Often, when we first become a believer, our conversion is akin to a child’s birthday party. There are lots of gifts, party favors, cake, celebration, and affection. And perhaps we think to ourselves, “Wow! Knowing God is like a big party! Why didn’t I convert sooner?!”
But, after a few years, when we reach spiritual adolescence, real life begins to press in upon us and demands our attention. Now, there are expectations placed upon us, such as obligations at school and responsibilities at home. We struggle with rebellion and yearn for personal authenticity. Life is more complicated and perplexing. It’s not simply a party anymore.
This image of personal growth from childhood, through adolescence, to adulthood is a metaphor for the process of spiritual maturation and sanctification. Sometimes, the adolescent stage can be quite turbulent. During this period, perhaps we say to ourselves, “Wow! If knowing God is like reaching puberty, pimples, overwhelming desire, and personal insecurity, then why did I even convert?!” It is often, while we pursue maturity in adolescence, that God often seems quite enigmatic, even hostile.
Fortunately, however, we possess the prayer book of ancient Israel, who knew their share of enigmatic experiences with God. In the Psalms, we witness their affliction and learn patterns of prayer for spiritual darkness and perplexity. Consider how Israel lamented when God was enigmatic:
“Why?”–When God Makes No Sense
Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (10:1)
Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? (44:24)
“How long?”–When God Delays
My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord—how long? (6:3)
How long, O Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their destruction, my precious life from the lions! (35:17)
“Where are You?”–When God Is Silent
They cried for help, but there was none to save; they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them. (18:41)
To you, O Lord, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit. (28:1)
When God seems to us incomprehensible (inexplicable, perplexing, impenetrable), when he delays (through apparent inaction, impediment, setback, interruption), or when he is silent (seeming to ignore and reject us or appear non-responsive and impassive), we know that such experiences are not unique to us. We know that the saints of the Old Testament passed through similar trials.
And we should listen carefully to their prayers and learn to think like they thought.