Israel’s sacred history struck me as odd when I was a young man: the better Israel did, the less she loved God. No longer young, I live the problem and so understand. In my case at least, what is true of a community is true of me. When God is good to me, He can feel further away. Over time enough people have shared the same experience, that I have decided my failing is not at all unique.
The “problem of evil” is the most common objection to the Christian God. If God is good, then how can He allow evil? There are decent responses to this objection, but for the moment notice an important fact: evil triggers emotions and these emotions often turn toward God. God is happy to reason with us, and often appears to us, in our troubles, because we are stirred up inside.
I have had moments so beautiful they drove me to my knees and news so unexpectedly great that I glorified God in my heart without thinking. Particularly good times produce gratitude in a man or woman, but what of “fine times?” Fine times are when there is some good and some bad to life, but mostly good. Fine is the nice of life. “How are you,” we are asked.
“Fine,” we reply and our feelings follow the thought put into the comment.
We are better than blah, but not much so. God is good, but at that very moment God feels distant. We cannot imagine awful or awesome times with awe toward God, but fine times feel within our abilities. We think, in our ignorance, that we can account both the good and the bad we face based on our own actions or in our own knowledge of the world. We can account, we imagine, for all the good in our life by our own efforts.
Of course, the cosmos is complex and all tied together and the fine times are no more in our grasp than the extremes. We are being set up for the incomprehensible good and bad at the very moment we claim comprehension of the fine. There is dulling, a natural complacency, that takes place. Middle age makes this complacency worse: lacking the wonder that comes from youth and old age.At this time I and others like me might slack in our spiritual disciplines, because where, after all, is God? If God speaks to the young in passion, and the old in dreams of eternity, then He wants to speak to us in reason and maturity. The still small voice of Reason (the Divine Logos) is much harder to hear than the whirlwind of youth or the rumble of the chariot of fire that take us to eternity. We live out what we know and God often refuses the spiritual treats that motivated us as babies in Christ or sustain us before death. Blessed, happy, are those who persist until He comes.
And yet, if we insist that God treat our middle aged self as He did in the past, we will have all the success we ever have when we demand the Cosmic Creator act as we wish. He is there and sometimes He is silent, because we have not finished doing all He has given or empowered us to do. We walk by faith not by feelings and just as periods of my marriage have been dry, but I persisted to a different phase, so my walk with God can be fine without any intensity of emotion. I do my duty, keep calm, and carry on with my Christian life.
Should I doubt God at this moment? My previous spiritual experiences or reasons for belief are not undermined by this quiet time. Evidence was not lacking and the absence of this evidence at any moment is no evidence of God’s absence. Just as Hope is my wife when I feel distant from her, so God is my God when He “feels” distant.
What should I do with my “dry times?” Why should I do anything about my dry spiritual times? I must recognize that dry is not horrid, but fine. Beings that live in time, as humans do, experience the fine as much as the awesome and the awful. They come when things are “fine” and I can simply see God in the fineness of the fine without demanding anything else. The school of souls that is human life is not just the freshman and senior year: we must endure the sophomore and junior slog.
We can and we must, God helping us.