When God seems absent

There are times in our lives when we walk along and it seems that God is absent. Explore the beautiful ways the Lord works in our lives even when we are not aware of Him.

Jacob woke up and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it” (Genesis 28:16).

I was reading this the other day and thought, “How many times have I felt the same way Jacob did?” Looking back over my life at challenges which in many ways felt like “game breakers” (when I was going through them), I realize that they turned out to provide exactly the lessons I needed to move forward. Thinking about preparation for Easter, there’s just as strong a parallel to the story of the disciples. The teachings of the New Church talk about the mindset of the disciples, and why they were chosen in this way:

“The reason why the Lord spoke (to the disciples) in the way He did was so that they would receive those external truths [basic teachings] and through them be introduced into internal truths [the deeper meaning for our lives]. Inside the external truth which the Lord spoke, internal truth was stored away, which after awhile comes to light. And when these things come to light, the more external truths are dispelled and simply become tools we can use to think about internal ones” (Arcana Coelestia 3857).

I thought about the road to Emmaus—when the disciples were walking along with a man they had met and didn’t know was Jesus walking. They were interacting with God Himself and didn’t quite see it. If they had, and had seen that the whole of their lives was going to convey a spiritual message to all people about how to have a relationship with Him, they would have been overwhelmed and fought against it.

The same is true for us, isn’t it? If I had seen early in my life—while struggling with thoughts about whether I’d ever get married, have friends, overcome issues of disability, or hold down a steady job—that each of these forks in the road served to strengthen (rather than detract from) my relationship to God and other people—I really believe I would have fought against it. Each of these “watershed moments” occurred because I had to make a choice, not because some foretold destiny was thrust on me.

Our faith becomes real when we choose it. If you don’t live it, you don’t really believe it.

I can look back on many of those “big picture moments” in my life now, and sense the current of the Lord’s leadership through them. In my mind, this is really what “discipleship” is all about: connecting the true ideas you know to the life you’re living in such a way that, even though you can’t see what the outcome’s going to be yet, in a sense you stop worrying—and trust. Trust that if you’re a willing participant in His plan—as Psalm 27 says, “Then the Lord will take care of me.”

As we approach Easter, I think of this a lot. Were there times the Lord Himself faced doubt about the goal, times He struggled against a desire to fold under the pressure of people’s selfish tendencies? Absolutely. But He didn’t. He trusted in His Divine Mission. He took on our temptations and our challenges as human beings, and He overcame them all, so that we could be free to choose Him again and again.

So the next time we come to a fork in the road that feels overwhelming, let’s take the path where we see “the shadow of the cross”—the one we know we can’t walk alone—and our Helper will be there to lead us from the temporary struggles of life in this world to the eternal peace of heaven.

Full issue

Daily Inspiration

"The Lord's kingdom consists of mutual love, which is the only thing that affords peace."

Secrets of Heaven 1038:2