away? Why do you hide when I need you the most?" (Psalm 10:1, LB)
- "Why have you forsaken me? Why do you remain so distant? Why do you ignore my cries for help?" (Psalm 22:1, NLT)
- "Why have you abandoned me?" (Psalm 43:2, TEV; see also Psalms 44:23, TEV; 74:11, TEV; Psalms 88:14, Msg; Psalms 89:49, LB)
Of course, God hadn't really left David, and he doesn't leave you. He has promised repeatedly, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
(Deuteronomy 31:8; Psalm 37:28; John 14:16-18; Hebrews 13:5)
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