By night on my bed, feeling worn out and exhausted, I sought the one I love; I sought him, but I did not find him. The verse, I sought him, but I did not find him, is a painfully moving and disconcerting one. What is the meaning of, I sought him, but I did not find him? Lord, You have promised, Seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you, (Luke 11:9). Why then do I now seek and cannot find?
The answer to this question lies in what is known in the spiritual world as intervals of abandonment or forsaking. During such intervals, Grace forsakes, or abandons, man. When man seeks the Lord, he will not find Him. Man finds himself tiresomely searching for a gleam of hope, a trace of shimmering light in the middle of overwhelming and overpowering darkness. He seeks the Lord, but he does not find Him. I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze, (Lev 26:18-20). This person prays and does not find an answer. The special bond and the distinctive, unique ties between man and God are no more. They are gone.
A great number of people undergo this experience nonetheless. You seek the Lord, but you do not find Him. You remember a time when the Lord was so near and so close. Whenever you called Him, He would listen. It is no exaggeration to say that the Lord would listen to the heart’s desire, even before a prayer has been said. Just looking to the Heights without uttering a word would have been acceptable before the Lord.
Why do some people undergo these intervals of abandonment and forsaking? Some experience these intervals at times of pride and conceit. When a human being becomes heedless or neglectful, signs of self-importance, vanity and arrogance start trickling into the heart. When this happens, God becomes alarmed about man’s spiritual well-being and abandons him out of concern. Then man falls and becomes aware of his weaknesses. Man will then call the Lord, and he will say, I am weak, O Lord, and I am not able to stand. The Lord would answer; I want to restore you to your former humility and meekness. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit, (Ps 34:18). It is no exaggeration to suggest that if you keep a remorseful, repentant and contrite heart, you will not experience this interval of abandonment. There is another reason that may bring about these intervals of abandonment.
Man may show no interest in the Lord. He or she neglects to have a relation with the Lord because they love the world more than God. They have no time for the Lord. When the Lord knocks at the door, they do not have the time for Him. Where do we read that something like this happens? In Chapter 5 in the Song of Songs, we read something to that effect, I sleep, but my heart is awake; It is the voice of my beloved! He knocks, (Song 5:2). The voice of my Beloved! Behold, He comes leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills, (Song 2:8). He knocks, saying, “Open for me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one,” (Song 5:2). However, no one has the time to open the door for the Lord. We have many claims upon our time. We are simply busy, Go away for now; when I have a convenient time, I will call for you, (Acts 24: 25).
It is amazing how human beings seek and even hunt for excuses to stay away from the Lord. I, O Lord, am not free for You right now. I have so many projects going on right now. I am in the middle of writing a book right now. I am busy with service in the Church right now.
Sometimes we wonder if the feeling associated with abandonment entailed in the phrase I sought him, but I could not find him would be a permanent one. However, the Lord assures us that it is temporary. We hear His assuring voice, It is not going to last, my beloved. Even if you forsake me, I cannot forsake you. Even if you leave me, I cannot leave you. The Lord confirms, For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you, (Is. 54:7). The Lord may have forsaken me, but only for a moment. He cannot stand forsaking us forever.
The human soul exclaims, The watchmen who go about the city saw me; I said, ‘Have you seen the one I love?’ Scarcely had I passed by them, when I found the one I love. I held him and would not let him go, (Song 3:3-4). Now, I will not let him go. I will hold firmly to Him. This is a natural feeling because of the abandonment and the subsequent state of confusion and loss that the human soul experiences without the Lord. Oftentimes, we entreat the Lord to deliver us from a particular hardship and promise that we will never forsake Him again. We even vehemently declare that if the whole world comes against us, our love would remain unfaltering and steadfast, I held him and would not let him go.
Sometimes the Lord conceals Himself for awhile so as to spark our interest in Him, sharpen our yearning for Him, and make us seek Him more diligently. Meanwhile, the Lord is always close to us.