Have you ever wondered, “Where is God right now when I need Him?”
- Lost a job.
- Had a child who died or developed a chronic illness.
- Had your marriage end in divorce after your spouse had an affair.
- Have an addiction, and you can’t break it.
- Pray and do everything you’re supposed to do as a Christian, and it still seems God is a thousand miles away.
I could keep going. Some of us have gone from feeling that God is close to us and answers all our prayers, to one where it seems the door has been shut in our face, and we’re left standing outside asking, “Where is God?”
No Easy Path
After a conversion experience in high school, I had a remarkable period of peace and discovery as I grew in my relationship with Christ and the Church.
But as time went on, I ran into some tough situations that didn’t come equipped with quick and miraculous solutions. I struggled, mostly because I had a lot of growing to do, and God used these occasions to help me stretch. When I finished college, I still had a sense that God was near, and that I was growing spiritually.
A couple of years later, however, I hit a spiritual dry spell that lasted nearly twelve years. Most people who talk about their desert experiences speak or them in terms of weeks. I guess I was an especially tough case.
When I emerged from that spiritual wasteland, the Lord gave me a sense of His continual presence that has never left me. I was stronger and eager to serve. I thought I was finally starting to “arrive.” Not really.
The following years included some particularly difficult times of trial and suffering. Fortunately, as some people do, I was never tempted to turn my back on God. But the Lord took down the protecting hedge that had kept Satan from pressing attacks.
A God That’s Too Small
I learned a lot of lessons along the way—far too many to talk about here. But I would like to touch on three of them.
First, I started with a concept of God that was way too small. At different times, I thought of God as operating on a simple reward-and-punishment system; or as though he behaved like a vending machine where I could drop my prayer in and the expected answer would fall out. Fortunately, God is much bigger than those false gods, but when my expectations were screwed up, it made it seem as though God was not doing his part.
Second, there were all the times I prayed, went to retreats, attended Mass, read the Bible, etc.—all things that in the past helped me get in touch with God and feel close to Him. But now, none of these approaches seemed to work the same way. Unconsciously, I was expecting a static God who would work around my ego needs. Instead, I learned that while God remains the same, the way He relates to me is dynamic and changes over time so that I could grow and live by faith instead of using God as a way to me feel good.
Third, with all the difficulties and resistance I experienced, surely God could have made things easier for me, right? Yes, but instead, I learned that for those He loves, He allows the crucible of suffering to burn away the dross surrounding our hearts so that we could become more like his Son.
A Few Answers
So, where is God?
He’s with us right now, and He never leaves us. So, if we don’t feel or see Him, there must be another explanation. I think that when we first come into a relationship with Jesus, the Lord grants us the grace of a “honeymoon” period, where we receive blessings, answered prayer, and other powerful experiences that help to sustain us. But there comes a time we need to move out of the nest, and He pulls back so we can grow in faith.
What is God doing?
Much of the time we don’t know what He’s doing unless he shows us. He is the infinite God, after all. We may be able to look back over time and understand His methods, or we may never know. As it turns out, providing magical protection from the evils of this world is not part of His plan. If we’re ready, he’ll continue to challenge us to push up against our comfort zone and boundaries.
Isn’t God taking quite a risk on us?
That is, isn’t making us go through spiritual deserts, persecution, and all sorts of trouble in life putting us at risk of calling it quits and walking away from Him? Once we came to place our faith in Him, shouldn’t that be enough until it’s time for Him to take us to heaven?
That would be true, except that a relationship with God is more than making a decision for Christ. It’s also about God loving us with the passionate love of the Father. He desires for us to share in His divine life and to become like His Son. He won’t let us stay little kids spiritually if we show any sign that we’re ready to grow up. We may not like the path we have to walk to get there, but every day, I’m learning more about how to appreciate the result.