The old question is: “If God seems farther away than he used to—guess who moved?” The presumed answer is that we have moved; the blame is on our shoulders. We must look around, or look within, or look somewhere to find a remedy for the situation.

Unfortunately, this is where the analysis usually ends. The old saying does not go on to give any real help to us. While it may aptly describe the problem, it offers no solution.

Yet what this question points us toward is real enough for most Christians. The problem is the sense of the absence of the presence of God. Or to put it positively, the presence of the absence of God in our lives. For some, this difficulty never seems to arise. Their faces are always radiant and smiling; they seem always to be on a “spiritual high.” The Christian experience of these “sky-blue” believers reminds us of the old song, “Home on the Range,” for apparently their lives are ones where “seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day”!

But for many Christians the life of faith is more realistic, their quest for faith more of a struggle. There are times when we are vitally aware of God’s presence; but there are those other times when he seems agonizingly absent. Sudden sorrow or tragedy may rob us of faith for a time. Yet even when we are not facing such adversities, the flame of faith does not always bum brightly. Contemporary life itself with its baffling scientific, moral, and spiritual perplexities is often enough to keep our faith from sailing on an even keel. So the experience of the absence of the presence of God is often a real one. No wonder we identify with biblical people who knew the same thing: Job, the psalmist, even Jesus.

How do we understand and deal with the ...

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