The last few days had left me feeling bereft of God’s abiding presence with me. I wish this was a novel feeling, but it wasnt. I had often experienced it during similar times of silence or disconcerting circumstances. Every morning as I read the Bible, I ask the Holy Spirit to speak personally to me, but lately I had experienced no revelation. And although I believed I was doing my part in seeking God’s presence, he still felt distant.
"A Bright Star in a Dark Sky"
I took a deep breath and soaked in these comforting words written years ago by Frances Roberts,
“Oh my child, I am coming to thee walking upon the waters of the sorrows of thy life. Yea, above the sounds of the storm you shall hear my voice calling thy name. You are never alone, for I am at thy right hand. Never despair for I am watching over and caring for you. Be not anxious. What seems to thee to be at present a difficult situation is all part of my plan, and I am working out the details of circumstances to the end that I may bless thee and reveal myself to thee in a new way. As I have opened thine eyes to see, so shall I open thine ears to hear, and you shall come to know me even as did Moses, in a face-to-face relationship. No darkness shall hide the shining of my face, for I shall be to thee as a bright star in the night sky” (Roberts, Frances. (2008). "Come Away My Beloved," p. 18).
He knows we are but dust...
Later that night, I was keenly feeling that pull of desperation to hear from God. To be assured of his love and attention to the details of my life. I knew he didn’t owe it to me. His Word is sufficient and he has spoken such affirmations to me countless times in the past. But, in my humanness it is so easy to forget, or more accurately to start doubting the truth of the written Word or past experiences.
But as I lay in my bed, Psalm 103 came to mind reminding me of God’s patience and goodness towards us, his beloved children. He is not easily angered, but is merciful and gracious 1. He shows us compassion as a father towards his children 2. And he remembers that we are dust, that our frame is fragile and given to weakness 3.
I took a deep breath and cried: “Oh Father, I need reassurance of your presence, of your mindfulness of me, of your care for my life and future, which feel so uncertain to me right now. Please speak to me tonight.” Even as I prayed this, I was mindful that God was not obligated to speak to me, but I knew he had heard me. And, I had experienced enough of the Lord to know that he would answer me when and how he deemed best. I fell asleep assured in that.
Answers in the Night
I awoke in the middle of the night, wide awake. Immediately I knew that God had spoken. I had had a dream about a girl going through a difficult season in life. In the midst of her despair and consternation, there appeared in the middle of the room she was in, a tablet shining a light that swallowed the shadows surrounding it. She walked over to it and the words written on the tablet came to life, washing life over her. She read along as the words were declared audibly over her, “You shall not die, but you shall live and recount the deeds of the Lord.” 4
As I lay in bed thinking on the dream, the words the girl had read from Psalm 118:17 continued to replay in my head like a recording. I knew that verse well. God had given me this verse several years ago in a very desperate time, a time where it looked and felt like I may not live much longer. As I meditated on the verse, it became more and more clear that God was reminding me that he had not forgotten. He wasn’t done with me yet. He was still the same God, his plans for me had not changed or failed. And my doubts and mistrust along the way didn’t alter his faithfulness.
He is not far from us, even when it doesnt feel like it.
God knows intricately the times and places of every human being he has created. In fact we see Paul describing that in Acts 17, in order “that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us” 5. The picture here is of a person groping in the darkness trying to find God. The “perhaps” used in this verse suggests the possibility of uncertain realization of God. And yet, this is not the case. God is actually very near to each one of us, always with us. God’s providence in history and with each individual life is designed in the perfect way in which to lead people to himself. He knows our hearts and hears the faintest cries of our hearts.
God is unique and set apart from all other gods in that he speaks intimately with his people and relates to us as a father would to a son or daughter. Sometimes we make seeking God more complicated than it is. He wants to be found by us. Not that he is hiding, but we can become blind and deaf to him in the distractions and obligations of life.
Training for a Marathon
The oft quoted verse from Jeremiah, "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart,” 6 provides great confidence in our seeking God. And God will be keep his word, but seeking God with all one’s heart does not happen easily. It takes much intention and discipline. It takes perseverance. We pray and expect God to answer right away. And, sometimes he does. But more often, we need to stay the course for much longer than we feel is fair. It’s more of a marathon than a sprint. God, in his goodness gives us assurances along the way, but he also allows testing that may break us if our devotion is half-hearted. God is a heart God, and we can’t fake with our hearts. Our hearts are what lead us, direct us.
The Bible is full of examples of people seeking God wholeheartedly and praying some bold requests in the process. The Psalmists provide great examples for us to use as we seek God. A great start in our desire to seek God wholeheartedly is to pray God’s word back to him. We may not always desire God, but we can express our desire to desire him. To hear from him. To experience him. He is always waiting for us, are we willing to wait for him? Here are some verse to start praying back to him right now. Will you start?
Show me a sign of your favor, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me. -Psalm 86:17, ESV.
Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared. - Psalm 119:38, ESV
Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. - Psalm 86:1, ESV
O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. - Psalm 5:3, ESV
Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry come to you! Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call! - Psalm 102:1-2, ESV