When God is Distant
Matthew 9:14,15 Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast? And Jesus said to them, Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.
During our engagement, my wife and I lived 600 miles apart and as it was the olden days, we talked on the telephone for hours and wrote actual letters. Now that we live together, we do not write letters or talk on the phone for hours as we can communicate face to face. Once we got married it would have been ridiculous to insist on communicating via mail and phone instead of just talking.
This is exactly what John’s disciples were irritated with Jesus and his disciples for doing. John’s disciples had been taught that fasting was required to draw near to God. So, when Jesus’ disciples did not fast, they were perceived as indulgent and without discipline.
Jesus pointed out that fasting, while He was with them, was akin to ignoring Jesus and begging God to come near. They did not need to discipline themselves to draw near to God as God was physically with them. Jesus did point out that the day would come when He would be physically absent, at which time they would need to make some effort to draw near to God.
Herein is the lesson for me. God is not with me as a physical person. His spirit is in me, dwelling with and communicating with my spirit. I can have this profound, intensely real relationship with God in me, or I can ignore him and barely know him. When we come to faith in God, we are promised that his spirit dwells in us, but God allows us to connect with him a little or a lot.
If I find myself distant from God, I have but to look to my own efforts in knowing him. God longs for intimate communion with me and does not withhold himself when I truly seek him. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8). It is my responsibility to do the drawing near. I have at times, looked at my life, wondering where God was and wondering how I got there. A little honesty revealed that I had sown the seeds of my own misery by ignoring God and pursuing self.
I would be a fool to think that I could maintain my relationship with my wife without communicating with her, but I often treat God this way. If I want to be close to God, I need to keep up my end of the relationship. I need to daily turn from self, pursuing him. Fasting, Jesus said, is one method of communication, like prayer, reading and meditating that I use to draw near to him.