Sometimes we feel God’s presence and closeness and may even feel favoured or gifted by God. During these times, we may see all of our prayers answered in the ways in which we want them to be answered. At other times, God may seem far off. We pray and not only do we not see our requests fulfilled, we may even observe the opposite outcome of what we had asked for in prayer. During such times, we may wonder, “Where is God in all of this?”
There is a lovely musical setting of Psalm 27 that holds some answers to this question:
Remember your love and your faithfulness, O Lord. Remember your people and have mercy on us, Lord.
The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom should I fear?
The Lord is my life and my refuge, when I call God hears.
The psalmist, King David, begins by entreating the Lord out of a place of fear. “Remember us; remember your love and your faithfulness.” As he continues praying, though, he remembers God’s faithfulness. The more he remembers being favored by God, the more confidence he has that God is by his side, and the more his faith increases. In this process, he moves out of fear into a place of confidence in God’s goodness and gratitude for God’s blessings.
Remembering God’s faithfulness is a theme to which Pope Francis often returns:
It is important to remember “our own life and our own journey”. It is helpful to repeat this practice often and to remember: “At that moment God gave me this grace and I responded in this way…”, to tell ourselves: “I did this, this, and that”, and to realize that God has always accompanied us. In this way, the Pope said, “we arrive at a new encounter,” one which could be called the “encounter of gratitude.”
In like manner, St. Ignatius urges us to remember that when we feel God’s closeness—that is, when we are in consolation—we ought to remember that desolation will come. “When one enjoys consolation, let him consider how he will conduct himself during the time of ensuing desolation, and store up a supply of strength as defense against that day.” (SE 323) And when desolation does come, Ignatius advises that we bear it patiently while remembering God’s presence manifest in our lives during times of consolation. In his book, The Discernment of Spirits, Fr. Timothy Gallagher sums up Ignatius’s advice to those in desolation thus: “In spiritual desolation the enemy leads us to forget; our task at such times is to remember.”
Remembering how God has blessed us over the years helps us to maintain balance when God seems far away. When we are buffeted by the storms of life and wonder where God is in the storm, in the spirit of the psalmist, we might compose our own psalm, which might go something like this:
Remember me, oh God, during this time.
The winds are strong and the waters rising.
There is no light to see by, and
I’m having a hard time finding my bearings.
I trust that you’ve got me now even though I’m so afraid,
and frankly, I just don’t feel your presence,
and I really wonder where you are in all of this.
I remember, though, all of the times you have blessed me.
I recall all of the miracles—big and small—that you have worked for me.
You really have given me so much.
Help me to recognize your Divine presence,
In small blessings and miracles you work for me every day.
And give me patience as I wait to see again your light.