When God seems A.W.O.L. . . . .
listen to podcast:
Have you ever felt like God has packed his bags and moved to someone else's house? Like just maybe God was no longer hearing your prayers . . . or at least, answering them?
Several years ago, that is how it seemed - I remember feeling like God was a.w.o.l.1 in my life. Truly, I felt like my prayers were hitting a rubber ceiling and bouncing back. I wondered if I had done something to make God mad at me, but in short order remembered that God is neither moody nor temperamental.
Sometimes, a single verse sure can preach! Colossians 4:2 is such a verse, and I love it.
Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.
Prayer - sometimes we pray and we pray, and we wonder ... is God there? Does he hear me?
Indeed, God has promised he will never leave us,2 but our ability to sense his involvement in our lives might be dimmed. If we want to be aware of God's presence in our lives, we must not push him away, choosing to refrain from activities that "grieve" him.3
To grieve God is to hurt the heart of God ~ like when you reject him and turn toward that which you know is out of line with his will for you... like sin. 'What is sin?' a businessman asked me. 'Sin' includes those things that God has clearly laid out as such-envy, lying, cheating, dishonoring one's parents, stealing, hatred, idolatry, etc., and also that which we feel in our conscience is wrong, and we do it anyway.4
Disobedience hurts the heart of God. Jesus said, "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them."5 The writer of Ecclesiastes said, "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man."6 I love these thoughts:
"Obedience is not the major work of the disciple; it is the only work."7
"There are only two things required of the disciple (student) of Jesus Christ: to love God and to obey him."8
What else grieves the heart of God? Lack of repentance when you have erred, overtly or in your heart, and have left it unconfessed. Oh, the grace of God covers all . . . through it, we have guilt absolved, and debts removed.
Hardness of heart or judgment toward others is not pleasing to God, and may cause us to feel a separation from him. Let's put off a spirit of fault-finding and criticism, and "as far as it depends on us, live at peace with everyone"!9
'Your attention please? Here's something I have noticed, and you might be unaware of it in your life: when I am preoccupied with myself...how I feel about this or that, what I want, lack of satisfaction, even vanity ... I am less aware of God's presence and activity in my life. If there is too much of me, there will be too little of him.
"Okay, I'm good on all of these areas, but I still don't FEEL the presence of God - does that mean he is not there?" No, it does not mean that. Here is the thing about the Christian faith-at some point in our lives, we must decide that God and his Word are trustworthy, and if he says that 'he is with us' then we can stand on the promise as truth-and that truth has little to do with how we feel. "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you..."10 God's words are very emphatic and very clear.
God's presence in my life is a constant, and I am daily trying to 'abide in him' just as he told the disciples to do in John, chapter 15. I love to picture Jesus gesturing to a familiar grapevine as he said to them, "Abide in me, and I will abide in you." Abiding involves training and disciplining ourselves-guarding our hearts and minds, and what we put into them-to remain close to the Lord.
One day, when we see Jesus face-to-face, we shall no longer have to discipline ourselves to 'abide' or 'remain' in him, for we will be with him, never to be separated again. O, what a glorious day! Until then, let's remember that, no matter how we FEEL, God will never leave us or forsake us. God has not gone A.W.O.L.
1 AWOL - absent without leave, a military designation when someone abandons position without permission
2 - Joshua 1.5
3 - Ephesians 4.30 talks about grieving God
4 - For more on the tug of sin, the struggle - read Romans 7 as Paul describes himself
5 - John 14.23
6 - Ecclesiastes 12.13
7 - Calvin Miller
8 - George MacDonald
9 - Romans 12.18 Amplified
10- Hebrews 13.5