So Crushed in Spirit
There’s a passage in the beginning of Exodus 6 where Moses goes to the people bringing words of hope and promise. It says that people could not even listen to him. They were so crushed in spirit and so under the weight of their harsh slavery.
It’s interesting that Scripture captures both the subjective experience of being internally broken, crushed, and distraught, and it captures an external experience: that there was something objectively hard in their lives.
They couldn’t even hear.
Sharing in Christ’s Suffering
So, the experience of God feeling far away is a common one.
What is so remarkable in how the Bible approaches people in suffering—fully cognizant that they feel God is far away—is that over and over again it says “he’s near, he’s in it, and he’s going through this with you.”
Faith at its heart is objective—it’s about someone who is there, irrespective of how I feel.
In saying that Jesus is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, it’s saying he was actually the one that suffered and was tempted in all ways as you are, went through the afflictions of what it means to be human. He went through betrayal, mortality, physical pain, being mocked, and humiliated. He’s with you, and he’s not going to forsake you.
An understandable battle in the human heart arises where when something is very hard and God seems far away. People can be tempted to give up on God, looking for a quick a fix, weighing God’s closeness by a feeling, experience, or sense. And, God may give a sense of his presence. He may show up in some way that’s visible and evident in what happens—a change of circumstances.
But, there’s another way where his purposes in us is that our faith would grow up. We all love the subjective experience of faith with joy and a sense of closeness to God, but faith at its heart is objective—it’s about someone who is there, irrespective of how I feel.
Often, only really hard affliction can push you to the point where either you give up on on God and like Job’s wife you say Curse God and die, or you hold fast allowing your faith to prove true to who God really is.
He is near and he is with us in what we go through.
David Powlison (MDiv, Westminster Theological Seminary) is a teacher, a counselor, and the executive director of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation. He is also the senior editor of the Journal of Biblical Counseling and the author of Seeing with New Eyes, Good and Angry, and Speaking Truth in Love.