Does God Take a Vacation?

Posted January 19, 2009

A vacation is often called a get-away. Of course God doesn’t go on vacation to “get away” from his cherished creation, leaving his creatures entirely to their own devices to survive and thrive. (His only “vacation” was his seventh-day “rest” after his great feat of creation!) His commitment to all life and its care and sustenance continues unabated, even when, in the myopic outlook of many humans, he appears to be uncaring and distant from them. Take a moment to recall his dramatic “weather report” described in Genesis 8:1-2:

God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and all the domestic animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided; the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained.”

If you feel lost in the depth of an ongoing trial, take another look at that passage God’s supportive but quiet care for Noah’s family and the animals. We are not lost to God. Noah with his family and the animals were virtually imprisoned in the ark for seven months, pitching about on an endless sea. Nothing broke the horizon around them. Noah could have easily regarded himself as forgotten by God, probably asking himself over and over, “Where is God when I need him?” Though he could remind himself that God had promised him protection, he might well have asked, where was God now—now when the gray days and black nights dragged on and all around him he saw only empty waters and a sky that held no hope?

Perhaps even now you too may feel helpless, cut loose from all moorings, adrift in a sea of problems from which God seems to have vanished. You may feel now—or have felt in the past—swept away in a flood of sorrow, loneliness, perplexity, and disappointment that seem as boundless as the sea on which Noah drifted. Patriarchs and peasants, saints and sinners, princes and paupers, everyone must face such ordeals in this vale of tears.

Flip open your bible now and read Psalm 77. You’ll find it easy to identify with the psalmist’s description of his own endless sea of grief and misery. He bewails God’s apparent abandonment, but in the last half of that psalm he’s Spirit-inspired to detect God’s “hidden footprints” and thus to prevent despair and discover relief, like a haggard mariner sighting landfall: “I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord; I will remember your wonders of old. I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds…Your way was through the sea, your path through the mighty waters; yet your footprints were unseen” (Ps. 77: 11-19).

The bottom-line spirit-booster is simply recalling the good things that the Lord has done for you; this will eclipse the absence of the good things you would like to have. For example, Instead of bemoaning your illness, think of the thousands of illnesses from which the Lord has preserved you. Start with any blessing, and keep adding to the endless litany of gifts of God: your eyesight, hearing, memory, his gifts of pets, sleep, music, running water, bibles, children, mobility, consciousness, the Church and especially the “inestimable Gift” (2 Cor. 9:15) of his Son as our Redeemer. When you feel like “singing the blues,” read Paul’s advice to the Philippians about using positive thinking to erase anxious negative thinking (Phil. 4:8).

God did not lose track of Noah, and He will not lose track of you! The Flood story does not end on a note of hopelessness. The floodwaters abated, mountaintops appeared, and the ark came to rest. With physical survival assured, Noah’s family resumed their life on land, alive and revived.

We may never have to face a trial of that magnitude, but God’s faithfulness promises another great assurance: It guarantees that all our trials will be in proportion to our strength. “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it (1 Cor. 10:13). Therefore, if you find yourself beyond the breaking point, know that it is not from God but from yourself.

David writes in Psalm 103:13-14: “As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear [reverence] him. For he knows how we were made; he remembers that we are dust.” God will never lay on us any hardship beyond our power to endure. He knows how much pressure our hearts can stand. A teacher doesn’t assign trigonometry homework for first-graders, a trucker won’t overload his truck, and a mother doesn’t ask her toddler to clean the house or repair the plumbing. Will God be any less compassionate toward us, his children, created in his image? He clearly recognizes his obligation to us, as his creatural masterpieces, not only to supply our needs, but also to custom-design our misfortunes and burdens, which he has fashioned from all eternity in the past that we might reap an eternal reward in the future, happily sailing on the fathomless sea of endless bliss.

When we become acutely aware of God’s loving concern and his supportive presence, our angst will morph into thanks!

John H. Hampsch, C.M.F.