I once had someone ask me: "What do you do when God feels far away?" I wanted nothing more than to give them a straightforward, end-all answer, but I wasn't going to fool myself into thinking that was a possibility.
I wish it was a possibility! There were even things I knew I could say that was definitely true (He's not far away! Just have a little more faith! It will get better, you'll see!) but just like any moment of pain, it wouldn't help to hear those things, no matter how true they are. When we are struggling, we want answers and we want them now.
So what answer can you give when someone asks you what to do when God feels far away? It's a hard question for me to face because my own memories of struggle, and at the time my friend asked me I felt myself squirming uncomfortably under the weight of their question. I ended up not having an answer for them but having my own experience.
Sometimes it feels like clockwork during dark times in our lives. At some point, either in the midst of the struggle or the aftermath, we reach out to God and, to our horror, get the feeling that he's not as close as he once was. It's nothing short of terrifying. I've been there, and when I was there I started looking for anyone else who had ever experienced this kind of seemingly hopeless disconnect. And guess what? I found someone.
Taking a look at Psalm 13, we don't exactly meet a David who's feeling the maximum closeness to God, rather just the opposite. David, a man after God's own heart, spends the majority of the psalm (and the majority of many others) crying out to God and lamenting the distance he is feeling. David, this great man of God, asked the question "What do you do when God feels distant?" And when we look at David's story, we find time and time again that God's apparent distance leads to a new chapter of David's life with new growth in the Lord.
Of course, there's an even bigger example of fighting through the feeling of God seeming distant. In Matthew 27:46, Jesus cries out on the cross as he is dying, saying “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus. The Son of God. He asked it with all his heart.
You are in good company.
Jesus, son of God and Savior of humanity felt the icy despair of distance from God. If Jesus experienced the full force of this? How could there ever be a straightforward answer as for what to do?
When I say I don't have an easy answer to this question, I don't mean that there's no solution to it. To some extent, we already know the answer to that question when we ask it, but it's the application of the solution that leaves us feeling lost and confused. When we answer for ourselves, "What do you do when God feels distant?" we uncover even more questions, the biggest often is how do you hold fast in faith until this period of growth moves on to the next chapter in your life? Not to sound nauseatingly cliche, but that may just be something we each figure out in unique ways to our walk with God.
I will say this though, experiencing a point in your life where God feels distant does not mean you are a failure as a Christian. You know what? I’m going to say it again to make sure you know it.
Experiencing a point in your life where God feels distant does not mean you are a failure as a Christian
It means, as some of the best examples the Bible has to offer, you are entrenched in an opportunity for growth as a result of an ongoing war in a broken world. It means you are in good company.
If you are there, hold on. Be steadfast. Like Romans 5: 2-5 tells us: "Through him, we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
David came out on the other side serving God. Jesus died for the sins of man and rose again, opening the way to salvation. Our struggles and pain can be used somewhere down the line to further the kingdom too. Be steadfast, and endure.
Let’s find some joy,