Walking Our Faith: How preserve our spiritual connection after our fiercest storms
September 15, 2017
Mom sailed through the hurricane with her usual optimism and strength. During the days of the storm, my anxiety level was understandably high and I prayed for her safety throughout the day. I spoke to Mom more than once a day and wished that I was with her. In the days since things have begun to return to normal with Mom's busy friendships taking up much of her time.
The distance between us stretches back to where it was before. We miss each other dearly, but our lives have returned to where they were. After the storm, I discovered that I felt lonely. There was a space in heart that had previously been filled by our constant conversations during the storm. This image, like an ocean ebbing and rising, reminds me of how a relationship with God can feel at times.
During our personal storms, we may be called out of the boat to walk on the waters of faith toward Jesus' outstretched hand just as Peter was called out in faith. In these moments, our experience of God's presence can be the closest we've ever felt. We not only feel him near, holding us above the waves, but understand what it is to be loved by him.
Afterwards, we return to the mundane familiarity of our lives. But what of the spiritual intimacy we felt during the storm? Often, like the storm surge that settles back into the unnoticed gentle tidal ebb and flow, our relationship with God may recede in our mind to the point that his presence feels distant, only because during the storm he felt so close.
If there is any consolation during this fallow period it is to recognize that we are in very good company. Throughout the Psalms we see this remarkable interplay between a soul's wrenching cry for God and then a few verses later, a confident statement of God's faithful provision.
We see this clearly in the 77th Psalm. The psalmist wonders in the seventh verse if God will ever answer the psalmist's laments. He lays out his evidence of the ways in which God has forgotten him:
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"Will the Lord reject forever
and never again show favor?
8 Has his faithful love ceased forever?
Is his promise at an end for all generations?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?"Selah
10 So I say, "I am grieved
that the right hand of the Most High has changed."[a]
Then in the eleventh verse, there is a radical change. As if a memory has suddenly been recalled, the psalmist remembers that God has never forsaken him. God has always been true to his word and steadfast in his provision:
"11 I will remember the Lord's works;
yes, I will remember your ancient wonders.
12 I will reflect on all you have done
and meditate on your actions."
This pattern of lamentation and confidence is found throughout the Psalms. I believe it is God revealing a very common pattern in our walk of faith. We draw close to God in times of emergency and then as our lives fall back to normal, our thoughts of God wane, until he seems to recede.
But of course, God has not changed. It is we who have allowed ourselves to drift away from God's presence. However, I don't believe this is all without merit.
Think for a moment about the waves of rings that flow outwards from a drop of water. The further the rings travel from the source, the further apart and less force they carry as their energy disperses. On the other hand, the rings closest to the source are full of energy and the space between the rings is shorter as the energy has less distance to travel.
I believe our relationship with God is similar. When we recognize the calm after the storm leaving us with a sense of longing and loneliness, rather than allow ourselves to drift further from God, we should immediately turn toward God. This is the time when we need to do something to remind ourselves of God's faithfulness and love, just as the psalmist does.
This is the time when I know I need to go to Adoration on a Thursday evening at St. Mary's and sit in silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament for an hour. This act of sitting in God's presence always brings me back to my center.
You might find yourself spiritually replenished through prayer at home, meditation, reading the Bible, saying the rosary, or serving others in the community for an hour. I've found that reading the psalms is very comforting and allows me to see that I am not alone. Music is also helpful.
After the storm, it is natural that we allow the stress we've experience to dissipate and to find our new normal. During this time, I hope we will not allow ourselves to drift too far from shore. To fool ourselves into believing that God has abandoned us. Rest, yes. But rest in God's holy and healing presence. Allow the intimacy we experienced during the storm to become the new watermark, the place from which we will move closer to God from this point forward. In this way, our life becomes a journey to greater intimacy with God.
Suzanne Anderson is the author of "Love in a Time of War" and other books. You can reach her at email@example.com or facebook.com/suzanneelizabeths.