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Review: A disconnect from the divine

Young poet ponders 'when God isn't there'

‘Why does God seem so distant? Why is my worship so empty?”

Most of us face those questions at some point in our Christian lives. David Bowden takes us on a search for answers — focusing on five circumstances in which we feel God’s absence — in When God Isn’t There: Why God Is Farther than You Think but Closer than You Dare Imagine.”

David Bowden. When God Isn’t There: Why God Is Farther than You Think but Closer than You Dare Imagine. Nashville, TN.: Thomas Nelson, 2016. 272 pages.

If you’ve attended one of the Winterfest youth events, you’ll recognize Bowden as the spoken-word poet who performs original compositions about life, faith and daily struggles. He’s a 2010 graduate of Oklahoma Christian University and received the school’s 2017 Young Alumnus Award.

His book wasn’t what I expected — a reflective memoir recounting a Christian’s struggle to rely on faith during difficult times, similar to the fare he offers on his YouTube videos.

Instead, Bowden recalls stories, both personal and secondhand, when God felt distant and unreachable. He responds by offering practical reasons and explanations for those experiences. For many of us, these times of trial make us wonder if we’re questioning our very belief in God and cause us to second-guess the strength of our faith.

But Bowden argues that those who believe in God the most and have felt his presence the most deeply also are the most likely to notice his absence in their lives.

As our faith in God grows, our awareness of the the gap between us and God also grows. Bowden emphasizes the certainty of God’s omnipresence, describing it as a hint and an aroma that increase our desire to stand in his presence.

As I read this book, I felt my own views on this perceived spiritual separation begin to shift. My feelings moved from a sense of guilt over the inability to completely connect to a sense of peace, to knowing that my feelings of disconnection are simply a longing to be wholly in God’s presence.

Throughout the book, Bowden references examples of miracles Jesus performed during his time on Earth — miracles that prompted those in attendance to beg for more signs. The physical aspect of the miracles, Bowden argues, would never fully satisfy the witnesses. Only when Jesus’ followers realized the eternal magnitude of his miracles did they realize that the only sign they truly needed was Jesus himself.

Bowden does a good job of exploring new thoughts on the true focus of worship, the places God resides in times of both joy and suffering and the grace God offers us. For me, this book was a wake-up call — a realization that my search for, and spiritual trajectory toward, God is never-ending. I will never feel complete in this search as long as I’m still living on this earth.

Katie Holroyd | In Print

The book has wide-ranging applications for those who feel that they’re struggling in their faith and for those who feel they have it all together. It challenges us to change our ways while we take a deep, honest look at our motivations in life.

Bowden makes bold statements regarding his interpretation of biblical texts. He includes reference numbers that correlate with notes at the end of the book. His research comes from the Bible and other religious books and sources.

Although the reader may not agree with every idea he shares, Bowden provides important insight on the struggles many of us have experienced but that few of us feel comfortable talking about. “When God Isn’t There” is encouraging, convicting, thought-provoking and definitely worth the read.

Katie Holroyd, a native of Siloam Springs, Ark., is a senior public communication and leadership major and student news editor at Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City.

Filed under: Reviews Top Stories poetry spoken-word poet

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