Encouragement When God Feels Far Away

Christmas is a special time of year. There are all of the “regular” things we do at Christmas. We bake cookies, decorate trees and homes, visit with family, and have huge dinners. Alongside those are the “churchy” things we use to celebrate the season. We sing Carols, light candles, put on Christmas pageants and plan Christmas Eve services. Chances are there are still more dinners to attend.

We take this season to celebrate, not all of the things, but Jesus. It’s one of two big days every year we make an extra effort to put Jesus at the forefront of everything. And we even have a measure of permission to do it.

Most of us are used to celebrating Christmas in one form or another every year. We expect it to come. Many of us are also familiar with the Scriptures detailing the events surrounding Jesus’ birth. It would be hard to forget for some. But when Christ came, God’s people were in the middle of wondering if God would ever speak to them again.

From the time of Moses through the end of the Old Testament (Malachi), God’s people were never long without a prophetic voice. There were periods of silence, or at least of words from God that weren’t recorded for our benefit. Yet none of them compared to the drought between the Testaments.

A prophet spoke directly to the people on God’s behalf. Depending on the sources you look through, this period of God’s people hearing through the prophets lasted anywhere from 1000 to 2000 years. That is a long time to get used to someone’s voice.

Then God seems to have stopped speaking. He didn’t just go on vacation or rest His voice for a few days. The time from Malachi to Jesus and John the Baptist was 400 years. Imagine what it would have been like to suddenly go from hearing the Word of God regularly, to not hearing from Him at all. Not just for a day, week or year, but for 400 years.

They were probably confused, wondering why He went silent. Was it something they said or did? Whatever it was, He wasn’t telling.

Fear may have crept in on them. Was He planning to wipe them out? They’d already been in and out of exile without actually becoming a nation again. Maybe this was a sign the end was near.

Many would have felt the loneliness of losing someone close to them. Imagine if you had a close friend who spoke with you often and then stopped communicating with you. How lonely would that make you feel?

I’m sure rejection was a common feeling. We don’t always use this word, but it’s probably the best to describe why we feel what we do. Our head says God left and isn’t coming back. Or we wonder if he doesn’t care or isn’t interested in us anymore.

Have you ever felt like these when God is silent in your life? You go to church and pray He would make Himself real in your life that day. All you want is to feel Him again. You pray and your requests go unanswered. Life seems to keep getting worse instead of better. And yes, if you are really being honest, you wonder if God has left or forgotten you.

Christmas is proof that no matter how hard things get or how far away God seems, He has not forgotten you. David wrote about how God knew his every move and thought, that he could not escape the presence of God in the heavens above or in the depths below (Psalm 139). Paul reminds us that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Jesus (Romans 8:39).

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After 400 years of silence, we are told God sent His Son “in the fullness of time” or at just the right time (Galatians 4:4). God didn’t leave or forget about His people. The words He had spoken were plenty to teach them, encourage them, and point to Him, just as the Scriptures are for us today.

Beyond that, God was putting together an elaborate chess board. He orchestrated the geopolitical landscape of a place and time where everything was perfectly set for the coming of the Son and the spread of the Gospel.

Hebrews tell us God gave up an old means of communication for a better one. The coming of Christ signaled a new era where God’s words no longer came through any earthly mediator, but from the mouth of His only begotten Son.

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:1–2a, NIV)

We don’t always feel like God is right beside us everywhere we go. Our prayers sometimes feel like huge weights falling back from Heaven, like unopened letters sent to the wrong address.

But God isn’t holding out on us, breaking us down or walking away from us. God loves us. Always. His promise is to never leave or forsake us.

Christmas is a hard season for some. All of those feelings of confusion, fear, loneliness and rejection pile heavy on some hearts and minds. Don’t lose hope. God is real and His word is true. He hasn’t left or forgotten you.

Allow Jesus to birth hope in your heart. It’s the hope that sent Shepherds running through the streets looking for a baby. Hope inspired wise men to gather their greatest treasures and embark on a long and tedious journey. Have hope this Christmas. God may be on the verge of revealing the most incredible surprise you could ever imagine.

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