From “I Cry But Thou Hearest Not,” To Be Near unto God, 44-46 (1905)
The saintly man of prayer seeks his Father. From experience he knows that it is possible here on earth to hold communion with the Father who is in heaven. He has confident assurance of the hidden fellowship with God along the pathway of life, which is sometimes rough and thorny, he knows what it is to “Walk with God.”
Blessed experience has taught him that in this secret fellowship communion is mutual, so that he seeks his Father, but also that the Father gives himself to be found of his child. In such moments he cannot say: God is here or there, for he feels and perceives that God is with him. He cannot prove that God talks to him, and yet he hears the voice of the Lord. This is not seemingly, but actually true. It is no self-deception, but rich reality. And he follows after the good shepherd, comforted by the staff and the rod whithersoever they lead. With the religious man of the world it is mere form, devoid of heart. With the devout believer on God it is sacred, blessed mysticism.
There is discipline in this holy mysticism. Fellowship with God is not only broken once in a while, but frequently. Once there was no representation of invisible communication. But now there is. since we are in touch with people thou- sands of miles away from us. Now we can speak with others whose faces we cannot see, but whose voice we receive in return. So far have we advanced that telegraphy permits communication without wire or any visible, tangible guidance. And now we understand how this communication can be disturbed, interrupted and sometimes altogether broken….
For there are times when the soul calls and seeks God, and nothing comes back; when no sign from above is vouchsafed; when it seems that God is lost; when everything remains silent; when no voice comes and no answer.
Why God withdraws himself at such times can be surmised, but can never be fathomed. The cry from the cross: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” holds us face to face with an impenetrable mystery. But even here surmisals may serve an end.
We awake in the morning and our first thought is of God. This gives us the blessed sense of God’s nearness, and as at the hand of God, we begin the day. But some other morning this is different. We perceive nothing of God. Our heart is not joined to the Eternal. Pray as we may, there is no fellowship.
God! hold not thyself as one deaf; why dost thou not hear me? But religion operates. The loss of Divine fellowship makes us very unhappy. Some sinful inclination of the heart has caused it. Some secret sin has prevented it. The heart has been troubled about many things that have excluded the Lord from the inner life. And the loss of fellowship is good. It makes us examine ourselves. It makes us unite the heart again to fear his name. …
At times, however, the failure of obtaining a Divine hearing cannot be explained from one cause or from another. We find nothing that accuses us. And yet God withdraws himself from us. But even then conjectures regarding the cause do not fail us. The believer on God sometimes overestimates his piety. He enters upon terms of familiarity with the love of God. He loses sight of the distance that extends between him and God. He takes it as a matter of course, as a something that ought to be, that fellowship with God is his portion. He even counts it at times as a mark of special holiness that he seeks Divine fellowship.
This cannot be permitted. It makes common what is, and always will be, holy grace. Experience teaches at such times that nothing strengthens and deepens the appreciation of fellowship with God as the temporary want of it. When for long times the soul has had no hearing, and when at length an answer comes from God, there enters into this secret communion a still deeper blessedness, and the soul bathes itself in the fulness of the love of God.
Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) was a Dutch Reformed minister, theologian, journalist and politician. He played a central role in the formation of the confessional Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, and encouraged the development of Christian institutions as an agent for social renewal. To Be Near unto God, a collection of meditations, were written while he was serving as prime minister of the Netherlands.