As I've pondered that question this week up here in Sioux City, Iowa, my answer is: "I don't think I am a very good judge of when God is closest to me. "
John 15:1-2 reminds me of one of the meanings of suffering.
"I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn't produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more."
All of us have crosses to bear. We don't have to linger on our crosses. I doubt Mary, the mother of Jesus, ever again thought about a cross without her stomach spasming and feeling utter desolation. Still, we can thank God for the crosses we endure … for being with us in the best and worst of times.