Embracing the Absent Presence (Part 1)

The name given to my hope, is Immanuel.

Which is translated from the Hebrew tradition: "God is with us."

Have you ever, in the midst of a ferocious storm, searched for the calming touch of the One who can quiet the winds and silence the waves? And in your calling out, found no answer?

Well, I have. And it has messed with my theology.

I worship the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I celebrate His promise that He will never leave me forsaken or alone. I have encouraged my friends to trust the nearness of the Abba Father in the struggle of loneliness. After all, the Scriptures insist that He is close to the brokenhearted.

But if I were to be really honest, I have screamed out for his help; the waves have overcome me, and in my sinking, I am reaching. reaching. reaching.

And there have been times when there was no answer. Heaven was silent. Immanuel seemed to have been a nice flannel-graph Christmas story, about as real as reindeer and rooftops.

In my agony, my faith wilted. In heaven's coldness, my hope grew weary. In transcendent distance, God seemed to be an amnesiac, bi-polar mystery, with multiple personalities. Even His own autobiographical confessions articulate His paradox. Which is it, is He near or far, immanent or distant? Has He predetermined all things, or has He left certain elements of human freedom open for our choosing? Is He the Abba "Daddy" Father, or is He the Holy Terror?

When I read about the cruel suffering of the innocent, cosmic earthquakes, tsunamis that wipe out thousands of small children, and 4 million women and children forced into human sexual trafficking, I can't help but to wonder: Where is Immanuel? Where is this Divine Presence who has promised to be with us in the struggle?

I am learning to embrace the absent presence of the Resurrected Christ. I am learning how to pray differently; to ask for the Kingdom of Mercy to invade this hurting world. I am attempting to be content in the mystery of His paradox.


Hillary said...

Looking forward to the continuation...please keep writing.

Jen Wags said...

Lifes biggest mysteries aren't for us to understand. Just when you begin to try, they only seem more confusing. I know you struggle with feeling alone and because of that, there is a deep pain inside of you that makes you feel like even God is removed from things that matter in your life. This couldn't be farther from the truth but sometimes we can't see past the pain. The words you write bring so many different emotions out and ultimately make me want to just come and sit next to you in silence. I remember the feeling (loneliness). I'm on the other side now and remember how God used you to bring me hope.
Thank you. Daily praying for you. xo

Terry said...

what a perfect comment jerry d that jen has made.
i think that some of the struggles christians has had, that those are the people that truly understand when others have gone through the same thing...and it will not be just mouth speaking but an understanding heart!
god continue to use you jerry d and to make you a blessing and an encourager....from terry

Moments said...

Jesus, too, experienced the momentary absence of His Father's presence when He was hanging on the cross. His physical suffering was part of God's plan, God's will, and God's sovereign design. It was hard, even horrific, but it was orchestrated by His own Father who loved Him beyond our comprehension and was even "one" with Him. As brutal as Christ's suffering was that Good Friday night, the worst part had to be the moment when His Father (the One who He had had perfect unbroken communion with for all eternity) turned His back and forsook Him. God turned away, refusing to look upon the sin of the world that was laid upon the shoulders of His son. He poured out His wrath on sin - all sin, our sin - and His son bore the weight of that wrath. Jesus, like you have, cried out in agony, "My God, why have you forsaken me?" As much as it is painful for us to feel what seems like the absence and silence of God, we are human, broken, sinners. Jesus was sinless, perfect, and wholly united with His Father in perfect communion, so His pain was far greater than anything we could imagine. Whatever loneliness we feel, and however abandoned we seem sometimes, we have a Savior who understands exactly what we're going though. He relates to our every hurt and sees every tear that falls. He clothed Himself in humanity so He would know every emotion we feel. He left heaven to walk in our shoes. He has suffered alongside us, or more accurately, we have suffered alongside Him. His word tells us that He was tempted and tried at all points, just as we are. We have a Savior who understands us. He knows we are but dust. And this fallen world we live in is full of brokenness, pain, and suffering. But it is but for a moment - a flash in eternity - a wink in God's time. Our earthly life is so short - but a vapor - compared to the eternity of glory and perfection we get to experience for a length of time that goes far beyond even millions of years. The hurts of this world are a blink of an eye compared to the triumphs we get to partake in eternally because of the grace and mercy of our God. That is why I believe Paul says he can rejoice in suffering and has learned to be content in all points. He knew this world was not his home, and he was looking to the future. He understood the relationship of eternity to this brief instant on earth. It's a huge test of our faith to have to endure some of the things we do here. Do we really believe God's word when He says He will never leave or forsake us? Do we choose to believe Him, even when our feelings tell us something so different than His promise? Do we trust ourselves and what we know, feel and experience... or do we trust Him? I agree with you - the tragedies of this world, and even my own lesser life-difficulties have broken my heart and continue to cause me to wonder what God is doing. But in the end, I whole-heartedly believe that "God works ALL things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose." He says "all" things, so I believe "all" things. Even when I can't see it.
I love reading your posts. They are so insightful, so passionate, and so raw & honest. I'm so thankful for your transparency. You are deeply loved - by your family, your God, and by US. Keep sharing!