One of the men I’ve been discipling is in a state of spiritual desolation. He describes it like this. “I remember when reading the Bible was like eating delicious cake.” He can remember when his life was filled with joy and the presence of God. Now he isn’t even sure where God is. This is not a popular and joyous subject. Still the question needs to be asked, why does God allow this? It’s an age old question. In fact, an entire book of the Bible, Job, is dedicated to the question.
Make no mistake, God does allow these times. Most experienced Christians have gone through them. We should make no room for what my wife calls “Pink and Blue Christianity.” That is the sticky sweet, fake Christianity where everything is pained in pretty pastel colors. Everything looks like a Thomas Kinkade painting. That isn’t real; and it isn’t particularly helpful.
There is no biblical evidence that God is the cause of these difficult periods of spiritual desolation. But for some reason he does allow them. So, I’d like to briefly discuss three reasons for desolation.
A Wake Up Call
Not every spiritual desolation is our fault. In fact, many have nothing to do with what we have done through proactive behavior or negligence. However, the fact remains that we can arrive in a spiritually bleak place because of our own behavior. We are tempted and we succumb. Usually this starts in very small ways. We don’t stick to our regular disciplines of prayer and bathing our minds in the word of God. Or we allow someone to get under our skin. Instead of ignoring boorish behavior we say something. Then the devil piles on. He starts fueling our little laps. He entices us to do it again, and once more, then again. The next thing we know we are on a completely different path than the one we normally walk. Now we are tempted to bigger transgressions, more proactive behavior.
We all know the drill. David stays home for a break from his normal kingly duties and the next thing you know he is caught up in a web of adultery and murder. In David’s case he found himself, first blithely ignoring the signs of his own sin. God sent the prophet Nathan to remedy that. Then David found himself in full blown desolation. Nathan, along with the spiritual misery, was David’s wake up call. David did the right thing. He confessed and got his heart right with God. You can read David’s heartfelt confession in Psalm 51.
In Pink and Blue Christianity, God never tests us. He just piles on blessing after blessing; making our life go from good to better. The birds sing in the trees and it never rains. Baloney. The actual God of the Bible is an interactive God who teaches us through life situations. While he may not cause difficulty and desolation in our lives, he does allow it. Read the book of Job, particularly the first chapter. God knows that the deepest growth in our lives often comes through hardship and pain. This is God acting like a mature father. A mature father allows his children to be tested. He does this to strengthen their resolve to follow him. A mature father knows that the best things in life, like wisdom, knowledge and compassion have their price. That price is not monetary; it comes with the bumps and bruises of experience and hardship. Tests are the acts of a deeply loving and mature Father. He knows it hurts, and he also knows it is worth it.
Learning That His Presence is a Gift
I love experiencing the presence of God. But I find that I’ve grown so used to it that I don’t realize how precious it is until, for some reason, it’s gone. I experienced that for a few days last week. For some reason it just felt like God wasn’t there. I hadn’t done any overt sin. I reviewed my life before God and I wasn’t doing anything particularly bad. Yet, prayer was hard. Connecting with God was hard. I felt like I was talking to the sidewalk instead of having a conversation. I missed God. I felt lonely for him. I wanted him back, and I told him so. Then on Friday it lifted. It had nothing to do with something I did. He was just back. And I was glad to have him back. I speak metaphorically of my sense of his presence. He really never left. But in not allowing me to experience him, he taught me once again how good it is to know him and be with him.
- Do you have Pink and Blue Christianity Syndrome? Are you willing to swallow the bitter pills that cure it? Can you trust God that the cure is better than the disease?
- Can you think of any other reasons God would allow desolation in our lives?
- Do you find it hard to believe that this kind of pain can be allowed from a loving God?
- Did you ever have a deep desolation then came out the other side? Do you feel that you learned from it or grew through it in significant ways?