Is God Hiding in the Shadows or am I?

On Chimerical Mind’s post, he sited a post of a post. Again, I wish I knew the proper way to give credit to the orginal mind that produced this nugget, but I don’t.  The title was “Why is God Hiding?”. I think the guys name was Les Newsom. He related a conversation with a skeptic that was attending his Bible Study. The skeptic bluntly stated that if God wanted faith, why did he play a “cat and mouse” game and hide Himself from us. Why didn’t God just come out and become so obvious that the question of faith or God’s reality was answered. Mr Newsom asked the skeptic the question, “Is God hiding or are you”.

The original idea of the blog was stating that God isn’t hiding, but we are the ones who hide ourselves from God and sometimes from ourselves. He also stated that we often overlook the foundation of faith which is coming to the realization that before faith, we must come to the understanding that we must have utter dependence on Someone or Something other than ourselves. I agree with all of what Mr. Newsom stated. However, the idea of God hiding opened up my heart to some of the hidden thoughts that hide in the shadows of my mind. One of which is the feeling that in the midst of waiting for this miracle of healing, it seems that God is hiding from my heart. And the proverbial question is “Why?” Why must these tumors grow and steal the faith in God’s healing? Why are the tumors not “disappearing” as we have been told by the “Word of Faith” that so many, even two of our doctors, say that is Dan’s destiny? Dan doesn’t verbalize this question as often as I see it in his eyes. Dan is asking why God is hiding Himself and this Miracle that we believe is coming?

The Psalmist poetically puts the words to the feeling of crying out to God with every fiber that is in within him and asks God why has He gone deaf to the prayers of His servant. And we echo that question. Maybe, not in words, because we would have so many well intentioned friends that would tell us that our faith must not be strong enough for God to perform His Word. That may be the case. I don’t know, nor do I understand. I have no trouble saying that I am without understanding. I do not have the faith of a giant or some days, not even faith the size of a mustard seed.

But I do have utter dependence. In every area of our life, financial, health, daily bread etc. we are not able to effect very much of a change. I know the helplessness of dependence. It isn’t a state of comfort especially if you have ever known independence in these areas and that was the case with us. We have gone from owning and operating three businesses, having enough money to do as we please,  and doing as we pleased to not knowing if we will have enough food before the next disablity check rolls into our account. From a human standpoint, independence is preferrable, however it requires little faith. And, as usual, I find that “independence” is an illusion at best. We still need and depend on relationships with family and friend to bring satisfaction to our independence.

You would think that being utterly dependennt would cause faith to grow by leaps and bounds. It definately promotes faith to be dependent, but I find that, instead of faith, I am more grateful because of knowing I cannot effect things at will like I once did. I find a capacity for awe for the small things that I was once too busy to take notice. Every day that Dan wakes up and says, “Good Morning” that I find a miracle in having him with me one more day. Because I know how precious that day is, I don’t want to miss any part of it by sharing it with outside worries and problems. But, that isn’t reasonable because the day is full of outside pressures i.e. money, food, etc.

So, is God hiding? No. It is up to me to look and really see the miracles that are in each day. What about the tumors? We are utterly dependent on God to undertake and remove what the doctors say they are unable to remove. If utter dependence is the foundation of faith, then we are on a sound foundation and we will have faith that those tumors will become shadows of the past. To balance this blind faith that comes from utter dependence, I have matured past the need to believe in a “Santa Claus” kind of God. That child-like faith has grown into a abiding trust. I don’t believe that if you say “Three Hail Mary’s and do 100 hours of good works” that you will recieve that answers to your prayers. I do believe in a sovereign God that knows around any corner in my life. I will say “Yes, and Amen” because I serve this God and He doesn’t serve me.

God is not hiding. Yes, in my foolishness and in my fear, I do hide from Him.  I may not know everything about Him, not can I say that I have the capacity in my finite being to know an infinate God. But, that is why I trust in God. I am limited and He isn’t.

This is the light in the midst of the Valley of the Shadow.

As A Shade of Sheol, A Deep Shadow

I don’t know the proper recognization when you copy and past someone else’s blog, however I wanted this to be a part of my journey. It, in it’s sad way, brought comfort. To see that this Psalm may have been penned by someone who finds the same things that I am finding on this journey thawarts the lonliness. Isn’t that what this life is about? Walking together is better than walking alone. We first walk it with ourselves. We walk it with our God, but the burden is lighter when we walk it with someone. I find that this journey is too painful for friends. They want to fix the humanly unfixable. They begin strong as if they are going into battle, but like any long and drawn out conflict, desertion seems to quickly descend and it isn’t their fault. It is uncomfortable to daily watch prayers go unanswered. It isn’t pleasant to re-affirm daily “Even though He may slay me, YET will I trust Him!!!” It is a definately a place in the shade and when the lonliness sets in, it is a deep shadow.

As a Shade in Sheol: The Experience of Illness

Filed under: Psalms — Jeremy @ 12:48 pm

As I was reading Psalm 88 this morning a footnote in my New Oxford Annotated Bible caught my attention. The commentator suggests that this psalm may have been written by someone suffering a lifelong illness. This conjecture is based on verse 15 – “Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer thy terrors.” This puts a new twist on an already heart-wrenching psalm. Here is the text:

O Lord, my God, I call for help by day;
  I cry out in the night before thee.
Let my prayer come before thee,
  Incline thy ear to my cry!

For my soul is full of troubles,
  And my life draws near to Sheol.
I am reckoned among those who go down to the Pit;
  I am a man who has no strength,
Like one forsaken among the dead,
  Like the slain that lie in the grave,
Like those whom thou dost remember no more,
  For they are cut off from thy hand.
Thou hast put me in the depths of the Pit,
  In the regions dark and deep.
Thy wrath lies heavy upon me,
  And thou dost overwhelm me with all thy waves. Selah

Thou hast caused my companions to shun me;
  Thou hast made me a thing of horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
  My eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon thee, O Lord;
  I spread out my hands to thee.
Dost thou work wonders for the dead?
  Do the shades rise up to praise thee? Selah
Is thy steadfast love declared in the grave,
  Or thy faithfulness in Abaddon?
Are thy wonders known in the darkness,
  Or thy saving help in the land of forgetfulness?

But I, O Lord, cry to thee;
  In the morning my prayer comes before thee.
O Lord, why dost thou cast me off?
  Why dost thou hide thy face from me?
Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
  I suffer thy terrors; I am helpless.
Thy wrath has swept over me;
  Thy dread assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
  They close in upon me together.
Thou hast caused lover and friend to shun me;
  My companions are in darkness.

I have always been healthy; my parents, however, have not. My Mom has had serious bone and joint problems since she was a teenager. And I have watched my Dad suffer from Hepatitis C, an incurable liver disease, for the last fifteen years. He is currently awaiting a liver transplant. So I have witnessed the effects of long-term disease firsthand.

I am reckoned among those who go down to the Pit

The psalmist identifies himself as a shade, the term used in the OT for those who had gone down into Sheol. Shades had an indeterminate existence, a sort of half-life, cut off from the land of the living and, more devastatingly, from God, the source of life. The psalmist, then, is experiencing “hell on earth,” though the phrase isn’t exactly appropriate since it has connotations that would have been unfamiliar to him. He is as good as dead, cut off from the experience of life, his companions, and God.

I am shut in so that I cannot escape

He is cut off from the experience of life. He has been sick for so long that he hardly remembers health, strength, or joy. He is in solitary confinement. There is no escape and no light. Even the food slid in under the door is tasteless, colorless as the walls, and joylessly eaten in silence.

Long-term illness is restrictive. Sometimes literally, as in the case of the bedridden. Taking a drive to enjoy the colors of fall, eating in a favorite restaurant, going fishing – all of these activities become burdensome if not impossible. They used to be means of escape, but when they cannot be enjoyed the effect is detrimental. A source of joy is removed. What is prison if not such a confinement?

Thou hast caused lover and friend to shun me

He is cut off from companions. He has become “a thing of horror to them.” Like the shades, people fear him. They do not understand him and, worse, they see in him their fears for themselves.

Too often we abandon the seriously ill when we are needed most. In cases of long-term illness we sometimes lose interest. We’ll occasionally ask after the person, but we are not actively engaged in supporting them. We are uncomfortable because we don’t know what to say. But simple, caring acts are more important than any words. And, uncomfortable as it may be, it can be good for our souls to face our fear of death by caring for the sick. More importantly, however, it is good for the sick.

O Lord, why dost thou cast me off?

Cut off from God, the source of life. That is the most terrifying thing about the shades. And, like them, the psalmist feels severed from God. He does not feel the vigor of health. He fears death. Why doesn’t God deliver him?

For the believer, this is the greatest torment of illness. The lawyer inside tells us that if we do good, good things will happen, and if we do bad, bad things will happen. “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). The feeling is exacerbated for those who believe in divine healing as the right of every believer. For them, sickness calls into question the very existence of their faith. The sick need to hear from us that God loves them and will sustain them in their illness. Most of the time they don’t need a theodicy. They need the Gospel.

Do the shades rise up to praise thee?

The last nine verses of the psalm are bleak. He sees no rescue from the terrors of death and Sheol. But there is hope after all. In the resurrection of Jesus, God’s wonders have been made known in the darkness and his saving help in the land of forgetfulness. Christ has cast down the gates of Abaddon and broken free, leading captivity captive and giving gifts unto men.

During the Prayer of the Church in our worship services we name the sick. After a while we memorize the list. Yet we sometimes forget that every name represents a soul in turmoil. This is a violation of love, a sin against those people. Let us repent and, like “little Christs,” enter into their suffering with them.