I Didn't Feel Close to God
The guitar screeched out the first chord and the drummer pounded on the bass. Everyone jumped to their feet and belted out the words to one of my favorite praise songs. But instead of joining in, I glanced around the room. Most of my friends were clapping their hands and swaying to the beat. It was like everyone could feel God. Everyone but me.
Usually, worshiping with my youth group's praise band was the highlight of my week. Whenever I sang, I felt really connected to God. It was like I could feel him right beside me. But that night, something just didn't feel right. I couldn't get into the music. I felt weird and alone.
Things didn't get better, either. I'd just started my freshman year and I was super busy with school. In the past, I'd always tried my best to do my daily devos. But since school had started, God always seemed to be last on my to-do list.
I wanted to feel close to God again, but I just didn't know how. I kept going back to youth group, because I hoped that eventually things would just go back to normal.
But nothing changed. Then one night, my youth pastor, Kim, told us to go home and spend 15 minutes alone with God. I hadn't prayed for days, so I thought it would be the perfect time to cram a week's worth of prayer into one night. But when I sat down to pray, I couldn't concentrate. Stuff about school raced through my mind, and I couldn't get a song I'd heard on the radio out of my head.
I'd been a Christian for as long as I could remember, and I had never felt so disconnected from God. I started to feel like something was really wrong with me. When I did pray, which wasn't often, I wondered if God even heard me.
One evening after youth group, Kim gave me a ride home. Up until then, I'd kept my feelings secret. But I had to tell someone. So I just blurted out what had been going on.
"I've been having a lot of doubts," I admitted. "God feels so distant. What's wrong with me?"
"Rachel, don't be too hard on yourself," Kim said reassuringly. "I've known you for a long time. I've watched your relationship with Jesus grow, and I believe you still love him."
Kim turned into my driveway and then continued. "Sometimes things get in the way of our relationships with God. Maybe with your busy schedule that's happened to you." She leaned over, gave me a hug and said gently, "I'd encourage you to just be sure and invite God into your day-to-day life. And then try hard to keep him there."
Kim's words made a lot of sense to me. I decided that night it was time to stop making excuses and put God at the top of my priority list. Even though I knew my homework load wouldn't change, I could make some changes in how I spent my free time. So I immediately cut down on the amount of time I spent watching TV and chatting online. That gave me more time to spend in Bible study and prayer.
At first, I didn't feel that different. But one night at youth group, we did something our youth pastor called "listening prayer." Instead of talking throughout the whole prayer, we sat in silence and just concentrated on God.
It was amazing. When I gave God my total attention, he felt real to me.
Toward the end of the school year, I got the courage to open up to some of my friends at youth group. I told them I'd started the year feeling so disconnected from God. I was surprised when they admitted they'd also had times they'd felt the same. None of us ever wanted to feel that way again. So we agreed to check up on each other to make sure we did our devotions every day. It really helped my friends and me stay focused on God.
I'm a sophomore now, and I know in my heart that God never left me. I was the one who got distracted and kind of pushed God to the side. My priority list is still pretty long—but I make sure God is always at the top of it.
By Rachel Groters, as told to Amy Adair