“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
~Hebrews 13:5b (NIV).
God’s continual Presence—his guarantee—is above.
Whilst these words from the Lord resound for us from our Bibles they sure test our resolve of faith when it appears he has gone completely absent on us.
The more literal rendering of this verse—from the original Koine Greek—is much stronger. It more or less says,
“I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]”
This is all well and good but where does it leave us when all of a sudden God’s switched off the light and the whisper of his Spirit is nowhere to be heard?
We can quickly be left thinking we’re insane to follow such a God. We think of the Footprints poem and it just doesn’t make sense.
You are not alone. Not only is God there—though you don’t feel him—he’s also ‘absent’ to (and has been absent for) others to.
Just about every Christian—as they walk with God—detects at some point the heat die off the trail, with God nowhere to be found. Why this happens we do not know. And there is no good pretending it doesn’t happen or in clinging to ‘tried and tested’ plastic platitudes (convenient clichés) that proves the love of God isn’t in those who hold to them. (The last thing people struggling with an absence of Spiritual connection with God need is some flippant remark that will ‘instantly’ make all things ‘better’ again.)
So, what do we do?
Holding Two Separate (and True) Realities Together in Tension and in Tandem
We should only ever be interested in a faith that’s based in truth i.e. a faith that works.
This faith suggests there are many things beyond our comprehension; things we’ll never quite understand but things we must accept all the same. What God has said through the human authors of the Bible, however, is true—it’s God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16).
We believe that what he has said in the Hebrews passage (which is drawn also from Joshua 1:5 and other places) is true. We have to believe this; that there is nothing truer than God’s continual Presence with us whether we feel it or not.
Additionally, we know we don’t feel it. This also is true; it’s self apparent. We can trust our own consciousness for this.
Herein lays the dilemma. Many people cannot hold those two great truths together—in tension and in tandem—without it splitting apart their spiritual logic; their understanding of faith. But this fact remains; both are true, simultaneously.
We can instead rest peacefully in this incredible tension—recall this is a peace that transcends human understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). It’s God’s peace available to every believer. This is our spiritual goal: to allow, in faith, the co-existence of two diametrically opposed truths.
This, as it’s seen as a process or journey—at times taking months or even years—is the very vehicle in the ongoing maturation of our faith. Spiritual maturation is a process that never ends. We use this silent period hence to become stronger in our faith.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.