As Christians we know God is ever-present and when we know who we are in Christ, we are well aware of His protection, love, grace, and provision. At any time we can open the Word of God and “hear” the leading of Holy Spirit with revelation pouring into our souls because it IS the living Word of God. We get to worship, pray, and sense His presence as we surrender and die to self daily at His throne of grace. Intimacy with God, seeking, finding, and dwelling with Him in His secret place is foundational and central to overcoming sin, the world, and the devil. God is all about relationship and we have the privilege of experiencing God every day of our lives.
But let us admit we do not always live and experience these truths. Sometimes the pressures and insanity of life press in bringing with them a sense of futility. Though we know God and will not give up on Him, we still find ourselves maneuvering through intricate webs of difficult circumstances with little to no success. So what happens when faith is intact, when we are still passionately in love with Christ but find ourselves wanting even while praising, worshipping and praying? What happens when we believe God but circumstances seem to get more bungled and pressures increase rather than decrease? What happens when the feelings of pointlessness or ineffectiveness lead to a desire to skip life altogether and/or run away to hide in a secret place with God, never to emerge?
These are honest questions true Christians must realistically and authentically answer in order to be trusted witnesses to those who have not yet surrendered their lives to Christ. As His children we depend on Him in the good times and in the bad; we are to be unmoved in faith even when our feelings are moved; we seek Him with our whole heart no matter how long it takes; and we yearn for a deeper intimate relationship even when He remains silent. But to quote God’s Word as mere platitude during times of lack or struggle only strengthens the argument of those who resist God. In other words, to use God as a crutch when life is at its ebb is wrong. To belt out the truths found in the Word of God as commonplace clichés while ignoring dismal facts is misleading to unbelievers. When we feel futility pressing in and drowning our souls yet pretend all is well, we deceive ourselves. Confronting hard questions causes us to face facts and bring them into alignment with the knowledge of truth. And as importantly, we will stop running to God in order to escape life but start running to Him because we desire life!
There are times I just want to escape and be alone with God because I am overwhelmed with “stuff” thus experiencing the futility and meaningless of life. So I run hard after God, desiring to be in His manifest presence. And though I know He is everywhere and I know He can be found, I cannot find Him in His manifest presence. I continue to speak the Word and be comforted in the knowledge of Him, but I want more of Him, so I keep running! I tirelessly read His Word, pray, worship, and praise and though I am blessed, I still want more! And still – I cannot find Him in His manifest presence! Have you ever been at this place?
As I pondered the dilemma of running away to be with God yet not finding Him, Holy Spirit began to speak to me about Jesus, asking questions concerning my knowledge of if and how Jesus handled the feelings I was experiencing. Initially I was quick to respond to Holy Spirit that Jesus often went away to be with His Father in the midst of crazy ministry, pressures of life, and twisted relationships and so it was normal for me to want to escape and be with God! Holy Spirit was just as prompt to ask, “Really?” When God questions your knowledge of Him it is wise to listen up, seek Him and study His Word. He does not waste questions!
I went to the Gospels and saw with new eyes what Jesus did while the pressures of life pressed down on Him and I discovered He rarely went away to be “alone” with His Father during those times. Instead, He addressed the pressures of life, He ministered, taught, healed, and THEN He went to be with His Father. Jesus was in constant communion with His Father because they were one. We know He had (and has) an intimate relationship with Father and Spirit. It is a great mystery and yet by faith it completely makes sense how Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three persons in one God! Because of this constant communion Jesus rarely needed to go away by Himself to pray because He was busy being about His Father’s business. Intimacy was foundational, continuous, and central to their relationship. I am not saying He NEVER went away to be alone with Father but that He NEVER had a need to escape life because of pressures and insanity. He went away to be alone with Dad out of desire! Did Jesus ever feel abandoned and desperate? I think so! He sweat blood – that is desperation. He wept, got angry, looked at the futility in the lives of believers and non-believers alike and spoke truth. He and His words were rejected often. He cried out to His Father and still had to persevere and go through! His faith never wavered, His loyalty and commitment to His Father’s will never dimmed, and His love and passion seemed to only increase as heaven seemed silent at times.
As I continued to listen to the Spirit of God, He directed me to look not so much at the “number” of times we read Jesus went away, but to look at what was happening in His life “when” He went away. This in turn would help me overcome my desire to run away to God in the secret place as a means of escape, and replace it with the desire of His heart – running to Him! Jesus never ran away from situations and pressures. He does not lead us to run away from hard times and circumstances no matter how overwhelming they appear to become. Jesus had a purpose when He went away – His purpose was to pray and commune with His disciples, His Father, or both. Likewise, we should have a purpose in wanting to go away – that purpose should be to commune and pray rather than to escape the things that assail us. He called us to run to Him not from things!
Jesus went away by Himself after hearing about the death of John the Baptist and feeding the multitude. Matthew 14:23 “And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there.” There is no indication Jesus wanted to escape anything. He simply sent the disciples across the lake ahead of Him while He sent the multitudes away but re-joined them after He was done praying. He wanted to be with His Father after ministering. Luke does the most thorough task of recording the times Jesus went away alone (Luke 9:18,36;21:37) but again, he demonstrates it was normal for Jesus to go away because of the relationship He had with Father, not because of pressures of life. Luke 6:12 “Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” In this scenario, He had just healed a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath day and the religious people did not like it. But more importantly, after spending a night in prayer, He gathered His disciples to Himself and chose the twelve that would follow Him the rest of the way. He went to Father to receive directives as to who would be His twelve disciples not to escape the pressures of humanity. Jesus continued all night in prayer; it was a blessed time rather than a demanding time or a nuisance as we often treat prayer today. Jesus met with His Father alone enabling Him to walk in His power and presence continuously. He had no need to escape the trials of life because God was with Him no matter where He went and what He did.
Most often we find Jesus ministering, teaching, healing, and praying with people and we can safely conclude Jesus went away to be alone with His Father because of love not as an escape mechanism. He set the example of secret prayer and daily communion with God out of desire for intimacy not in order to seclude Himself from humanity. Jesus would not have prospered nor shall we without this communion with our heavenly Father. When Jesus walked the earth His enemies crazily tried to stop Him. We have crazy enemies as well who want to discourage and stop us from witnessing and doing the works of God. Jesus sought fellowship with His Father and it was there He found strength to resist and persevere, as we shall if we seek fellowship for the sake of relationship. Jesus would go away to the mountain in order to be alone with Father just as He commands us to go away into our prayer closet and commune with God. We are not to hide away and stay in our prayer closets but we are to be about our Father’s business. It is not one or the other but both!
We can be assured with God that His faithfulness and loyalty towards us is everlasting, His grace is sufficient, His love powerful and unchanging! There will be ebbs and flows to the “feelings” in our relationship with Him, but when we continue to soak ourselves in His Word and in praise, worship, and prayer independent of our feelings, when we remain committed and loyal to the Savior of our souls, the flow of His Spirit in our lives will always bring us to higher heights of faith and expectancy, to depths of love and passion we would have never experienced without the silence, and to a relationship exuding with hope and eagerness concerning what is next!
If you are running away from the pressures of life, feeling the fruitlessness of your endeavors, desirous of intimacy but not finding God where you are running to – STOP! Turn around and go back to life! Find God in the midst of your circumstances and He will lead you to His dwelling place, that quiet place of safety and refuge in Him! Then, what happens when you go to find God in His manifest presence? He is there!