The absent God

Daily Reading for June 20 • The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

God is always infinitely near and infinitely far. We are fully aware of Him only if we experience both of these aspects. But sometimes, when our awareness of Him has become shallow, habitual—not warm and not cold—when He has become too familiar to be exciting, too near to be felt in his infinite distance, then He becomes the absent God. The Spirit has not ceased to be present. The Spiritual Presence can never end. But the Spirit of God hides God from our sight. . . .

The Spirit has shown to our time and to innumerable people in our time the absent God and the empty space that cries in us to be filled by Him. And then the absent one may return and take the space that belongs to Him, and the Spiritual Presence may break again into our consciousness, awakening us to recognize what we are, shaking and transforming us. This may happen like the coming of a storm, the storm of the Spirit, stirring up the stagnant air of our spiritual life. The storm will then recede; a new stagnancy may take place; and the awareness of the present God may be replaced by the awareness of the empty space within us. Life in the Spirit is ebb and flow—and this means, whether we experience the present or the absent God, it is the work of the Spirit.

From The Eternal Now by Paul Tillich (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1963).

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