Patricia Hofer

When Christ seems to have abandoned us.

“How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? forever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?” (Psalms 13:1-2) There is something timeless about the psalmist’s plea. Someone could have been saying this very same thing yesterday, perhaps even this morning! That’s because worshipping an invisible God inevitably leads human believers to moments of uncertainty. For example, Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us” (NIV John 14:8).

If, as Christians, we continue to seek such physical evidence, proof that he is “sensibly present” with us, we’re going to feel abandoned more often than comforted. That’s the conclusion CS Lewis offered in his fictional writing THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS. God’s intention, wrote Lewis, isn’t to “override a human will” with evidence of Himself. He is never going to make Himself “Irresistible” or “Indisputable” (39). And so there are always going to be times when the Lord’s face seems hidden, as the psalmist described it—times when we feel forgotten. No believer can avoid that feeling. There are always going to be times when each of us, even the saints and the mystics, “looks round upon a universe from which every trace of [God] seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken and still obeys” (40).

That’s what makes faith a leap! Humbled and helpless, we obey. Bloody and bowed, we follow. And then, when our hearts are empty of all claims or expectation, when we are no longer relying on our own efforts at all, suddenly and amazingly, peaceful certainty returns. Contrary to what Lewis wrote, in these moments of yielding, the Lord’s presence is truly irresistible and indisputable. Reaching out to us, he says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt” (NIV Matt. 14:31)? (Living Large chapter 31)

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