316) When God is Absent (part three)

     (continued…)  The two previous meditations have made the point that while God is absent we are being tested.  We are expected to remain faithful while we wait for that time when the Lord will return and be with us in person as he was with the disciples.  In the meantime, Jesus said, we should keep the faith and live lives of obedience; and, we should keep in touch with God in the ways he has provided and commanded– worship, prayer, the sacraments, and the reading of his Word.

     However, we may get impatient in our waiting and begin to resent God’s absence.  We might even demand a sign of his presence, saying to the Lord, “God, I am going to say my prayers now and then I will wait and see if you are going to do as I ask, and by that I will know if you are really there.”  Many prayers have been said in this way.

    When we pray like that we must realize that we are putting God to the test.  And it may seem to us, at times, that God does not pass the test we have set up for him.  We might end up waiting for a God who does not seem to come through for us.  It might seem clear to us that God was not there with the answer to our prayer that we wanted, or the healing that we expected, or the guidance that we needed.

     In Luke 4:12 when Jesus was being tempted by the devil, Jesus made it very clear that we should not put the Lord our God to the test.  Rather, we should understand that it is God who may putting us to the test, even in our praying.  Maybe it is God who is waiting for something from us.  Maybe God is waiting to see if we will grow stronger in adversity.  Maybe God is waiting for us to appreciate all the blessings he has already given to us before answering our prayers for more.  Maybe God is waiting to see if we will keep the faith even when disappointed.  Maybe God is waiting to see if we will obey him even when being obedient is difficult and painful.  Maybe God is waiting to see if we will keep paying attention to him even when we do not get what we so desperately want.  In his absence, perhaps God is waiting to see how we will respond to the test.  In all the parables and verses referred to in the two previous meditations there is, when the Master returns, an accounting, a day of reckoning.  On that day we will be the ones who will accountable to God.  We must remember that before it is too late.

    For the next little while Jesus will not be with us in the flesh.  If we remain faithful, we will one day see him.  In the meantime we are being tested by that absence.  Of course, God is not totally absent from our lives.  He is present in his Word, and we can know that presence if we will sit still and hear it, and then, in that Word, God will work saving faith in our hearts.  Then, when Jesus comes again, we will be ready to receive him in faith and hope and love.
Luke 4:12   —   Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 
James 1:12   —   Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.  
Psalm 26:2   —   Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and mind.
Isaiah 45:9, 11, 12, 15, 22  —  The Lord said:  “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker…  Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’…  Do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands?  It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it.  My own hands stretched out the heavens…”
Isaiah said:  “Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Savior of Israel.”
The Lord said:  “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God and there is no other.
    Give me, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy affection may drag downwards; give me an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out; give me an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside.  Amen.   
–St. Thomas Aquinas