Approximately twenty years ago, I went through a very difficult time in pastoral ministry. I began to question my call. I started thinking of ways to find employment other than in ministry. It was an extremely depressing situation. I suffered through this for several months. I never shared my thoughts and feelings with anyone except for my wife, and she did not share my struggles with anyone either. I prayed hard about it, but it seemed as if God was simply not answering my petitions for help. I felt I had reached the end of my rope.
Then something unexpected started to happen. People in the church began to affirm my ministry in an unsolicited manner. On one occasion I was leaving the church building after worship and someone approached me in the hallway and said, "I just want to tell you how thankful I am that God has called you to our church." And then a few days later a former parishioner, who had moved out of state, called for no reason other than to share how much he missed my preaching on Sunday morning. Another person stopped by the office and shared with me what a positive impact I had on her family. This went on three to four times a week for about a month. It took me a couple of weeks, but I began to realize that what was happening was not coincidental, but that God was indeed supplying his answer to my prayers.
It has become fashionable in some circles today to view God as an absentee landlord, as one who is not too involved in our lives, who is rather distant. There are those who find comfort in an uninvolved deity. A distant God doesn't meddle in our affairs and doesn't threaten the way we want to live our lives. And it is indeed true that God's will for our lives can come into tension with life as we have it planned. But it is also the case that the presence and the leading of God in our midst demonstrates the depth of God's love and concern for us. When God's will steps on what we want, even that shows God's love in that God wants what is good for us; and how true it is that we do not always know what is best. A distant God is a deity that does not care.
God is with us, as the Psalmist says, "Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?" (139:7). In the noise of the day God is there. In the silence of our pain God is there. In the wilderness of our confusion God is there. In this moment as you read this post, God is with you.
God is not an absentee landlord. Thanks be to God!
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