God, … I search for You, my soul thirsts for You, my body yearns for You, as a parched and thirsty land that has no water. (63:2)
Sometimes God’s presence is front and center, and sometimes it is like (as this Psalmist writes) we are in a dry wilderness and God is nowhere to be seen.
My own experience is this — I don’t expect the Presence of God to be visible at all times. I expect that I am pretty much on my own most of the time. The brief moments when I sense the Presence are comforting and gratifying, all the more so for their rarity. My sense is this is the way things are supposed to be.
Years ago, I read in Rabbi David Wolpe’s “Healer of Shattered Hearts” an explanation of theodicy and goodness that has remained with me ever since. If you knew that God was constantly at your side, rewarding you and punishing you at appropriate moments, wouldn’t you be on your best behavior? How many people break traffic laws when they know that a police car is right behind them! Are you being good at those moments, or are you just being smart? Rabbi Wolpe suggests that you are not being good when you are behaving well at moments when you know you are being monitored, you are just being smart.
The fact is that we know good people who suffer and nasty people who prosper. We know both good and evil people are hurt by tornadoes, earthquakes, and tsunami. We know that God does not immediately reward and punish. God is not a police officer trailing us night and day. Thus, when we choose to be good rather than bad, we are truly being good, not just smart.
We may long for a more visible and constant and nourishing sign of the Presence of God. At the same time, we need to remember that we are mature, adult, human beings, able to function without constant “parental” supervision.