Debbie and I have just returned from a week’s holiday in the Western Isles of Scotland. It is a part of the British Isles we have come to love and appreciate.
It’s not surprising that we have visited the area on many occasions over the years, staying on the mainland just outside the picturesque village of Arisaig. It is noted for its beautiful beaches and spectacular views of the Isles of Skye, Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna. We have visited most of these main islands at some point. The disappointing thing was that on this occasion the weather was so bad that there were times when we couldn’t see the islands because they were shrouded in dark cloud. It’s a long time since I saw driving snow that came in horizontally! We knew the islands were there alright, but we just couldn’t see or sense them. One thing we could be sure of was that the islands hadn’t moved!
I am beginning to wonder if our experience can provide us with a simple lesson about faith. There are times for all of us when life is rough, messy and unpredictable and we wonder whether God is still there because we have little sense of His presence. The dark clouds which life throws up can sometimes obscure our vision and trust. We may affirm God is still there but somehow it just doesn’t feel like it.
I have to confess that I struggle with a well-known phrase which Christians can sometimes use, and I’m sure that I have been guilty of saying it myself at some point. It goes, “If God seems far away, guess who moved?” I have even seen this on wayside pulpits outside churches, and it can point to a sense of guilt or inadequacy for those who read it. It seems to me the last thing people, who are going through a difficult time, need to know is that the fault is theirs. The lack of the sense of God’s presence only adds to the tension they feel.
One thing I have come to learn over the years is that our feelings and emotions are not the best indicators to signal the presence or absence of God. Of course, both feelings and emotions are a vitally important part of who we are and how we express ourselves at a deep level. Without them we would become more like automatons rather than people. But I never once heard Jesus say that the actual outworking of faith and belief were dependent on feeling and emotions. The psalmist spent a lot of his time complaining and lamenting, and at times he felt God was far away.
Maybe this has sometimes been our experience. But remember your feelings are not the barometer of your faith. The wonder of it is that faith and belief can still hold us and can even thrive whether we feel it or not. Perhaps you feel God is far away today. But He hasn’t moved and perhaps you haven’t
moved either. As someone once said, ”Trust what is true, rather than what feels true.”