Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Absence of God

Imagine having a walk with God so sweet that at times you are swept away by a sense of being in his glorious presence and enveloped in his love.  Such was the experience of David Brainerd, famous missionary to American Indians in the 18th century.  He writes of such ecstasies in his journals.

But just as profound and powerful, in a negative way were times he went through where God was lost to him.  Read his journal entry from one of those times.
"My spiritual conflicts today were unspeakably dreadful, heavier than the mountains and overflowing floods. I seemed enclosed, as it were, in Hell itself; I was deprived of all sense of God, even of the being of a God; and that was my misery. I had no awful apprehensions of God as angry. This was distress, the nearest akin to the damned's torments, that I ever endured; their torment, I am sure, will consist much in a privation (lack) of God, and consequently of all good. This taught me the absolute dependence of a creature upon God the Creator, for every crumb of happiness it enjoys. Oh I feel that, if there is no God, though I might live for ever here, and enjoy not only this but all other worlds, I should be ten thousand times more miserable than a reptile. My soul was in such anguish I could not eat; but felt as I suppose a poor wretch would that is just going to the place of execution."
No wonder Brainerd gave his life for the effort to bring the gospel to native peoples who were in danger of such a permanent state.  May God grant us both passion for his presence and abhorrence of the sense of his "absence."

(Quote taken from a short biographical article from Christianity.com.  The fuller article is here.)