What to Do When God Feels Far Away
Do you ever feel like God has moved away? Do you find yourself wondering what happened to the closeness you once felt with Him or feel like somehow your connection to Him has been, well…disconnected?
There are seasons in my life where I feel a true, intimate connection with my Savior. But, there are other times where I find myself wondering where He’s gone. I know I am not alone in this experience. Many readers have written on our blog that you just don’t feel close to God anymore, or that when you pray, you don’t feel like anyone is listening. If you’re like me, these feelings can leave you feeling anxious, confused, or even abandoned.
But, God’s Word offers much hope to us when these feelings creep into our hearts. In fact, the Truth of God is like a white-hot spotlight pointing out that when we feel like God has left us, we have been deceived.
Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
These words were originally spoken to the Israelites as they prepared to take the Promised Land. But the promise is repeated to us in Hebrews 13:5, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:8 tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
He does not change. He won’t love you one day and reject you the next. He won’t hear your prayers in the morning and ignore you in the afternoon. He won’t be close to you at church camp but deny you intimacy during the routine of life.
But there are two sides to this coin.
God will not leave you, but it is possible for distance to creep into your relationship with Him. The Bible points out two main causes for separation between us and God.
The first is sin.
Isaiah 59:2 says, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear.”
If you are locked in a pattern of sin, if you are unrepentant and unwilling to give up a habit, a relationship, or an emotion to God, you surely will experience a strain in your relationship with Him. If we try to hold on to that sin while simultaneously pursuing intimacy with God we will quickly hit a roadblock.
But there is hope.
1 John 1:9-10 says, “If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives."
If God seems far from you, your first step should be an honest assessment of sin in your own life followed by confession. It certainly can be painful, but when we are obedient in this area, God promises to cleanse and purify us. That purification allows you to move back into a right relationship with God.
It is possible that God seems far away for an entirely different reason. Regular prayer and Bible study are our lifeline to God. When we grow lax in these areas, it doesn’t take long for our connection to be strained.
This reminds me of a story Dr. James Dobson tells in the introduction to his book “Emotions: Can You Trust Them?” Dobson tells the story of a losing football team. They had lost game after game. Finally, a wealthy business owner offered to buy all the players and coaches new trucks if they won their next game. The team went crazy. Emotions ran high. They felt sure they would win the game. They lost 38 to zero.
“The team's exuberance did not translate into a single point on the scoreboard,” Dobson writes. “Seven days of hoorah and whoop-de-do simply couldn't compensate for the players' lack of discipline and conditioning and practice and study and coaching and drill and experience and character. Such is the nature of emotion. It has a definite place in human affairs, but when forced to stand alone, feelings usually reveal themselves to be unreliable and ephemeral and even a bit foolish (Dobson, Emotions, Can You Trust Them?)
This certainly translates to our relationship with God. We want to feel close to Him but we don’t take the time to honestly seek him through prayer and Bible study. In fact, my relationship with Jesus will never exceed my relationship with His Word. Neither will yours.
Gulp! Even as I am writing this, I am feeling convicted about my own lack of discipline. I don’t feel as close to God as I would like to today. But, I haven’t spent much time seeking Him either. His Word assures me that He hasn’t moved. He hasn’t abandoned me or changed His mind about me. He has promised to reveal himself to me. But just like that promise of brand new cars made to the football team, these promises won’t be fulfilled in my life if I don’t seek Him.
So, what should you do the next time you are feeling far from God? My advice is to root out sin, seek Him through his Word and rest in the promise that He isn’t going anywhere.
“ I am sure that neither death nor life, angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of god in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 8:38-39.