We’ve all been there, maybe we’re there now, and most certainly we will be there sometime in the upcoming New Year: Up to our eyeballs in troubles, and it seems that the more we cry out to God, the farther away He seems. Or perhaps it is wisdom we seek. There is a vital decision to be made, one that could have huge ramifications on the rest of our lives; but when we ask God what to do? Total silence. Is He even hearing our prayers? Have we–lost God?
Jesus’ parents knew how we feel. They–quite literally–lost Jesus. He had been with His parents to Jerusalem for the Passover, and when they left, He wasn’t with them. The Bible records: “But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there.” (Luke 2: 43b-44 NLT).
What is interesting is that His parents didn’t even realize He was missing at first: “After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, because they assumed he was among the other travelers…” (Luke 2:42-43 NLT). We don’t know how far Mary and Joseph had gone from Jerusalem before they realized Jesus wasn’t with them, but we know that in the very least, they were already on their road home. We also know that they even when they realized He wasn’t with them, they waited until evening to get worried, assuming He was simply with His friends!
If I think back to the times in my life when it seemed that God was completely absent, when I am certain that I misplaced Him somewhere, I have to admit that in all honesty, I may not even be asking God for help/wisdom/etc. until things begin to get critical, and even then, when I don’t find Him right away, I just keep pressing on, assuming that He’ll be there at just the right times!
But Jesus wasn’t there in the evening, and neither is God there when I finally start to seek Him earnestly. What then? Is it simply, “yeah, impeccable timing, God!” Or is there some other reason why God appears to be so absent at the most inconvenient times?
The Bible records Mary and Joseph searched three days for Jesus without finding even the slightest hint of where He might be: “…they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. Three days later they finally discovered him…” (Luke 2:45b, 46a NLT). And I can totally relate! Especially if there is an important decision to be made or a critical problem that isn’t going way. Sometimes those three days stretch to three weeks, even three months…And in one instance that comes to mind, God has been silent for three years, and is still silent!
So what do we do?
Mary and Joseph give us the answer: “…they finally discovered him in the Temple…” (Luke 2:46b NLT)!
What do we do when Jesus seems so far away? When it seems we’ve “misplaced” God? When we seek Him for days/weeks/months on end to no avail? When it appears for all practical purposes that…God doesn’t care about us and our situation?
We do what Mary and Joseph did! We seek Him…in the temple!
Okay, I know what you’re thinking…I’m talking in riddles! In Jesus’ day there was aliteral temple. Mary and Joseph had a physical place to look. Jesus was in a tangible spot. We don’t have a literal, physical, or even tangible temple in our neighbourhood.
Or do we?
The Bible teaches that our bodies are temples of God’s Spirit: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Cor. 6:19a NIV). This means that God resides in our hearts.
Remember that Jesus was in the temple the entire time His parents were searching for Him, but it wasn’t until they looked in the right place that they found Him. What this means for us is that when it feels like we’ve “lost God”, when He seems to be miles away, when we can’t seem to find Him, it isn’t because He has moved! He is in our heart-temple–all the time! The problem is that we are looking in the wrong places!
So how, then, do we look for God in our hearts? How can we enter this “temple of the Holy Spirit” where God is?
Psalm 100 gives us some vital clues:
1. “Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!…Come before Him, singing with joy.” (vs. 1, 2b)
2. “Worship the Lord with gladness” (vs. 2a).
3. “Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” (vs. 2b,3)
4. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving; Go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.” (vs. 4)
The way to find God when He seems to have been “lost” is to come before Him, singing with joy; giving Him thanks and praising His name; Worshiping Him with gladness; and meditating upon how He has made us, how we are His people.
Also notice what is NOT on this list: There is no mention whatsoever of our prayer requests! When we want to find the “missing” God, our best bet is to put our own agendas aside and simply worship Him!
Does God appear to be “absent” in the midst of your current trials? Seek Him with thanksgiving and praise, and you’ll be guaranteed to find Him.
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, andScriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, withAnswers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.