Archive for February 23rd, 2012

February 23, 2012

When God Seems Distant

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Job 23:10
Full Text: Job 23; 1 Cor. 10

Faith | As Job processes his suffering, his faith wavers. On the one hand, he sings, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth” [1]. On the other hand, he wonders, “Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! … Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him” [2]. What good is a living God if you don’t know where He is?

Distance | Some say that reaching God in suffering is easy. But that’s not everyone’s experience. David, a man after God’s heart [3], writes, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? [4]. Then, hundreds of years later, Jesus quoted these words of David on the cross [5].

Fact | When Christ experienced the Father’s distance, he secured the Father’s nearness for us forever. Today, therefore, although God may seem distant, He is near [6]. Thus, our faith can waver as we try to make heads or tails of our suffering. For our redemption is not based on the strength of our faith, but on the strength of the object of our faith.

Illustration | As Tim Keller illustrates, if you’re falling off a cliff and see a branch that might hold you, your being saved isn’t dependent on your faith in that branch. You can think, “Nah, it’ll never save me.” Yet, in your doubt, if you would just reach out, that branch will save you if its roots are strong [7]. And Job knows this. As his faith wavers, he still proclaims, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold” [8].

Prayer | Lord, Your roots are infinitely strong, even when our faith is weak. Sometimes, in our suffering, we wonder where you are. Yet we know that you are near. For the Psalm that Jesus quoted on the cross did not end with your distance; it ended with praise for what your distance accomplished: “Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it” [9]. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Job 19:25 ESV  |  [2] Job 23:3, 8 ESV  |  [3] See Acts 13:22  |  [4] Ps. 22:1-2 ESV  |  [5] Mark 15:34 ESV. See also Matt. 27:46.  |[6] John Piper, in his sermon Ask Your Father in Heaven, gives a wonderful description of the different levels at which God makes Himself available. Looking at Matthew 7:7-11, he writes, “Ask. Seek. Knock. If a child’s father is present, he asks him for what he needs. If a child’s father is somewhere in the house but not seen, he seeks his father for what he needs. If the child seeks and finds the father behind the closed door of his study, he knocks to get what he needs. The point seems to be that it doesn’t matter whether you find God immediately close at hand, almost touchable with his nearness, or hard to see and even with barriers between, he will hear, and he will give good things to you because you looked to him and not another.”  |  [7] Tim Keller gave this illustration in a sermon about doubt several years ago. I couldn’t remember the exact illustration, so I emailed Kathy. Helpfully, she offered two additional illustrations of this truth. (1) Skating on ice – the skater who worries, “Oh, the ice might be thin. It might break,” and the skater who thinks, “Nah, it’s February. The ice is probably a foot think,” are neither going to be saved or lost on the basis of their fears/confidence. It is the strength of the ice that matters. (2) Two fliers on a plane – one a phobic flier who spends the entire flight thinking at every bump, “We are going to crash! I know it!” and the other who has millions of frequent flier miles and sleeps through the flight. Neither the little faith nor the big faith matters, but the competence of the crew and the integrity of the aircraft.”  |  [8] Job 23:10 ESV  |  [9] Psalm 22:30-31

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