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Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Best Friend You Never Knew Part 9: When God Seems Distant



IMPORTANT NOTE: As I've often mentioned on this blog, the Prophet Isaiah is the most-quoted prophet (aside from Yeshua) in our Standard Works. Even the Savior said "Great are the words of Isaiah." And for good reason: they've been described as the "Cliffs Notes of the Latter Days" which describe in detail the pre-Millennial tribulations. The Lord wants a prepared people, and Isaiah is one of his top recommendations to get you there.

Yet I have observed that by and large, we saints are grossly unfamiliar with Isaiah. People complain that Isaiah is too complex, too hard to understand. Thus, they miss out on the blessings which come from reading Isaiah and understanding what he wrote about concerning today.

Over a year ago, this blog started a Facebook group, "Great Are The Words of Isaiah." It's maintained by moderators who are ordinary members seeking to better understand Isaiah. Consider it "Isaiah for Dummies who aren't Dummies!" I encourage you to click here to subscribe and partake of the wisdom of Yeshua as proclaimed by Isaiah. You'll be glad you did.

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As we read in the previous two posts (”The Best Friend You Never Knew Part 7: ‘Ye Never Knew Me’” and ”The Best Friend You Never Knew Part 8: The Non-Judgmental Savior”), we stand rejected by Yeshua the minute we withhold mercy, or unleash judgment, upon another (see here for more). Also, the more merciful you are towards others, the more merciful God is with you (1 Corinthians 13:2). The less judgmental you are towards others, the less judgmental God is with you. 

So, it seems to me that God’s primary judgment criteria regarding you is best summarized in 1 Samuel 16:7: “for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” The advantage of this criteria: “charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)

Judging or being uncharitable towards a person doesn’t define who they are; it defines who you are. And with the best possible definition you can have -- “he/she was non-judgmental and full of charity towards others” -- you are far more aligned with the Savior.

In my opinion, it’s at this point that not only dialoguing with Him, but also seeing Him, becomes an inevitability:

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen." (Moroni 7:48)

When Heaven is Silent


Unfortunately, there are times when you may be exerting all of your heart, might, mind and strength towards being more charitable and less judgmental, and heaven is still silent. 

This blog has addressed this issue several times. Here are a few possibilities:
  • Your heart really isn’t in it: "What more can be said, what greater case could be made than this: to find God, you must look with all your heart. To remain present to God, you must remain present to your heart. To hear his voice, you must listen with your heart. To love him, you must love with all your heart. You cannot be the person God meant you to be, and you cannot live the life he meant you to live, unless you live from the heart." (John Eldredge, "Waking the Dead")
"They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall." (D&C 1:16)
 
"O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men; yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world!
Yea, how quick to be lifted up in pride; yea, how quick to boast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity; and how slow are they to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear unto his counsels, yea, how slow to walk in wisdom’s paths!
Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide.
O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth." (Helaman 12:4-7)
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6)

"Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday." (Psalms 37:5-6)

"Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. " (Jeremiah 17:5

"O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm." (2 Nephi 4:34

"Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost." (2 Nephi 28:31
  • You seek not the voice of the Lord: Instead, you listen to and pay serious consideration to Satan’s pick up lines. You should anticipate this because “The nearer a person approaches the Lord, a greater power will be manifested by the adversary to prevent the accomplishment of His purposes” (The Prophet Joseph Smith, in Orson F. Whitney, "Life of Heber C. Kimball", Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1967, p. 132).
“Perhaps we have grown too accustomed to the place [of Babylon]. Even if we leave Babylon, some of us endeavor to keep a second residence there...or we commute on weekends.” (Neal A. Maxwell, A Wonderful Flood of Light, BYU Devotional, March 26, 1989).
  • You’re impatient: "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him..." (Psalm 37:7) Also, "The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out." (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 3:295–96

Worthiness required?


Another common belief is that you’re not good enough, faithful enough, righteous enough, worthy enough to dialogue with God, let alone kneel in His presence. I encounter this mindset all the time, as exemplified by the following private message to me by a subscriber to this blog’s Facebook group:


As we read in my immediate previous post (”The Best Friend You Never Knew Part 8: The Non-Judgmental Savior”), Yeshua not only was non-judgmental regarding the woman at the well, but he also let her be the first one to publicly proclaim that the Savior had arrived.

The fact of the matter is, as we read in “The Prodigal Mormon,” none of us are righteous or worthy enough for God’s attention. Yet all through recorded history, God has chosen to walk and talk with mortals. 

"each individual member of the Church can come to know of the divinity of the work, can have the whisperings of the Spirit in his heart and soul, and in addition, can see visions, entertain angels, behold the face of the Lord, and receive all the knowledge and wisdom that has been poured out upon faithful people in any age." (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, "How to Get Personal Revelation," New Era, June 1980, pp. 46-50).

"Now I say that we are entitled to revelation. I say that every member of the Church, independent and irrespective of any position that he may hold, is entitled to get revelation from the Holy Ghost; he is entitled to entertain angels; he is entitled to view the visions of eternity; and if we would like to go the full measure, he is entitled to see God the same way that any prophet in literal and actual reality has seen the face of Deity."  (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, "How to Get Personal Revelation," New Era, June 1980, pp. 46-50).

When I posted the above Facebook group subscriber’s question, other subscribers chimed in with some viewpoints. Here’s one that stood out to me:


Descent, then Ascent


Some people take such interactions seriously. They’ve chosen to step their metaphorical foot off the boat, turn their backs on everyone and everything else, and focus on Yeshua. There is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- that stands in between them and Yeshua. Not even Satan, nor the foolish things he says to us, has an effect on these patient, mercy-filled, non-judgmental people. 

They have zero idols in their lives. They have a profound unwillingness to rely upon the arm of flesh to any degree. They see God’s hand in their lives several times daily, and praise His name for it. Their eyes are firmly affixed and singled on Yeshua. Because of this, they are full of light (Matthew 6:22; Luke 11:34). And to stay there, they ask Yeshua to immerse them in the atoning blood of his atonement every day.

They would be the first ones to tell you that they aren’t perfect. But they will say that every time they fall and fail, they get back up and continue to try to be better in their lives. Like a baby who’s learning to walk and falls on her bum, they pull themselves back up and keep walking towards the open arms awaiting them. This is because they seek the Lord with all their hearts and all their souls (Deuteronomy 4:30-31) and passionately remind God of the promises He has made to them.

Of all the hundreds and hundreds of people I know, I think I could count these souls on my fingers, and still have a few left over. So why is it that these “super saints” not only haven’t had an audience with the Savior, but also can’t even hear Him? Why is it that they relate to Psalm 13:1-2 so well?:

"How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?" (Psalm 13:1-2)

If anyone is entitled to see God, it’s these people.

So...why? Why no appearances? Why not even a voice in their heart and mind?

Here, we see a few examples in the scriptures:
  • The Book of Job we read about a man who underwent a divinely-sanctioned descent in which he lost his family, his property and his reputation. Yet through it all, he praised and blessed the Lord. And for that, everything was restored to him, and then some.
  • In the four gospels, we read how Yeshua was born in the lowliest of circumstances, walked among sinners, was despised, betrayed and ultimately killed. And in the hardest, toughest part of it, He walked the winepress of the atonement alone -- so much so, that He asked on the cross, “Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani?” which is Aramaic for "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me" (Psalm 22:2)
  • In D&C 121, we feel the anguish in Brother Joseph’s words as he plead with the Lord for the suffering Saints. The section begins, ‘O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?”
In all three examples, we read of a person undergoing what’s considered a “descent.” The Son of Man descended below all things (D&C 122:8) before He ascended above all things (Ephesians 4:9-10).

This may be required of a few people today. They are in a “descent phase” which means (per God’s will) they are walking in low places prior to ascending to new spiritual heights:

"Spiritual descent is necessary for spiritual ascent: When a man has to rise from one level to the next, prior to his ascent, he must first undergo a descent. The paradox is that the very purpose of the descent is the ascent. From this you can see how much strength is required in the service of God. Even when you fall or descend in any way, you must never allow yourself to be thrown off balance to the extent that you come to look down upon yourself or to hold yourself in contempt." (Rabbi Nachman, trans. Avraham Greenbaum, Likutey Moharan, "Restore My Soul" [Monsey & Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute, 1980], p. 16-17; here; read more here).

"Therefore, let us not resent those tutoring experiences which can develop our own empathy further (see Alma 7:11-12).  So being admitted fully to 'the fellowship of his sufferings' requires the full dues of discipleship (Philip. 3:10; see also 1 Cor. 1:9)." (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Plow in Hope", April 2001 General Conference)

A Few Suggestions


In addition to D&C 93:1 and D&C 50:24, here are some other things you can explore to close the distance between you and God:
  • Increase your focus on God: Eliminate the idols, the pride, Satan’s pick up lines, everything mentioned at the top of this post. 
"Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will." (D&C 88:68; emphasis mine)
“I think we pay too little attention to the value of meditation, a principle of devotion. In our worship there are two elements: one is spiritual communion rising from our own meditation; the other instruction from others, particularly from those who have authority to guide and instruct us. Of the two, the more profitable introspectively is meditation. Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord." (Pres. David O. McKay, “Consciousness of God: Supreme Goal of Life,” Improvement Era, June 1967, pp. 80–82; emphasis mine).

So what is meditation? How does a latter-day saint do it? Click Meditation, Part 1 - Evolving Beyond Pondering” for the first post of a seven-part series on meditation.
  • Ask “What Lackest I?”: I really like Elder Larry Lawrence's October 2015 General Conference talk, "What Lack I Yet?" It's an appropriate question, and his analysis is chock full of references not about other men, but God, Christ and the Holy Ghost. Awesome. 
"If spiritual growth is not a priority in our lives, if we are not on a course of steady improvement, we will miss out on the important experiences that God wants to give us. Years ago I read these words of President Spencer W. Kimball, which had a lasting impact on me. He said: "I have learned that where there is a prayerful heart, a hungering after righteousness, a forsaking of sins, and obedience to the commandments of God, the Lord pours out more and more light until there is finally power to pierce the heavenly veil. ... A person of such righteousness has the priceless promise that one day he shall see the Lord's face and know that he is." (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2015/10/what-lack-i-yet?lang=eng; emphasis mine) 
  • Persist in asking for your ascent: In other words, don’t give up! If you fall down on your diapered bum, get back up.
Luke 18:1-8's story of the persistent widow is a lesson about persevering in prayer. Actually, most scriptural prayer stories are. How many times did it take Elijah to call down the promised rain? Not once, not twice, but eight rounds of all-of-your-heart-soul-mind-and-strength prayer. In Acts 12, Herod seized James and executed him. He then arrested Peter and put him in jail. The outcome looked the same. But the story shifted with the phrase, “But the church was praying very earnestly for him” (v. 5). The Greek for “very earnestly” is the same description of Jesus' serious prayers in Gethsemane. The text also indicates that the church prayed for Peter all night long. It worked; Peter was rescued. Then we have Enos' prayer:

"And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens. And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed." (Enos 1:4-5)

No wonder Joseph advised that we should "Come to God weary him until he blesses you" ([recorded in Willard Richards Pocket Companion, 78–79] cited in The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph, comp. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook [1980], 15; https://www.lds.org/manual/book-of-mormon-student-manual/chapter-50-ether-1-5?lang=eng)
  • Keep an eye out for the descent...and the ascent: Get out of your own comfort zone or pity party and look for the blessings He's constantly sending you. It's like learning a new language. Maybe you've become so accustomed to hearing (or not hearing) God on a lower wavelength, that when He increases the wavelength to a higher one, you don't hear Him anymore. But the harder you look, the more you'll find those highs and lows, the peaks and valleys, of his increased frequency. Then before you know it, you're ON that higher wavelength.
"Learning to hear the voice of the Lord is like learning a language, the language of revelation. Learning any language takes time. It takes repetition and practice. It takes an immersion in that language. And it takes learning the rules that govern the language. If we were learning Portuguese or Chinese, we would not only have to memorize vocabulary words but learn syntax and grammar as well. Similarly, as we set out to better learn the language of revelation, there are guidelines and rules to govern us." (Sherri Dew, "No Doubt About It"; emphasis mine)

Sometimes you're going to find His responses in the Temple. Sometimes, it'll be in your bedroom or living room, or out in the middle of nowhere, away from Babylon. Sometimes it'll be in a dream, sometimes it'll be in the scriptures. Often, it’ll be at a time you didn’t expect. They may not come immediately...but they will come.
Yeshua is God’s gift to mankind. As you become more like Him, you become a gift to Him -- one which will eventually be personally and directly received, with great appreciation, by Him:

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen." (Moroni 7:48)
  • "Gloria in excelsis Deo" (Latin, "Glory to God in the Highest" [Luke 2:14]): Do as Yeshua did -- no matter what He was going through, good or bad, He gave ALL credit to the Father. You should do the same, for in so doing, you actually breathe new life into that blessing and try to extend it to others. 
My friend, Vincent, is on a level of coolness that's really, really high. When people ask how he's doing, his response is both accurate and electrifying: "I am richly blessed."

Exceed Even Your Own Expectations


In this blog's post "The Promise of His Presence, Part 2: The Formula," I spotlighted the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team to victory over the seemingly invincible Russian squad.

Nobody thought they had even the remotest chance of beating the Russians. 

But one man did: Herb Brooks, the team's coach.

In one scene, before the Olympics, the US team played an exhibition match against a team in Europe.  They didn't take the game seriously, and Coach Brooks knew it.  So after losing the game, Brooks had his team go back onto the ice and had them run drills, skating a few yards, then back again, then skating further again, then back...for several hours.  Brooks said:

"Red line, back. Blue line, back. Far blue line, back. Far red line, back. And you have 45 seconds to do it. Get used to this drill. You'll be doing it a lot. Why? Because the legs feed the wolf, gentlemen. I can't promise you we'll be the best team at Lake Placid next February. But we will be the best conditioned. That I can promise you."

This fact may have been what inspired Brooks to tell his team, 

"This cannot be a team of common men, 
because common men go nowhere."


When Team USA met the Soviet team in the Olympics semi-finals, the Americans proved to be extremely well-conditioned for the match-up.  With the world watching, the team rose to the occasion, prompting broadcaster Al Michaels' now famous question to the millions viewing at home: "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!"  The US college kids beat the Soviet hockey team, which had previously routed the NHL All-Stars 6–0 and consistently won Olympic gold for 26 years.

I believe that seeking the fulfillment of D&C 93:1 in our lives requires the same kind of dedication.  Note the Lord's advice on this topic:

Seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (D&C 88:63; emphasis mine)

Seek.

Me.

Diligently.

Although I can't be there with you every day, pushing you to reach your metaphorical spiritual red lines and blue lines, and even though you and I likely don't know each other personally, please know that I have specially prayed for every person (including you) who reads this post, and that with Yeshua's help, you will clear away any and all barriers in between you and Yeshua...and like the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team, you will be blessed with results which far surpass even your wildest dreams.



2 comments:

  1. There's spirit in your blog that always left me being touch and misty eyed.Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I wept when I read that my inability to hear God’s voice (though I know I am led by him) may simply be part of my descent phase. I seek his face earnestly yet have been patiently waiting on his timing. However, the quickness and intensity of my emotion at your suggestion taught me that these were words I needed to hear; they filled me with joy, hope, even relief. I am very grateful to you.

    ReplyDelete