“Mama, where’s baby Jesus?” my toddler asks from the back seat of our car.
My two-year-old son has finally gotten to the age where he is enthralled with his Jesus Storybook Bible. He loves to flip through the pages and point out all the pictures. But what he is most enthralled with is a page where baby Jesus is surrounded by Mary and Joseph and all the animals. Thanks to a nativity puzzle he received at Christmas, he knows and loves to find baby Jesus in whatever book may depict Him.
Unfortunately, from the driver’s seat, I cannot help him with his quest to find the beloved Son of God. So I simply encourage, “Just keep flipping, baby. You’ll find Him!”
Minutes go by, and eventually, I hear a squeal of delight. My boy has found Jesus.
Oh, how I pray that he continues to find Jesus throughout his life.
This little antidote from our drive to daycare had me thinking. How often do we feel like God is far away? How often do we struggle to comprehend His nearness? In times of suffering, it may feel like God is hiding from us or cruelly removing His presence from our lives. We can mistake God’s silence for His absence. But if we mine the pages of Scripture, we learn that this is not true at all. Our God is a God who comes near to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).
So what do we do when God feels absent?
I think we can learn a lot from my son—keep flipping; keep searching. In Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, He teaches followers to “ask,” “seek,” and “knock.” Matthew 7:7–8 says, ”Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” In these verses, Jesus echoes language God speaks in the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy 4:29, Scripture reads, “But from there, you will search for the LORD your God, and you will find him when you seek him with all your heart and all your soul.” Similar promises are also found in Jeremiah 29:12–13 and Proverbs 8:17. From these verses, we learn that God honors a faith that does not give up. This does not mean that difficult circumstances will disappear, but it does mean that He will not deny a heart that is seeking after Him. This promise should bring us great hope in the midst of trying times, for no matter how challenging the season is, we know that He will not keep His presence from His children.
In fact, God’s desire to dwell with His children, to mend the relationship that we broke, is why He sent Jesus to redeem us from our sin. Because of Jesus’s obedience, those in Christ are cleansed from sin and adopted into the family of God. We did not earn this place of glory; it was gifted to us by our gracious heavenly Father. Now, those in Christ can “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.” We can approach the throne of grace unashamed of our needs and confident in His ability to provide. We can pray and be listened to. We can draw near and find comfort.
But the truth is, prayer does not always feel that easy. What about when we have prayed and prayed and still find no relief? What if it feels like it is God who is our assailer? When these moments strike, we can find great encouragement in the book of Job. Job is a man of steadfast faith and righteous character who experiences extreme suffering from Satan. As a result of his sufferings, Job wrestles with his faith for about thirty-six of the forty-two chapters in Job. Job asks God why He allows suffering to happen and begs God to answer him. Yet throughout his wrestling, Job does not abandon his faith. In fact, in Job 13:15, Job says, “though He slay me, I will put my hope in Him” (ESV). Job has the courage and tenacity to cling to what he knows to be true about God: God listens to His people. Though Job did not understand his sufferings, he stood firm on his rock of refuge—the foundation he knew would never give way. Job was right. God answered him, and in God’s presence, Job found peace.
Job demonstrates faith, a faith that perseveres through trial. The book of Hebrews teaches us that faith is the reality of what is hope for, the proof of what is not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Job kept knocking; he kept seeking; he kept asking. He knew that God was the only one who held his answers. May we persevere like Job. May we seek God’s face. May we find rest in the gospel and the lengths God took so that we may come close.
Yesterday, the same conversation between my son and me ensued on the way home from preschool. “Keep flipping baby, you’ll find Jesus,” I say for at least the tenth time that week. But this time my husband joined us on the car ride.
He smiles over at me, filled with glee at our interaction, and simply says,
“Yes, keep flipping, bud. You will always find Jesus.”