When It Feels Like God Is Absent
“Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” John 11:5-6
Have you ever felt like God was absent in a particular moment of your life? Maybe you were struggling in your relationship and it felt like you were left on your own. Maybe you experienced the pain of illness in your family or even the death of a loved one, but you prayed so much for healing and recovery. Maybe you felt lost in challenging circumstances, and you felt helpless and abandoned. It felt so real, as if God was absent… But was he?
When Lazarus got sick, Martha and Mary sought Jesus’ help. After all, they were good friends! They sent an urgent message to him, “Lord, the man you love is ill.” Their hope was that he would drop everything and come and cure him. But surprisingly Jesus didn’t drop everything and rush to the bedside of his dying friend. Instead, he stayed on where he was for two whole days. We don’t know why. His delay in coming must have been heart¬breaking for the sisters. Especially when Lazarus eventually died.
When Jesus finally showed up, Martha didn’t hesitate to express her frustration and disappointment, “Lord, if you had been here, our brother would not have died.” Sound familiar? When something bad happens to us or to our loved ones, we can’t help thinking that if God really cared about us, if he really loved us, then he wouldn’t have allowed this thing to happen. We feel abandoned by God. We feel like he has left us alone.
Max Lucado, in his book, Six Hours One Friday, tells the story of a missionary in Brazil who discovered a tribe of Indigenous in a remote part of the jungle. They lived near a large river. The tribe was in need of medical attention. A contagious disease was ravaging the population. People were dying daily.
A hospital was not too far away – just across the river, but the people would not cross it because they believed it was inhabited by evil spirits. To enter the water would mean certain death. The missionary explained how he had crossed the river and was unharmed. They were not convinced. He then took them to the bank and placed his hand in the water. They still wouldn’t go in. He walked into the water up to his waist and splashed water on his face. It didn’t matter.
They were still afraid to enter the river. Finally, he dove into the river, swam beneath the surface until he emerged on the other side. It was then that the Indians broke out into cheers and followed him across.
That’s exactly what Jesus did!
The Paschal Mystery, the culminating event of the Lenten season, reminds us that Jesus immersed himself into human existence. He took on our suffering, pain and death. And even though sometimes it feels like he was absent, he is right there, suffering along with us in order to give us a new life. “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’” John 11:25-26
By Jarek Pachocki OMI
OMI Lacombe Canada – Vocation Director