How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
One of the most common issues that Christians are plagued with is a feeling of distance from God. When most of us first became Christians, we were filled with this joy and sense of our God’s love and compassion. But then that feeling often fades and then what? What does it mean if you can’t sense anything from your Maker? Why is God so far away? Why is He hiding his face from me?
These questions are hard. As a pastor who is called to answer these questions on occasion, it feels like there is both no answer and so many answers, all at the same time. My first response to hard questions like these is to not even try to answer the questions, but rather to comfort the questioner. To give a hug (when appropriate), look the person in the eyes, and remind them that they are more sinful and flawed than they realize, but more loved and accepted through Christ than they could ever imagine.
After some time of just being, we may start to dive into why God actually feels distant. And there aren’t any cookie cutter answers. God is infinitely complex, and so our relationship with him is infinitely complex. But as I was reading Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis this week, I felt like I was given a fresh angle to approach these questions from. In this work of fiction, Lewis presents the reader with coaching letters from a supervisory demon to a lower demon.
So here are some paraphrased quotes from the chapter, but I encourage you to read go read chapter 8 of Screwtape Letters if you want a fuller picture:
It may be a surprise to you, but God relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His favorite people have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else.
Satan desires to turn humans into cattle who can finally become food; but God wants servants who can finally become sons.
Oftentimes, at the beginning of our lives as Christians, God seems so close to us. His presence, though faint, seems to be very great and filled with emotional sweetness. But sooner or later he leaves us to stand on our own. To carry out his will even when we can’t see the immediate fruit.
Like any Father, God wants you to learn to walk. And so he has to take his hand. But if the will to walk is there, He is even pleased with your stumbles.
Don’t be deceived. Satan trembles when he sees people who no longer desire God, yet still intend to do God’s will. When every trace of God seems to have vanished, and we ask why we have been forsaken, yet we still obey - this is when Satan is terrified most.