There are times when God seems absent. It seems that direction and blessing are gone. We have no sense that our prayers are being heard. We may be in a time of stress and trial, where there seems to be no relief in sight. Service that formerly brought us joy becomes dry and unrewarding. And we ask: Why?
At this point, the theological knowledge of God’s Omnipresence doesn’t help. This tells us that God is theoretically present. But, since the evidences of God’s favor seem missing from our life, this theoretical knowledge is no comfort. If God is present, why does God seem to be standing apart from us?
The Psalms often speak of these times. There is no denial here. The reality is that God’s most devoted followers sometimes go through dark times when God seems absent.
I have often reflected on this. It seems strange to me, but it is true: there have been seasons of blessing and seasons of darkness. I don’t know why. There have been times when I seemed to be living under a curse. Then, there have been times of blessing. And, it often doesn’t seem to make sense. I’ve never been able to connect these times of curse with moral faults either — something I notice Job’s companions tried to do for also him — and failed. Times of darkness happen unexpectedly, without warning or underlying reason. (more…)
[Update 4-14-2017: The blog mentioned in this post no longer exists. The links do not work. But, because of continued interest in this post, I am not (for the time being) removing it. William Birch currently blogs at: The Episcocrat.]
Let me draw your attention to two particularly excellent — and very personal — posts by William Birch over at his new blog, the further. William Birch has been blogging for a long time about classical Arminian theology. But, at his new blog he is addressing issues related to Christian sexual ethics. And, he has reason to: he is himself a same-gender attracted person. He writes:
Often, Christian sexual ethics is at variance with the given surrounding culture. My goal is to challenge the Church to treat the LGBTQ community with dignity, honor, and respect; yet to do so and not compromise their varied, respective, biblical beliefs.
It is especially difficult to write about these issues in the church. So much of the church is caught up in the American Culture War, that it is often hard to hear what some people are actually saying. (more…)
I’ve said something about my usual habits in reading the Psalms here: Praying the Psalms. Briefly stated, my usual procedure in reading, meditating and praying with the Psalms is to read consecutively and slowly. For this purpose I use an Interlinear (Hebrew with English below) edition of the Psalms. And, usually this approach works very well.
But, with Psalm 106 this didn’t work. With Psalm 106 it was necessary for me to see the opening verses of praise (vv. 1-5) in the light of their larger context.
When I began to read and meditate on the Psalm, I was struck by the language of praise and worship in the opening verses (though they were similar to verses found elsewhere in the Psalms), but then I got “stuck” (from verse 6 onward) in a long section that recounts the sins of the nation of Israel (verses 6-46) and God’s unfailing commitment to them in spite of all that.
This forced me to go back to the beginning and read it over again. The opening verses of praise to God (הַלְלוּיָהּ “Hallelujah”!) are delivered in the conscious memory of the people’s repeated unfaithfulness.
This is praise in the context of guilt. (more…)