Why Do I Feel So Emotionally Dry About God?
Dear Pastor Lance – I’m in my forties and have been in the worst emotionally dry desert when it comes to God, for the last 20 years. Up till my 20’s I felt very emotionally connected, but for the last two decades I have felt all alone. It’s like God shut the microphone off. I still pray and go to church and listen to worship music, but nothing but silence comes back. What’s happened? Did God turn His back on me? Is something wrong with me? Can you help me?
My dear friend, I’m very sorry that you are in this difficult desert place for so long. That’s absolutely miserable.
I know for sure that I have been dry and disconnected at times, but never for so long.
Ok, so a quick assessment (not to be rude, I just think in bullet-point terms) on what we are looking at.
Your challenge is a lack of feelings. So we are left with a couple of options on what could be causing this:
1.) As an adult, you aren’t a very emotional person about anything, much less God.
2.) You aren’t actually connected to God in reality as much as you think you are.
3.) Your expectations are askew.
4.) This is a really, really long spiritual attack or Satan got you to buy into false beliefs at some point, and you carried it on.
5.) You are not doing ‘disciplines’ that actually connect you emotionally to God.
6.) God has withdrawn His voice for a higher purpose.
7.) Your ‘atmosphere’ is not conducive to feeling connected (similar to #5).
I’m sure there are more options, but those are the ones I could think of, off the top of my head.
Now, the assessment of probabilities.
- I don’t know your emotional state on other things so I can’t tell you whether or not you are “feeling’ more or less about God. If you feel very connected to other people a lot and then there is a desert with God, then something is amiss. If you are generally an emotionally dry person, then it may be in line.
- You mentioned that you are a child of God and I believe that. I believe that this is just a struggle. You know what being a christian means, it sounds like and if you have surrendered to Jesus, then the problem isn’t likely a salvation issue, but more of a discipleship or health issue.
- I think expectations might be a big part of this (we’ll get to that).
- I don’t think that a spiritual attack of this magnitude would hang around (although anxiety and depression does) like this, but it’s possible. I think it’s more likely that Satan may have done some damage and this is lingering effects.
- I think that your life habits are really playing into this.
- I don’t think that God has completely withdrawn His voice for this long of a period. It’s possible, but not likely.
- I think that atmosphere is critical here.
Okay, so what do we do?
- We begin with expectations – what do you think you should be feeling with God? You are comparing it to a highly emotional part of life (childhood, teens and young adult) where things are all hyped up (remember how breaking up felt?). Is it possible that an adult relationship with God has a different basis of ‘feeling’? How do you know that you aren’t feeling what you should be feeling? Although this is a personal relationship with God, He is the only personal relationship that you have with a relatively silent, invisible person. So it’s going to be different. Don’t get me wrong, I think that God wants a more intimate relationship with us and usually our expectations of connection are too low, but it’s possible that yours are askew. What are you basing it off of? Other people? Who’s your comparison? Sometimes we are emotionally stunted in our growth. Sometimes we are just not clued in to how to hear or connect.
- Next we move to Who God Is – who is God to you? Is He your Father? Is He your friend? I know that you pray but how do you pray? I know that you listen to worship music but for what reason? Is God big in your mind or small? Is He effective or weak? What is your “theology”? Is He a bunch of facts or a person? Is He loving and kind or distant? Who you view God to be will directly impact your expectations.
- Next we move to who you are (identity) - What has God made you to be? Are you His child? Are you a worshiper? Are you a prayer? Are you an ambassador? Are you simply a servant? Who are you?
- Then we move to your habits, or patterns of living – Reading the Bible only makes sense if you understand it and it speaks to you. Worshiping in music only matters if it’s attached to heart and not merely singing a song. Going to church is only helpful if it’s connective in some way. I appreciate your tenacity in doing good spiritual disciplines, I’m just wondering if you are doing the right ones, or doing ones that mean something to you. Do you connect through nature? Do you need visuals? Are you a cerebral or intellectual person that needs new info? Are you a poet? What’s your special pathway to the Lord that makes you feel close and connected? Maybe the things that work for others don’t work for you and you need to be creative. Maybe what worked the first half of your life doesn’t work the second half. The importance of a spiritual discipline is not the discipline itself but the impact that it’s having on you to connect with God. If it doesn’t work right, then either you need to change the way you interact with it, or you need to change the discipline.
- Then we move to atmosphere – are you around people that connect you with God? Are you in the right environments for your personality? Do you have Christian friends? Are you in a healthy environment? Can you alter your environment to ‘breathe God’ more? We are very atmospheric beings and we are really affected by what goes around us, especially with our emotions. For example you can go in a Halloween Haunted House and get scared even though it’s not real. The difference of being 20 yards inside, vs. 20 yards outside makes the difference of how you feel. Watch your atmosphere. It matters.
Obviously I’m trying to lead you through a self-diagnosis, but it’s more helpful to have someone walk you through it in person to be able to adjust with your answers. That would be a Christian counselor or to sit down with a pastor. Have you tried that?
I wish I could wave my magic wand and make it all go away but I can’t. We are called to steward our bodies, and part of that means to steward them spiritually, which means getting them what they need to be healthy. This is important.
I really appreciate you writing to me. It demonstrates your heart intent. God is honored in that.
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