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Day 11—Monday, February 26

Job 23:8-11

If I go forward, he is not there;

              or backward, I cannot perceive him;

on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him;

              I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.

But he knows the way that I take;

              when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold.

My foot has held fast to his steps;

              I have kept his way and have not turned aside.


“Mom? Dad? Where are you?”


I was 7 years old, lost in K-Mart. I had stopped for what I thought was just a second to look at the new Star Wars toys and when I turned around my parents were gone. I ran down the aisles looking for them but came up empty. Stopping to listen, I heard my name, but it was wrong somehow. Turns out I have the second most popular name for boys my age and other Jasons liked to misbehave in public. I was lost, alone, scared, and I didn’t know if I would ever find my parents again.


It was equally shocking years later when I stopped being able to sense God. I looked in the usual places, the eyes of people in need, the hands of folks that helped, a song, a beautiful sunset, but God just wasn’t there. Prayer felt empty, like talking to a wall.


I couldn’t figure it out. Had I done something wrong? Was I not faithful enough? Had a done something cruel or selfish? Was I too focused on earthly things?


My anxiety led to loneliness, then frustration, then to lashing out to God in my frustration.

“Where are you?”

“Why won’t you answer me?”

“Why have you abandoned me?”

“Talk to me!”


Job did the same. The passage above is the last time he’s patient. Starting in the next chapter, Job begins attacking God for not having time for the poor that suffer, and this continues chapter upon chapter.


Every time I’ve stopped being able to sense God, and it’s happened more than once, I get the sense that I’m alone in this and I’m ashamed to talk about it out loud. If I do talk about it, well-meaning people offer words of encouragement or advice, but it doesn’t help.


But I’m not alone, it’s just not a subject we talk about in modern times. Turns out there’s even an old phrase for it: Deus Absconditus – the God who is hidden. In the Bible, Job’s not the only one venting his frustrations about being abandoned. There are plenty of Lament Psalms that cry out, “God whom I praise, break your silence!” (Psalm 109:1)


This can go on for a long time. In Job, it’s 15 more chapters until God speaks again. In my own life, I’ve had it go on for months. It’s all on God’s timeline. There’s no quick fix. As the scripture above tells us, we just need to continue being faithful. We need to share the same love we’ve learned from God with others and continue to pray, to seek God even when we get nothing in response.


There have been many theories why these periods happen, but no real consensus. My favorite is the idea that God is attuning our senses, or perhaps we are, to be able to hear and see and feel Him again, this time with a new voice or message or understanding.


And in the meantime, we can take solace in the fact that, like Job, we’re not alone in having to go through this journey.


-Jason Burton

 

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