I appreciate the words of Spurgeon, but sometimes I doubt them . . . especially when I don't sense God's presence. But here is what I am discovering:
I have experienced this truth in life. I have seen this truth in Scripture. Feel the heartache pour out of the Psalmist's pen:
But you have rejected us and disgraced us
and have not gone out with our armies.
You have made us turn back from the foe,
and those who hate us have gotten spoil.
You have made us like sheep for slaughter
and have scattered us among the nations.
You have sold your people for a trifle,
demanding no high price for them.
You have made us the taunt of our neighbors,
the derision and scorn of those around us.
You have made us a byword among the nations,
a laughingstock among the peoples.
All day long my disgrace is before me,
and shame has covered my face
at the sound of the taunter and reviler,
at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.
All this has come upon us,
though we have not forgotten you,
and we have not been false to your covenant.
What's up with that? I thought my tears would be tempered by the undeniable sense of God's presence. Not always so! The Psalmist continues:
Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
In my heart I know that every good story includes resolution: "And they all lived happily ever after." Right?! Not when I read Psalm 44. I can hear the psalmist crying out, "God, where is my happily ever after!"
My heart aches with him because I too know what it is like to walk through the valley of death, to be surrounded by a sense of foreboding, and not feel the shadow of the Almighty. That's hard, but that's the life of faith:
- For we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7
- But my righteous ones shall live by faith. Hebrews 10:38
- Faith is ... the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
- Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. John 20:29
- These all died in faith, not having received the things promised. Hebrews 11:13
What people of faith do know is this:
- Feelings are real, but not a real accurate gauge of our reality. God is "a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1) -- whether we feel like He is there or not. Jesus will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) -- whether we feel like He has left us or not.
- There is resolution in the end. We may not experience "happily every after" today, or tomorrow, or for 70 years as Israel discovered (Jeremiah 29:10), but there is resolution for the people of God. Our Savior will come riding on a white horse. He is Faithful and True. Those who know Him WILL live happily ever after. Revelation 19 tells us this.
Walking with God does not guarantee a sense of the presence of God. But make no mistake about it, God is there. That's a guarantee -- whether you feel it or not.