You Do Not Answer
Why have you forsaken me? I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. – Psalm 22:1-2 excerpt (NRSV)
Some people think that the goal of spiritual practice is to experience God with them and within them. But not everyone feels God’s presence, no matter how much they want to, no matter how hard they try to.
Many faithful people feel only the ache of absence. They know a God who is silent, hidden, and distant—so much so that it can be painful for them to be around people for whom God is close and warm.
There’s an old saying, “If God seems far away, guess who moved?” You’re supposed to answer, “Not God.” You’re supposed to believe it’s your fault.
But whoever thought that up never read the psalms. Jesus, who probably loved saying “Surely goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life” as much as we do, didn’t pray Psalm 23 on the cross. He prayed Psalm 22: “I cry to you, but you do not answer.” I don’t think Jesus moved, do you?
The Christian life isn’t about feeling feelings or having “powerful” spiritual experiences. Baptism ushers us into a life of greater depth than that—a life of faith. And at some point in every life, faith is a journey through the desert and the shadows.
If you don’t feel God right now, you’re not failing. You’re not a second-class Christian. You have a gift. A hard gift, but a gift all the same. It’s your heartache—faith’s heartache. And like nothing else, it can lead you straight to the heartache of others, to neighbors whose abandonment is human, not divine. For them you can be company. With them you can outwait the night until the Coming Day.
Hidden One, they say you are still speaking, but if it isn’t to me right now, let me at least trust that you are as close to me as the suffering, as audible as the cry of the abandoned. Let me find you with them.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.