Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Hide and Seek (08/07/08)
TITLE: Finding God in the Shadows
By Debi Derrick
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My heart said to You, ‘Your face, Lord, I will seek.’
“Do not hide Your face from me…” -- Psalm 27:8-9a
Hide and seek is to childhood what good barbeque is to beef brisket – you just can’t imagine one without the other. Children seem to discover its joys with little adult prompting. Whoever is “it” stands, nose pressed into the scratchy bark of a tree or the smooth plaster of a wall, and counts while others scatter in hopes of remaining delightfully hidden from the soon-to-be seeker.
Those of us who know the Lord, however, often find ourselves playing a different kind of game of hide and seek. It’s one that usually takes place once our faith has matured a bit. And while it sometimes leads to amazing discoveries deep within, it is decidedly not the source of light-hearted fun that accompanies the childhood version. It doesn’t even happen in the real, flesh-and-blood world. Rather, it takes place in that spiritual parallel universe we find so present yet so mysteriously far away.
When we come to know God as Savior and Heavenly Father, He places an undying, ever-comforting spiritual light within us. But one day, He moves into the shadows. We wonder where He went, why He isn’t speaking into our hearts the way He once did, why He isn’t the constant comfort we’ve come to expect.
King David was familiar with those moments of withdrawal. He knew that sometimes Jehovah’s presence went into hiding when he chose to let sin draw a veil of darkness over his heart. In those times, only repentance could restore fellowship, as it did after his disastrous affair with Bath Sheba.
The prophet Elijah was also familiar with those moments of God’s hidden presence. Elijah was the central figure in a tremendous confrontation with the prophets of Baal in which God clearly and magnificently displayed His power to the children of Israel. Yet the very next day, one woman sent Elijah running for his life, praying that God would let him die. From the emotional mountaintop to the emotional pit – in 24 hours or less. God’s first response? Sleep. Bread. Water. The real-world demands of his physical body needed to be met.
Fast forward to our own day and time. Mother Teresa, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for her service to the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, experienced her own dark night of the soul – one that lasted for years after making her choice to dedicate herself to those in need. She wrote to the Rev. Michael van der Peet: “Jesus has a very special love for you. [But] as for me, the silence and emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see – listen and do not hear – the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak ….”
Rose Marie Berger, associate editor of Sojourners magazine tells about Mother Teresa taking on a discipline of “smiling at God” in the emptiness and later writing, “I have come to love the darkness.”
Unlike David and Elijah, we will not know this side of heaven why God hid Himself from Mother Teresa. But we do know that in His hiding, the light within her shone ever more brightly for the rest of us. Who knows? That may prove to be what it was all about. The rest of us.
David and Elijah found peace and restoration of fellowship by taking specific, God-directed actions. Mother Teresa found peace simply by believing in spite of her Lord’s absence.
In Psalm 27, the Lord calls to David to seek His face. David declares that he will and one verse later states unequivocally that even if his parents forsook him, he knew the Lord would not. Simply believing. In darkness or light. In times of trouble or comfort. When His face is before us. And when it is not.
Therein lies peace.
“When God is silent, we are always worried that He is absent. We have His promise that He is never absent from us. That silence is a reminder that we long for Him, that we hunger for Him, that we thirst for Him. You and I only hunger and thirst, and only miss what is real. A reminder of His reality.” – Dr. Donald W. Scates
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