Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wednesday Wanderings: A Question of Faith

Late last week, a reader sent me an email, asking about how someone could really KNOW and experience a relationship with God.

She wanted to know how someone who believes, who knows that there is a God, how can that person experience God, when after several years, they "feel" nothing?

She was asking because someone she loves dearly is a believer, he goes through the daily routines of prayer and wants a relationship with God. But, he says that he hasn't felt the connection in over four years. The reader wants to know how she can help this man.

Her question is both timely and timeless.

I know that all of us go through the droughts of the spiritual wilderness. I know what all of us feel alone, feel nothing from time to time. It is not from a lack of wanting, nor a lack of trying. And I don't know why it happens.

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All that I know to do during the times like that are to keep going. To lean into my faith, to love more, to give more, to pour myself into the things I love, and know that God is there, right beside me as I go.

In thinking on these moments of wilderness, of no visible anchor, of a vast emptiness, I find my heart resting with the Isrealites. Just 75 days out into the literal wilderness (of 40 years total), they began to question, to bicker, but in response, what does God do with this complaint? He does what God does and showers his people with love and provisions, and honors His promise to them. He gives the Israelites manna (bread) in the morning and quail at night. And when the Israelites were gathering the manna in the morning, “they said ‘what is it?’ for they did not know what it was.”

I love this because manna means “what is it?” in Hebrew.

And the next part blows my mind. As the people gathered the manna “some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.”

God provided for each of the Israelites “just as much as they needed.” Even with the complaining, the dramatics, all of it, God just gave the people what they needed.

This is what I will try to take from the wilderness. It is a foreign landscape. We may not know long we are to wander, nor where our journey will lead us. But we can take heart that while we are out here, while we are wandering, that God will continue to stay true to His promise to each of us. Even when don't think we can see, or hear, or feel God's presence, God is listening, He is there, standing by us. God will be there with us, giving us exactly what we need to get through, and making sure that we have enough to sustain us for the journey.

And so as I consider wilderness, and I consider this reader's question, I hope that she can take heart in an answer as old as any story. In every wilderness, there is manna. Just like the desert, God has placed what we need within our grasp because God hears our cries and answers prayers whether they are eloquently phrased or not. Like the Israelites, we may not recognize what “manna” is right away, even though it’s sitting right before us each morning, or surrounds us every night. I may even ask “what is it?” as each piece of manna presents itself. For our part, we must have faith, and the courage to open my eyes and look for God’s blessings in the wilderness. The blessings may not be completely apparent right now, it may take weeks or months or years for us to be able to look back and see the gifts for what they were. But in time, the picture will become clear, and each of us will be able to see the "manna" and blessings that were given to us. I hope that this reflection can bring solace to this reader. I hope that she can see that even while the connection to God may seem distant, God is there, God is providing, God is faithful. And when we can't feel it, we must keep the faith and know that God is out there, keeping His promises.







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