You ever wonder if you’re doing it wrong? This reminds me of when I was living with some roommates of mine in college. I lived with 4 other guys in a house we called “The Pit”, which has many connotations of its own. Actually, we took pretty good care of the house, even having a weekly cleaning rotation between us. Things got iffy sometimes, and we had quite the assortment of old, well-used, but comfortable couches.
One night though, me and another roommate were getting on the case of the youngest of us in the house while I believe he was doing some math homework. He was like the little brother of the household and yeah, sometimes an easy target. I think he was working on some complex equation and we were peering over his shoulder and occasionally jabbing him saying, “You’re doing it wrong!” We were having what we thought was good-hearted fun, but he only took so much of it. It didn’t take long and suddenly this younger-brother roommate blurted out this ugly, loud, annoyed-like groan or growl (that’s the best I can describe it). My other roommate and I knew we had pushed him too far
I wonder if this at all describes how David felt in Psalm 22 or the writer of Psalm 88. Am I doing it wrong? What is up or going on? Why do you (God) feel so far from me and my situation? Am I crazy or just different than everyone else? GROAN!… GROWL!…
Last weekend I was listening to the radio while driving when a broadcaster made a comment that got me thinking about such questions. I usually listen to Christian radio and appreciate much of the music, conversation, encouragement, and messages I hear. I also drive a lot nowadays too so this keeps me pretty in-tune with the Christian mainstream of today. Sometimes though something comes across the airwaves that makes me feel different and doesn’t seem to totally line up with me and/or my experiences. Now I know life isn’t just about me and my experiences. It’s much, much bigger than and beyond that. Sometimes though people make sweeping statements that mark something as seemingly always true for everyone, when it’s just not really always the case. This Leaves some to question whether they’re strange, different, or maybe doing something wrong.
This past weekend I heard a radio broadcaster say, “When we’re going through hard times we grow closer to God.” He was responding to a caller who shared a story that basically lined up with that. I had a difficult time with his response though because I don’t feel like that’s been my experience in these past 3 years or so, especially the past year or year and a half. I have felt far from God. And instead of closeness gained, distance gained seems more correct. This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this statement. Actually, I know I’ve heard it multiple times, and that likely has something to do with prompting this post.
Anyway, when I heard that statement I remember that I sighed long when in my car. This wasn’t a sigh of relief either, but more a sigh of anguish, and then frustration. Anguish because I’ve felt the opposite, and then frustration because I know this isn’t everyone’s experience.
Job in his despair once languished, “How I long for the months gone by, for the days when God watched over me, when his lamp shone around my head and by his light I walked through darkness! Oh for the days when I was in my prime, when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house, when the Almighty was still with me and my children were around me (Job 29:2-5).” Job knew what it was like to feel far from God, to feel as though some chasm has suddenly grown between him and God. Other examples include King David, Moses, Elijah, and likely Joseph in Genesis as well. Even Jesus when on the cross cried the words from Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Just yesterday morning as part of a funeral I led the singing of the much beloved hymn from days of old, In the Garden. I like this hymn. There have been many a time I’ve felt empty in much despair and Jesus has met me there—walking and talking with me, and telling me I am his own. Again I was touched when singing this hymn yesterday, but I also found myself longing like Job above. I’d really like Jesus to meet me in my present circumstance and relieve the burden I feel, and have felt for some time now. He has met me at different times in the midst of it, but I’d like it to be once and for all. I will say that lately, since the new year, I haven’t felt quite as bad, but a longing still persists.
Where is there some hope though? Is there any? Will the closeness return? Is there hope for the distance to dissipate and be replaced? Here I am reminded of the message in the side review mirrors of our cars here in the US—“Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.”
God is actually closer than he may appear, and likely you are as well. This is true for Job and others mentioned in this post as we read more of their story. In fact, this particular weekend is a reminder for me of such things.
Exactly 11 years ago this very weekend (the dates even fall on the same days of the week as 11 years ago) I reached out and heard back from my now wife for the very first time. Some of you know our story, but we met through an internet dating service. A few months prior to me stumbling across her online I had just gone through a hard break up for me. Also, I was in a new town, attending seminary, and I wondered, how many more chances am I going to get? On a whim, I filled out a profile for myself on Yahoo! Personals of all places and 2 days later when I received compatible profiles in response there she was–#1 on the list!
In that instance, and I believe my current one too… God proved to be closer than what appeared to be true.