Several weeks ago, I had read a portion of 'Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ' by Madame Guyon, and one chapter in particular stuck with me above everything else. She entitled this chapter, 'Periods of Dryness,' and it started a thought process which God has found necessary to try in my life.
"Dear reader, you must realize that God has only one desire... His desire is to give Himself to the soul that really loves Him and to that soul which earnestly seeks Him. And yet it is true that this God who desires to give Himself to you will often conceal Himself from you - from you, the very one who seeks Him!Now why would God do that? Dear saint of God, you must learn the ways of your Lord. Yours is a God who often hides Himself. He hides Himself for a purpose. Why? His purpose is to rouse you from spiritual laziness. His purpose in removing [the sense of His presence] from you is to cause you to pursue Him."
I find it interesting that David, the only one in the Bible God ever gave the title of a man after His own heart had similar struggles. The prophetic Psalm He penned gives light to the anguish of soul both he and our Lord experienced.
"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent..." Psalm 22:1-2
Again in chapter 13...
"How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? forever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy by exalted over me?" Psalm 13:1-2
Obviously, these feelings are not new... Men and women throughout the ages have struggled through seasons where God felt very far away. Why does God allow this? Why does it sometimes seem we are clawing our way up an insurmountable mountain in our efforts to gain back the sense of His presence we love so much?
As I reflect back on the recent seasons of drought I have walked through, and examine what they produced in me, I have been encouraged not to grow despondent and weary through these seasons of testing. In a great degree, I believe that's what God's intent is for allowing them. He seeks to prove and try our devotion - how far are we willing to walk with Him?
It's easy to follow after the Lord when the path is lit with sunshine, and the winds of favor are in our face. Prayer seems effortless, and we delight in the beauty of life.
Contra-wise, do we care enough to pursue after God when the dark clouds threaten to swallow up our very existence? When Bible reading are prayer seem almost drudgery, do we faithfully continue, realizing our desperate need for it's sustaining nourishment?
Times like this have been convicting to my own heart, as I've realized it's tendency towards "fair-weather Christendom." I've been appalled at how much my flesh longs for and expects an easy pathway in my pursuit after God. If nothing else, Satan detests a passionate lover of God, and will do everything in His power to discourage us from our pursuit after Him.
Secondly, I believe God allows these times to remind us of our desperate need of Him. When life is going great, it's easy to forget where our strength is coming from. It's easy to start relying on circumstances for our joy, feelings for our faith, and mediocre Christianity for our norm. Everything is going fine in life, what more do we need to seek for??
When God grants us pain and struggles in replacement for ease, smashes those grand and happy feelings, and starts to reveal from His word the truth of who we really are, we have nowhere else to flee but to His faithful and caring arms. That's exactly where He wanted us in the first place. It is oftentimes our departure from those arms, unknowing though it be, that required Him to bring things into our path to draw us back to Him.
Dear reader, I have been learning through many tears and heart-crushing pain, that these seasons of darkness are not a sign of God's departure, but rather a token of His love as He encourages us closer to Himself. He who longs for nothing greater than for us to be completely consumed in Him, allows these times as a means of furthering and strengthening our heart's desire to know Him more intimately. Do not allow Satan to bring despair to your longing heart. Rather, lay out your struggles before your loving Heavenly Father, and trust Him implicitly for the duration and intensity of the clouds He has allowed. In the midst of the struggles, don't forget to look for the beautiful rainbow at the end....
O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
...to be continued...