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God’s absence makes us uncomfortable. I titled a book When God Isn’t There, and people kept asking me, “When God isn’t there? Don’t you know God’s always there!”
It isn’t easy to think about God being absent, but if we avoid the tension created by God’s absence and presence, we forfeit joy. I’ve learned to state the tension like this: God is often absent in the ways we most desire, but present in the way we most require.
God - Ways - World - Word - Covenants
God has been, and still is, present with us in all the ways we require: sustaining the world, revealing his word, making covenants, sending his Spirit, and, preeminently, giving us Jesus.
But God is also, simultaneously, often absent in the ways we most desire. While we live on this earth and inhabit unglorified bodies, we cannot see the face of God (1 Corinthians 15:35–50; 1 Timothy 6:16). The Bible uses God’s face to refer to his tangible, unmediated presence (Revelation 22:4). This is the presence of God that we will only experience when Jesus returns, glorifies believers’ bodies, and brings the new heaven and new earth (1 John 3:2). It is this form of God’s full presence that we most desire (Psalm 73:25). “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Moses - Glory - God - Limits - Fallen
Until then, we are like Moses, asking to see the glory of God but running into the limits of what our fallen, human existence can bear (Exodus 33:18–20). Until that day, we are like the woman from Song of Solomon, hearing the king at the door only to fling it open and find that he is gone (Song 5:4–6). Until Jesus brings the full presence of God, we are like King David, who knows that fullness of joy and everlasting pleasure can only be found before...
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"Tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive." C.S. Lewis