2.04: Feeling Abandoned and Betrayed by God?

2.04: Addressing The Hiddnessness of God

I have a secret to tell about many really deep and spiritual Christians. It’s a dark secret many of us do not wish to talk about.  Many of us wish it was not there.  Many will pretend it is not there! But the fact of the matter is that it is universal and epidemic!  It is real and affects most of us in deep ways.

They doubt God too!  They struggle!  The Bible is full of real stories of real people who doubt too. And God left these verses, chapters, and stories to remind us that He can handle our doubts. It is echoed here : “But I, O Lord, cry out to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you. O Lord, why do you cast me off? Why do you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 88:13-14, NRSV).

The psalmist in Psalm 10 complains about God’s hiding, as follows: “Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1, NRSV. Psalm 30 laments God’s hiding after a time when the psalmist had confident security. “When I felt secure, I said, ‘I will never be shaken.’ O Lord, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed” (Psalm 30:7, NIV).

Psalm 44 expresses it:. “Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not cast us off forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?” (Psalm 44:23-24, NRSV).

I remember so many times when I came across a “contradiction'” in the Bible, I held my breath  “oh no” I would think. Then I would research it and, it had an easy answer.  Then other times it took years to figure out a Biblical or theological problem.

And I have some issues I am still struggling with!

Beware by the way of thinking that if you find an error that it is, in fact, an error.

Augustine wrote,

Only to those books of the Scriptures that are now called canonical have I learned to pay such honor and respect as to believe most firmly that not one of Scriptures’ authors has erred in writing anything. If I do find anything in those books that seems contrary to truth, I decide either that the [copied] text is corrupt [i.e., there are copyists’ mistakes], or that the translator [Augustine didn’t read Greek] did not follow what was really said, or that I have failed to understand it.

Read Mark Ward who quotes Augustine nicely on innerancy of Scripture.

 

CS Lewis wrote after God took his new wife with cancer:

…. “When you are happy, so happy you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels— welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.” ― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

It can also be called the “Dark Night of the Soul.” A book by this title was written in the 16th-century by the Spanish poet and Roman Catholic mystic Saint John of the Cross. It’s that period of time in a believers life when God seems distant and silence to us and his silence is very loud!

Mother Theresa’s book, which was published after her death in 1997, Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta talks about the problem too. She wrote Calcutta Archbishop Ferdinand Périer the following, her words are heartbreaking!

“There is such terrible darkness within me as if everything was dead. It has been like this more or less from the time I started ‘the work.’” She suffered darkness deeply: “In my heart, there is no faith—no love—no trust—there is so much pain—the pain of longing, the pain of not being wanted. I want God with all the powers of my soul—and yet there between us—there is terrible separation. I don’t pray any longer.’.”Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The child of your love—and now become as the most hated one…You have thrown away as unwanted—unloved…So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them—because of the blasphemy—If there be a God—please forgive me…I am told that God loves me, and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.” Still, she kept trying to pray: “I want to speak—yet nothing comes—I find no words to express the depths of the darkness. In spite of it all—I am His little one—I love Him….”

This is really raw as the Psalms were!

Oz Guinness In his book God in the Dark: The Assurance of Faith Beyond a Shadow of Doubt (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1996), identifies seven families of doubt which he labels doubt from ingratitude, a faulty view of God, weak foundations, lack of commitment, lack of growth, unruly emotions, and hidden conflicts.

“The initial wound was objective and real, of course, yet the doubt is caused, not by the wound itself but by the way it was regarded and the place it was given. These are a matter of subjective choice.”

 Identifying these misbeliefs is often the most difficult part of the process since these untruths may be deeply ingrained in a person’s thought patterns from years of dealing poorly with a given event. Once the misbeliefs have been identified, the hurting individual must seek to remove the misbeliefs (i.e. stop telling one’s self the untruths), and replace the false cognitions with the appropriate truths that respond to the misbeliefs  . . .  process of identification must take place first.

Listen clearly hear me with your soul, not just your mind. God does not promise us a rose garden in this world.  This is NOT heaven, it was never meant to be.   The question each and every one of us should NOT be asking is, “why is God silent or why is God allowing this to happen to me?” Rather we should be asking is “How will I honor God and make the best of every opportunity–even the most horrible and empty of feeling?” Ask “What can I do today to be a light in a dark world, regardless of feelings and how can I cultivate feelings of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and self-control?”  How can I really love God and others?

Remember love is not to be reduced to emotions.

When one’s faith in others is shaken or destroyed, this cannot be allowed to shake one’s faith in God. Whether a person’s family relationships were unsupportive or unloving, their intimate relationships were abusive or painful, or they have experienced disappointment in their life, they must remember that God does not respond to his children like fallen people do. Experiencing poor parenting or emotionally traumatic relationships with others is not a poor reflection on the character of God, but only on the character of the individuals involved. God is a loving and faithful Father who cares for his children far more than any earthly father could. As Jesus’ words remind us, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Mt. 7:11, NIV)

When you do feel distance from God, ask yourself why.

How was your prayer life before?  What about your reading of Scriptures?  How was your corporate worship and connection with the body of Christ [others who are on fire for God]?  Are you in any sin that is closing the door to your fellowship with God? If none of these are true, then it could also be a time of testing from God to refine you.  Allow him to do his work, in the meantime, do yours. (See Chad Thornhill, whose work on Divine Hiddenness, helped me here for more information!)

Allow him to do his work, in the meantime, do yours.

After my son died, we named him, Enoch.  Enoch was the name we choose because he was the prophet of God who was taken by God.  We named him Enoch for God took him.  We then began the process, I would never have imagined I would.  But with my precious wife by my side, we did look into adoption, and as a result, we adopted two precious children from the Republic of Moldavia and brought them home with us in Chicago.  They are here today with us. Out of the ashes of Enoch’s death came the phoenix of life with these two precious ones. Their picture is below. It was taken after learning how to ride their bikes!

We would never have had the blessings they bring if God had not taken Enoch home.  He knew better.

His silence was better than all the words the world could offer.

Trust him.  For there is no better stream . . . .

 Tips to deal with doubts  
What do to?
1) Trust God even in your doubts.Don’t stop questioning. He is the Truth and you have nothing to fear for falsehood.
2) Write out your doubts to God. Scream them if necessary!
3) Get up and research them to the ground!
Don’t doubt in the dark what you know is true in the light.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.