A Wyoming church plant recently asked me to write on the above question. Here is my response… I hope it encourages you in your own dark moments.
This is an excellent question that nearly every Christian asks multiple times throughout life. The simple answer to this question is that God is always present with His children (Matt. 28:20). He never leaves us! However, there are many times when we do not FEEL the nearness of our Father. Why? Here are two reasons…
1. The light of the Holy Spirit often reveals the dark places in our souls (brokenness, sin, etc). He does this so we will come to Him for healing. However, when the Lord shines on our dark places, we can only see the darkness, and His light seems far away. We experience the pain of our brokenness or sin, and we can’t discern His presence. Yet, He is with us, bringing us into the seemingly dark place for our healing. We must learn to view the pain of darkness as God’s loving hand. Like the pain of a tumor leading to surgery, darkness leads us to discover the sin or brokenness that God wants to heal. Let us pay attention to the cause of the darkness, lift up the issue to Jesus, and let Him heal us!
2. God wants to bring us into a deeper love with Himself. The early days of a Christian are marked with great joy and much evidence of God in us. Believing in Jesus is easy during these times. However, God wants to take us from the milk of infancy and bring us into a profound relationship with Himself that will last through the challenges of the real world (1 Cor. 3:2). In order to deepen our union with Him, God takes us through seasons when our elementary ways of relating to God are not sufficient for the spiritual challenges we face. We cannot relate to God as we previously did because this new, profound experience requires us to relate to Him on a more spiritual level. Before, we knew Him with our physical senses such as seeing His blessings or enjoying emotional comfort. God enlarges our experiences with Him so that we are moved past a purely sensual understanding of God’s presence and begin to relate to him on a spiritual level. The ability to relate to God this way means that we must learn something new – the ability to relate out of the deeper part of us – our spirit. This is like exercising a muscle we have rarely used, or like learning a new language. Until we get more practice, we aren’t competent to relate to God on this spiritual level. However, once we begin to know Him in this way, we understand the nearness of His loving presence much more substantially. It is like entering a new dimension in our love with God, definitely worth walking through the darkness.
Seasons of darkness continue through our lives as God is either identifying parts of our lives that need His healing, or He is taking us deeper into His love. Either way, learn to identify the dark times as evidence of His presence. Submit to God as these seasons approach. Invite Him in to do His healing work. Prayerfully expect Him to do significant things in you during these times. Life gets dark and extremely challenging, but God knows the glory that awaits you as you endure. Press on!