“And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision…” 1 Samuel 3:1
I’ve been reading from 1 Samuel for devotions lately. This phrase struck me and rolled around my mind for a few days.
It’s a painful and sad thing to feel distance from someone you love.
How important is it to feel close to Him?
Why was a word from the Lord scarce during the time of 1 Samuel?
I want to feel close to the Lord…and yet…some days He feels so far away, so impersonal. I feel as if a word from Him is scarce.
Matthew Henry’s commentary says this about the passage:
“Perhaps the impiety and impurity that prevailed in the tabernacle (Eli’s sons were wicked and unchecked), and no doubt corrupted the whole nation, had provoked God, as a token of his displeasure, to withdraw the Spirit of prophecy, till the decree had gone forth for the raising up of a more faithful priest, and then, as an earnest of that, this faithful prophet was raised up.”
I search my heart for sin.
Reveal it to me, Lord! But otherwise…why do you feel so far away?
And then I read His word, trusting, trusting, (trying to trust?), always saying “I believe, Lord help my unbelief!”
His Word is living and active, sharper than a double-edged sword. Surely He will speak to me through it?
Lord, I want to feel closer to you.
I savor the Psalmists’ words – oh, that thirsty soul who sang “earnestly I seek you.”
“For God alone my soul waits in silence…”
“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”
I am not alone. Others have felt the flesh-fainting, the soul-thirsting, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. They humbled and quieted their souls, trusting in the Lord, earnestly seeking Him.
Waiting, quieting…memorizing the words of Jesus:
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” – John 14:21
Again, Matthew Henry’s commentary helps me understand from a fuller context of John and the whole of Scripture:
“What returns he will make to them for their love; rich returns; there is no love lost upon Christ…He loves them, and lets them know that he loves them, smiles upon them, and embraces them…Christ was now leaving his disciples, but promises to continue his love to them; for he not only retains a kindness for believers, though absent, but is doing them kindness while absent, for he bears them on his heart, and ever lives interceding for them…There is a spiritual manifestation of Christ and his love made to all believers. When he enlightens their minds to know his love, and the dimensions of it, enlivens their graces,and draws them into exercise, and thus enlarges their comforts in himself—when he clears up the evidences of their interest in him, and gives them tokens of his love, experience of his tenderness, and earnests of his kingdom and glory,—then he manifests himself to them; and Christ is manifested to none but those to whom he is pleased to manifest himself.”
A promise from the Savior! My heart is comforted in this: 1) I am loved, 2) He will manifest Himself to me.
But there is more: “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them…”
I must continue to follow and trust.
But what about when I feel that He is so distant?
“Feelings aren’t the most important thing. They will come and they will go…” – my faithful husband’s reminder.
And then from C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters” a bit of light is cast on my own soul as the fictional demon-uncle “Screwtape” instructs his young demon-nephew in how to ruin the life of his charge (a man):
“…even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to call it ‘real life’ and don’t let him ask what he means by ‘real.'”
My attention is too often fixed on “the stream of immediate sense experiences,” rather than universal issues, or absolute truths that I know from God’s word. How easy it is to be focused on my feelings of nearness or distance – rather than on what is actually real and important – the invisible, eternal.
In the ordinary days, it is easy to forget that there is so much in the unseen. I feel far away, but is He really so distant?
Perhaps He is here, beside me in the morning, directing my fingers as I turn His pages…
Perhaps His love is too big for my finite emotions to absorb and feel…
Perhaps one day, in Heaven (where He is preparing a place for me), I will understand and the “distance” will be a distant memory.