All night long on my bed
I looked for the one my heart loves;
I looked for him but did not find him.
I will get up now and go about the city,
through its streets and squares;
I will search for the one my heart loves…
Song of Songs 3:1,2
When we are suffering, when we need God the most, we may have the greatest sense of being abandoned by God. The suffering we experience may feel like evidence that we have been forgotten, or that we are not loved or valued by God. When we try to pray there may be no capacity to even hope that God’s presence is with us. Our need for God in times of distress and our sense that God has disappeared adds suffering on top of suffering. “Where is God?” our hearts cry out.
The spiritual suffering that comes when God seems absent is compared in the Song of Songs to the desperate search of a woman for the one she loves. The woman in this poem has been waiting for her love. It is night and she is alone. She is so distraught that she gets up out of bed and runs wildly through the streets searching for the one her heart needs and loves.
Our wild seeking is also a form of suffering. But even this can become a gift to us. Our seeking can cause us to feel our need for God more directly, deeply, desperately. Our seeking can help us open our hearts more fully to receive the One our hearts longs for.
The reality is that the One we seek, never leaves us. Scripture tells us that God does not move away from us when we are crushed or broken hearted. Scripture tells us that God is close–even in times of suffering.
Our suffering is known to God. Our suffering is shared by God. God’s carries our sorrows. God bears our burdens.
What we need in times of distress is to lean into this possibility–this promise of who our Maker really is. It may feel like we have searched wildly through the city streets to find the One for whom our heart longs. It may feel like we need to muster up more strength and energy than we have in order to find the arms of Love that can comfort us. But we need not search any further than our next breath. We need not exert any more effort than it might take to form the word: “Help.”
Our greatest longing in life is to know God’s loving presence. Our greatest need in times of distress is to sense God with us. God is with us. In our joy and in our sorrow.
Our prayer of seeking God is our return to our heart’s true desire. Our prayer is our remembering this One we love and turning again to find and be found.
Sometimes you seem to disappear.
Especially in times of distress.
It is as if I can’t find you.
You are my heart’s true home,
my deepest longing.
I seek you.
Let me find you.
I need you.
Let me know your presence.
Keep my heart and mind open
to your loving Presence with me.
May I seek you throughout the day today.
May I seek you and know your presence.
Recall a time when you felt as if you could not trust that God was with you.
Reflect on how this sense of being bereft of God’s presence is part of your experience at the present time.
Put into words whatever desire you have to seek God and to know God’s presence with you today. Listen as the Spirit whispers to your spirit, “I am here with you.”