The absence of the felt presence of The Lord is his normal means of increasing our faith and of getting us to the point of believing in the power of his word alone, without “signs and wonders,” that is to say, without the feeling of his presence or external props. [cf John 4:46-54]
(Fr. Keating assumes that one is trying to avoid sin. God knows one will not be successful in avoiding sin, but resistance to temptation should/must be there. Stubborn attachment to sins, by definition, can also cause an “absence of the felt presence of The Lord” for fairly obvious reasons.)
In reference to the story of the Canaanite woman begging for help in Matthew 15:21-28 (emphasis added below):
Who is this daughter who was so “sorely tempted by a demon?” It might not be too farfetched to consider the daughter as a symbol of what Paul calls, “the physical part of our being,” [2 Cor 4:16] which is truly tormented by a demon at this crisis in our lives when we go to God, and his former tenderness, sweetness, and whatever else we may have received, are turned to dust and ashes. The more we plead, the less we seem to be heard. The lower we crawl in the dust, the more he seems to suggest getting lower. It is the cry from a heart that is really serving God which Jesus seems to turn down here. Why? Because we are “unprofitable servants” and have no right to the “food of the children.” We have no true right to anything in order of grace. It is precisely by facing up to this reality that we pass from confidence in our own merits to faith in his mercy. As soon as she acknowledged that she had no right to food, she got not only a crumb, but the whole banquet. That is really the substance of the crisis of faith—and it’s resolution.
A few pages later (emphasis added):
Ask somebody whom God is trying to jockey into this kind of crisis, and he usually will say something like this: “I’m going backwards. God doesn’t love me anymore. He doesn’t listen to my prayers. He never gives me what I want. I can’t find him in books. Prayer is a mess, one distraction after another. Temptations of every kind abound.”
And yet underneath all that debris there is the same kind of perseverance and longing for contact with God which shows grace is secretly at work. What is actually being destroyed is our dependence on our own ways of going to God. Actually these much loved souls are being invited by Christ to the same kind of expansion of faith that the Canaanite woman experienced. Remember what the grand finale was. At a certain point, when her confidence reached the degree Jesus was waiting for, he acquiesced and said to her, “Woman, great is your faith. You can have anything you want!”
What we really want and what the Holy Spirit is inspiring us to long for in the crisis of faith is a confortation with the Word of God in or inmost being. It is contact with the divinity of Christ. It is to be brought inwardly face to face with the living God, who, faith assures us, dwells within us, and who, hope reassures us, will reward those who seek him with his presence.
O Father, I hope this is where I am. I do not know. I cannot see. I trust You. Lead me where You want me.