Updated: Jul 6, 2021
One of my favorite places to be- okay, probably my favorite place- is the cemetery near my house. A little weird, I know, but I come here frequently on my way home from work. I picked up this habit almost a year ago, and it feels like driving home when I pull up through those tombstones and park in front of the massive cross displaying a scrawny, dead Jesus. Countless nights I’ve sat in this space, sometimes spewing out every thought to the open air, sometimes sitting in silence, and sometimes sobbing and making a mess of myself.
About a week ago, I started to get pretty fed up with the lack of response I receive in these times. I decided to make it easy for God. I placed a blade of grass on the cement near where my car was parked and asked God if He was real, and if He was listening, to set the blade of grass on fire. I felt silly being so superstitious, and told myself I didn’t need the outcome I was hoping for, that it was just worth trying. Of course(?), nothing happened. I told myself it was cool… then I cried.
So began a week of spiraling down a black hole of doubt and bitterness. In fact, in all honesty, it was only during preparation for this post that I have begun to lean into trusting God’s timing; I’m still fighting impatience and contempt. But, thankfully, we’ve got a pretty handy book exemplifying thousands of years of the way God works through humanity. And there are a few characters in there who have dealt with feeling distant from God.
One, maybe obvious, fellow who stuck out to me was Job. Job’s life had hit the fan; he lost just about everything. He complained and sulked in self-pity, but he talked to God. For a long time (we don’t know how long for sure), he felt miserable and alone. Eventually, God clued him in on the fact that He has a purpose that Job doesn’t know sh*t about. And, in the end, Jesus disses Job’s friends who made Job out to be in the wrong, declaring that Job has spoken truth, restoring him and doubling his fortune. Catch that? Job didn’t feel God’s presence or hear from God for an extended period of time, but God was directly involved in the process.
David had a pretty sweet God-given title: “a man after My own heart.” I can hardly imagine how honored I would feel to have God say something like that about me. But even this guy, who God spoke highly of, went through a lengthy period when he felt distant from and ignored by God. Here David is, being pursued by his enemy, and where is God? But David doesn’t shrug off God’s seeming absence from his scenario; he cries out to God. But God is not in a rush like we are. David was in grief with his thoughts, and thinking never saved him. But God used these years of David’s waiting to mature him until he eventually became king. Years. What we want to happen in minutes/days/months, God might work through a much longer timeline.
Joseph’s dreams of ruling took years of labor and imprisonment to come to fruition. Sarah and Abraham didn’t have their child until Sarah was very old, so old that she had laughed at the suggestion. Why didn’t God just make things happen? We cannot fully understand the mysterious ways in which God works, but I do know this: if God had just done what I wanted him to and set that blade of grass on fire, I would have learned nothing about waiting on God. God doesn’t seem to typically hand out the answers to our prayers immediately on a silver platter; He works like a ninja, slowly and subtly guiding people and events to work toward His purpose, all while respecting our free will. He is always there, but reveals Himself when and where we least expect it, we just need to have faith that He knows what He’s doing, and never stop calling out to Him.
Cole, S. J. (2013, April 18). Psalm 13: When God Seems Distant. Bible.org.
The cover image is a piece by Colleen Briggs. You can find more of her art here: