Sometimes even mature Christians, those who have followed the Lord for many years can experience times when God seems far away. As long as we are in the flesh, living in this world and away from heaven we will have those times of feeling God is far away. It is not out of the ordinary, nor a sign that our faith in God is weak. Just a fact of living life in this world and in our flesh.
When this happens we can usually identify two or three different causes:
Sometimes our feelings of God being distant can begin with something we are experiencing physically. Maybe we are sick or battling some disease. It is not uncommon to feel distanced from God when we are sick. Long term illness can not only drain us physically but affect us spiritually as well. Illness may be a good time to enlist the help and prayers of other Christians to keep us encouraged and strengthened, reminded of God’s faithfulness and care. we may want to do as James suggests in his Epistle when he said call the elders of our church, be anointed with oil and prayed for. All of these are strengthening and will help us feel God’s closeness and care.
Another reason we may feel God is not close by could be because we have been or are living and behaving in a way we know is not pleasing to God. When we are participating in sinful behavior or have done things we know are against God’s commands feelings of guilt can cause us to feel distanced from God. When we have sinned but have not confessed our sin—such as what David experienced in Psalm 51—we can feel God has distanced himself from us because he is upset with us. The remedy to these feelings is confession. Not just saying “I’m sorry, God,” but turning from that activity and turning back to God. Confessing our sins and discontinuing our behavior will bring relief to our conscience and remove the barrier guilt puts between us and God. When we feel liberated from sin, we also feel close to God!
A third reason we might feel God is far away is because our enemy, the devil is doing what he often does, trying to play tricks on us, trying to get us to question God’s faithfulness, to doubt his promises over us. he is a master at playing mind games and messing with our head! Look at how he misled Eve in the Garden of Eden. as Jesus said in the Gospel of John, the devil is a liar, in fact he is the father of lies, he is deceptive and will use any trick he can to get us away from God or doubting. One sure way to be released from these feelings of God being distant is to talk to God about our thoughts and emotions in prayer and return to God’s word. reading our Bible with regularity will help us not only feel God is with us but assure us he is with us no matter what, in every season of life and through everything we face in life. The devil flees whenever we shine the light on his lies!
A fourth reason we might feel God is far away could be we have not worked on our relationship with him. Maybe we have been neglecting our prayer or devotional life. Maybe we have replaced worship with other activities. we might not feel the effect or impact of this right away. In fact, we may feel just great spiritually and emotionally, but eventually we will begin to be impacted both spiritually and emotionally. Neglecting spiritual practices which normally help us grow in our faith and create intimacy with God can leave us feeling empty and distant. How do we remedy these thoughts and feelings that God is far away, get back to worship, start praying again, reestablish our devotional life and make worship a priority again!
One thing is good to remember: when we start to feel God is far away it is good to recall, regardless of our thoughts or emotions one thing is true, as the saying goes, “If we feel far from God, guess who moved?” God will never leave us nor move away from us. We can feel encouraged to draw near to God and he will draw near to us!
Remember, God has always gone through great lengths to stay connected to his own special creation. in the Garden of Eden he personally came to visit daily with Adam and Eve until they sinned, then he sent his prophets to talk to his people on his behalf, then he sent his own Son, Jesus, in the flesh to live among us, and even when Jesus was departing to return to heaven to sit at God’s right hand, God sent the Holy Spirit who will be with us on our journey until the Lord brings us home to heaven. Regardless of our health, our sin, the devil’s whispers and lies, or our spiritual disciplines God is with us 365/66/24/7 every moment of the day every day of the year.
Our Father and our God, thank you for reminding us that our relationship with you and your closeness is not contingent upon our feelings and thoughts. The facts remain: you will never leave nor forsake us, no matter what. All of our life you are nearby. Help us to do those things that reassure us of your closeness but more than these, help us remember your promises and faithfulness. whenever we feel distanced from you make the cause of those feelings and thoughts known to us to we can turn to you and be assured and set free from our emotions, thoughts and doubts. in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Scriptures to reflect on and be assured of God’s closeness when he seems far away:
Psalm 139: 7-11
Where shall I go from your Spirit? or where shall I flee from your presence? I ascend to heaven, you re there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. if I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
Isaiah 41: 10
Fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 43: 5
Fearnot for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
Luke 24:15, 28-29
While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them…So they drew near to the village to which they were going. he acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them.
that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “In him we live and move and have our being; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we are his offspring.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. he will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
I will never leave you nor forsake you.
Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. you guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. you will seek me and find me, when you seek me wit hall your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
I Kings 8:57
May the LORD our God be with us as he was with our ancestors; may he never leave us nor forsake us.
Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
2 Corinthians 13:11
Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.