The Following is an excerpt from The Uninvited Companion: God’s Shaping us in His Love Through Life’s Adversities © 2017 Scott E. Shaum pp. 113, 116-117.
The book is available from Amazon.com in print and Kindle versions.
Earlier in this book, I made several references to the silence I experienced during the early days of my illness. Though I can now look back and see God’s loving hand doing a deep work in me to open me and draw me into his love,
at the time the sensation of God’s absence simply piled on top of the physical challenges I was facing. On top of all the physical discomforts, God seemed to have up and left.
I often describe the experience in the following manner: It felt like I had been riding down the road of life with God, and then one day he pulled the car over and told me to get out. So I did. Then he drove off. I looked in every direction and had no idea where I was. All I saw was a barren, featureless terrain I had never been to before. This barrenness went on to the horizon in every direction. I sat down and waited for God to return.
And I waited.
I cried out to God in anger and confusion. The silence was simply overwhelming.
It was one of the most confusing, disorienting, and disrupting times of my life. What was God doing?
A Better Offer
Frankly, this passage (John 16:33) was a confounding one to me during the time of sitting in that barren and silent place. God was not speaking to me. I could not sense his presence. I did not have the discernment at the time to sense his abiding presence and work, but he was there all along. Herein lies an important spiritual reality: We often want from God what he can do for us, more than we want God himself. In my case, I just wanted all the pain to go away—and fast.
But God’s primary longing for us is not for our comfort; it is for our communion. He is not merely extending his gifts to us, but he is extending himself. His primary desire is always relational. Suffering is but one means he uses to catch our attention and draw us deeper into himself. It was in this barren landscape that I was being awoken to the greater gift he was extending to me than the mere removal of suffering. I wanted resolution. He invited me to an enduring companionship with him in the midst of suffering. I wanted explanations. He offered his presence instead. He was using all the disorienting, painful stripping of my inability to solve my own problems to invite me deeper into his loving presence.
A New Recognition
There are spiritual truths we will otherwise never learn unless we find ourselves in similar barren places. Our life situations are as varied as could be, yet God is up to something beautiful in each of us. What is common to all, though, is his unbridled commitment to draw us into his loving presence. This is one of those unforeseen gifts of our sufferings.