Have you gone through a season in your faith when God just seemed to be absent? Despite all your need and maybe even your effort to communicate with him, God was just silent? One of the most difficult of all seasons in life occurs when God is hidden from our eyes. And, it turns out, it is one of the most common experiences among God’s faithful. When we scan Scripture for wisdom on what to do when God seems to forsake us, we find stories and wisdom from Genesis to Revelation. The story that caught my attention, though, is the walk two disciples took from Jerusalem to Emmaus.
The story of the Road to Emmaus begins this way:
“That very day, two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.” (vs. 13-14)
“That very day.” Which day? Luke 24 opens on the morning of the third day after Christ’s crucifixion. Verse 13 takes us to the afternoon of the very day Christ rose from the dead. We will discover that not only were these two disciples aware of all the amazing and miraculous things that happened during Christ’s crucifixion, but they were also aware that the women had seen an empty tomb and were told that Jesus was alive.
What then was the tone of their conversation? Verses 18-27 show us that they were not filled with hope and anticipation for the risen Messiah. In fact, they called Jesus a “prophet” (not the Messiah), and when they were done, Jesus was irritated and explained to them that the risen Messiah was prophesied about long ago. To these two disciples, despite all that happened over the last three years and last three days, God had forsaken them and their Messiah was dead.
The twist to the story is that the risen Jesus is standing there with them, but, as verse 16 tells us, “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” The language there means the fault was with the disciples—they were spiritually blind at this moment.
If we are in the disciple’s shoes at this moment, God has forsaken them. From our perspective, we see that Jesus is standing right there beside them.
Sometimes, when God is hidden from us, it is our fault. Often through neglect, we grow cold in our relationship with God. When we neglect prayer and Scripture, we should not be surprised if they feel “dead” when we reengage. When we neglect church or our spiritual disciplines, it will be natural that we have a hard time recognizing God.
Sometimes the problem is cultural conformity. Because we do not allow Christ to replace this world at the center of our souls, we are more children of this world than children of God. Romans 12:2 is enlightening in this context—when we are conformed to Christ, we can discern better what the will of God really is.
And the problem the two disciples had was simply a lack of faith. Though they walked and talked with Jesus and were aware of all the events of the weekend, they did not believe Jesus had actually risen from the grave. After all, that would be something no one else had ever done.
Jesus is great enough to do things you might consider impossible. Do I lack the faith to believe that God exists and that he is not silent? Can I truly believe that the risen Christ is walking and talking with me even now?