Why does God seem farthest when we need Him most?



Good question. 

I don’t have a good answer. 

In the throws of depression, grief, tragedy, I’ve often asked for prayers and felt unable to pray for myself.

But…maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.

Maybe when He feels farthest we need to look closer.

Maybe God is near, but not in the ways we suspect. Not in a loud voice or a burning bush. Not in an earthquake or a storm, but rather…

…in the prayer of a friend who cries out for you.

…in the steady fall of rain on a spring garden.

…in the memory of someone who believed in you years ago.

…in the taste of warm soup on a cold winter day.

…in the curl of a dog’s wagging tail when you get home in the evening.

What about you?

What are some of the still, small ways God is with you that maybe you haven’t looked close enough to see? 

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In my new novel, Then Sings My Soul, the main characters (Jakob and Nel) are asking the same question. What they find  you. Read their story and how they find hope. Available wherever your favorite books are sold.

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When hard is a place you find yourself.

Hard.

It’s not just an adjective anymore.

Hard is a place.

Maybe you know it…icy stone walls shadowed by unsought shame, the front door locked by defeat, windows draped by misunderstanding and hopelessness.

Too many strain in the hard unaware that even a crack of the window lets in light, air, a current of hope. We long for someone to burst through the front door for us, a sword-wielding Savior to cut back the vines and overgrowth surrounding our foundations, a friend who’ll sit with us until the electricity comes on again and the furnace of truth warms our toes.

Hard is a place, yes.

But hard is also a season.

Like winter, we’re forced to hunker down in the silence and be still while the snow falls white and gentle around us.

And soon, like the Morning Sun, a Savior will come.

But He will knock first.

And spring and the loose, cool earth will be fertile once again.

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crushed

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Excerpts from 2 Corinthians 4

“Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up. We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods … We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this … For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” … And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”

Come close, dear one, and tell me: what will you call Him this year?

I have a friend who’s an amazing poet who says this Advent has felt much more like Lent.

I don’t know about you, but I feel the same way.

I’ve been overwhelmed this season with the number of friends who are suffering…who have lost friends and family…who are struggling with sickness and despair.

I’m overwhelmed when I see the lonely in hospital rooms…the bruised tormented…the broken crying for relief…the voiceless told to hush.

I struggle because I fear I cannot write about joy without writing about pain. I don’t know if I know how to have one without the other…

…but maybe that’s the point.

What is joy except for the release of despair? What is pain but the reaching for hope? What is loneliness but for the cry for embrace?

What is Christmas but at once the spectacular arrival of a promise and the anguished gift of an only son to a dying world, sent to feel our pain, to hear our loneliness, to drink our despair, to embrace us in the exhale of his last breath?

And so on this Christmas Eve I don’t have answers. I only have a question:

What will you dare call Him?

If you’re happy will you call Him Lord?

If you’re lonely will you call Him Emmanuel?

If you’re desperate, will you call Him Savior?

If you’re a child, will you call Him Friend?

If you’re downcast, will you call Him Hope?

If your life is one battle after another, will you call Him Prince of Peace?

If you’re confused, will you call Him Counselor?

If you’re chained, will you call Him Freedom?

If you’re wandering in darkness, will you call Him Light?

If you’re silent, will you call Him a Song?

If you’re weak, will you call Him Mighty?

If you’ve been broken, will you call Him Justice?

If you’re weak, will you call Him Warrior?

If you’re dying, will you call Him Life?

He is all these things and more, dear friend. My gift to you this Christmas is a prayer…I pray that Jesus Christ meets you in the place in your soul that has no name, no words, no hope. I pray you call on Him, whatever you want to call Him most. He is and can be your Everything.

Listen close, past the bells and choirs.

Look far, past the lights and sparkle.

He is here.

Emmanuel.

God with us.

Alive.

Merry Christmas, friends.

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“Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever…The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. You will enlarge the nation of Israel,and its people will rejoice. They will rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest and like warriors dividing the plunder. For you will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders…For a child is born to us,a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity.”
Isaiah 9:1-7 (NLT)