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Is God MIA?

March 13, 2017

“Is God here with us or not?” Exodus 17:7 (The Message)

Rick Warren writes about times of spiritual dryness in our lives when God seems to be MIA–missing in action.[1] During these times, we feel spiritually empty. We don’t sense God’s presence. We don’t hear his voice. God feels distant, and we wonder if he is there. We can’t seem to connect with him in our prayer life. We thirst for God, but don’t feel his presence. We ask, “Are you there God?”

The theme of spiritual dryness runs through this week’s Scripture texts.[2]

In the Old Testament reading we see the Israelites testing God by asking with impunity whether he is there: “Is God here with us or not?” Exodus 17:7.  They had been ragging on Moses for bringing them into the wilderness only to die of thirst. Like a father frustrated with his ungrateful and unruly brood, Moses cries out to God: “What can I do with these people? Any minute now they’ll kill me!” (Exodus 17: 4, The Message). God rescued Moses and led him to a rock water fountain. The Israelites were going through a period of spiritual dryness; they lost their faith at the first sign of trouble. But God came through and led Moses to water.

The Psalmist reminds the Israelites of that bit of history: “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did. (Psalm 95: 8-9).

Hold On

There is no doubt that we, like the Israelites, go through periods of spiritual dryness and  suffering.  But Paul reminds us that even our suffering can ultimately bring about joy: “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5).

You need to hold on. God is here with you, even if you don’t “feel” his presence.  He feels your pain. He feels your emptiness. He feels your despair. He is sitting next to you, even though you can’t see him. Turn to him in prayer and be assured that he hears you.

Living Water

Jesus brings all of the Scriptures together in his discussion with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in Sychar. He compares the water from the well to the water he offers: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ . . . Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water [in the well] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” (John 4: 10, 13-15). The fact that Jesus even spoke to her was shocking, because Jewish men did not speak to Samaritan women of ill repute. By speaking to her, Jesus was broadcasting that the gospel message, his message of hope and truth, is for everyone—not just for a select few.

The words of Scripture bathe us with the assurance that God is always with us, even in times of despair and when he seems to be missing in action from our lives. He encourages us to hang on, to drink from the well of his amazing love as revealed to us in Scripture. When we pray, we lower our buckets into the bottomless well of his love, and receive his living water. We receive encouragement to go on. We receive guidance from his Word. He puts people in our lives to assist us in our faith journey and in our struggles. We grow in faith and are assured that he will keep his promises and be with us forever.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, Zondervan, p. 108.

[2] The Scripture texts for the Third Sunday in Lent are Psalm 95:1-7; Exodus 17:1-7; Romans 5:1-8; John 4: 5-26.

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