OceanSide church of Christ

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Victor M. Eskew


            When we became Christians, we entered into a very special relationship with God.  He became our Father.  We learned how much He loved us.  We were taught how much He cares for us.  We were taught that He walks with us throughout the day, and that He watches over us at night.  We found that we can talk with Him in prayer at any time.  What a blessing we received.  We were privileged to have a wonderful fellowship with deity.

            Then it happened.  We went through a very difficult time.  We were shaken.  We were heartbroken.  We were in grief.  We faced sadness and loneliness.  The joy of our Christian life was not there the way it was in times past.  We cried to God.  We cried to God again.  We read the Scriptures and continue to cry to God.  We continued to live for Him.  We worshipped Him.  We prayed and prayed.  In all of this, God was just not there.  There were no answers to our prayers.  There was no comfort given to our hearts.  We asked ourselves over and over:  “Where is God?”

            Perhaps you have been in this type of situation.  Let’s address the thought:  “When God Is Not There.”  First, when God is not the times are usually very hard.  Famine is in the land.  Sickness has afflicted our body or the body of a loved one.  Our enemies are persecuting us.  Death has raised its ugly head to torment us.  When times are good, we never doubt the presence of God.  We bow our heads and thank Him for all the blessings that He has given us.  It is during times of trouble that it seems as though God is not there.  When we read the psalms, the inspired writer often cries out:  “How long, O Lord?” (Ps. 6:3; 13:1; 80:4; 90:13).  As we look deeper into his question, we find that he is facing adverse circumstances.  In Psalm 6:7, he writes:  “Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.”  In Psalm 13:3-4, he says:  “Consider and hear me, O Lord my God:  lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.”  Hard times prevailed in the life of the poet.  And, he thought that God was not there.  “How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord?  for ever?  how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?” (Ps. 13:1).

            Second, when God is not there, we doubt.  Where is God?  I thought He promised to be with me.  I was taught that He would hear and answer my prayers.  I thought He loves me and cares for me.  I have been faithful to Him.  I have lived a righteous life.  I have not been involved in sin.  Yes, we examine ourselves and find no fault.  We look up to God, but with doubts about His promises to us.  We become like Job in our trials.  We long to talk to God.  In Job 13:3, Job speaks these words:  “Surely I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God.”  In the opening verses of Job 23, Job states:  “Even today is my complaint bitter:  my stroke is heavier than my groaning.  Oh that I knew where I might find him!  that I might come even to his seat!  I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.  I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me” (vs. 2-5). 

            Third, when we think God is not there, we are wrong.  We think God is not there for two reasons.  One, we cannot see Him.  Second, He does not respond in the manner in which we think He should respond.  God, however, is present.  He sees everything we are experiencing.  After Joseph’s death, his memory was not long lived.  In Exodus 1:8, we read:  “Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.”  This king feared Israel.  He placed them under severe bondage.  This bondage lasted for years and years.  Where was God?  He was right there.  When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, He spoke these words to him:  “Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me:  and I have also see the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them” (Exo. 3:9).  The persecution was extreme.  It lasted for years.  Why didn’t God respond?   Where was He?  He was there.  He was carrying out things according to His timing.  When we are afflicted, we need to remember the bondage of the Israelites.  They suffered, but God was near.  He is near unto us as well.

            Fourth, when God appears not to be there, He really is.  He has promised that He will be with us.  “…for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5b).  Dear reader, God cannot lie (Tit. 1:2).  Yes, we need to remember that He is there.  He has His reasons for not immediately intervening in our lives.  Part of the answer as to why God did not redeem Israel out of Egyptian bondage immediately is found way back in Genesis 15.  God was speaking to Abraham about his offspring.  Listen to what God revealed to the patriarch:  “And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years.  And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge:  and afterward shall they come out with great substance…But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again:  for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full” (Gen. 15:13-16).  Notice how God ends His statement:  “…for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.”  The Amorites lived in the land of Canaan.  God would not punish a people before they deserved punishment.  Thus, He waited to bring Israel out of bondage until the appropriate time to destroy the Amorites.  The lesson is that God always has His reasons for waiting.

            There may be times in our lives when we feel God is not there.  These are the difficult times of life.  The struggles cause us to doubt and wonder.  My friend, when you think God is not there, remember you are wrong.  God is there.  Remember, too, that God plans and purposes for our life are greater than our own.  Thus, we must trust him.  We mentioned Psalm 13 previously.  The psalm opens with words of doubt regarding God’s presence.  Listen, however, to the last two verses of the psalm:  “But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.  I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me” (Ps. 13:5-6).  God’s ways certainly are not our ways.  We may doubt that He is really there.  But, we must allow our faith in God to prevail.  We must trust in His mercy.  Ultimately, He will deal bountifully with us.