Sometimes in my life God feels distant, but I need to realize that He is real and He is there, even when it doesn't feel like it. It is always easy to be worshipful when life is good, but when times are tough am I able to worship God? It is in the times of trouble that real relationships are forged.
God may feel distant, even if I am a close friend of His. David, who was called "a man after God's own heart" even felt far from God at times. Many of the Psalms he wrote beg God to make His presence felt. Warren ascribes this to God testing us. God will often withdraw His presence from us to test us and to see if we will remain faithful even when we cannot feel Him. Warren points out that though we may feel that it is our sin that is making us feel this way, that is rarely so. I beg to differ on this point. I have found in my life that when God feels distant it is almost always because I am pushing Him away. My sin has driven a wedge between myself and Him.
Warren then teaches that a common mistake many Christians make is to seek an experience in worship rather than simply bringing glory to God. If they feel what they were looking for they conclude that they have worshiped. This is, of course, not what God intends for worship. We need to seek God, not a feeling.
The chapter concludes with some points on how I am to act when God feels distant. I am to tell God exactly how I feel, focus on God's unchanging nature, trust God to keep his promises and remember what He has already done for me. When I focus on these things I will remember that He is and always has been faithful to me. I will have no reason to doubt His love and concern for me.
Warren quotes the Bible twenty one times in this chapter using six translations and paraphrases. A couple of the passages concern me. He provides a lengthy quote of Job 23:8-10 in the New Living Translation which reads vastly different than the NASB. The NLT "interprets" the verses rather than simply translating them. Compare also Today's English Versions rendering of Job 7:11 which reads "I can't be quiet! I am angry and bitter: I have to speak!" to the NASB, "There I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul." The TEV seems to convey anger where the more accurate NASB conveys sorrow and bitterness.
Though not concerned with Bible passages, I am going to note my concern with some of the authors Warren quotes. In this chapter he quotes St John of the Cross (a Catholic mystic who was a devout follower of Mary) and Henri Nouwen (a Catholic theologian). I don't think either one is a trustworthy source to teach us about true Christianity.
Today's question to consider is "How can I stay focused on God's presence, especially when He feels distant." I believe the key is to examine how and when I began to feel distant. Did I start to feel distant after a certain event? After I committed a certain sin? Is there a sin I need to confess to God and then perhaps to someone else? When I have cleared the slate with God and my friends and family I need to turn to His word. The Bible contains all the wisdom I need to be assured of God's closeness to me. The Bible provides comfort and strength. If, after turning to God and to His word I still do not feel God's presence that is when I would start to believe that God might be testing me. In that case I need to continue to read the Bible and to draw strength from Biblical figures, such as Job or Paul, who faced trials and persevered.
Tomorrow's topic is Formed For God's Family