This post was originally posted to Facebook on August 2, 2013
What do you do when God feels so far away?
Everyone goes through different seasons in their lives. One of the main ways we kind of gauge our seasons is through our feelings. Lots of changes, every day a new experience, a feeling of uncertainty – it’s a new season. Feeling down, things not going too well – a new season. New friendships or new relationships in your life, feeling open and vulnerable – a new season.
We live experientially. We like to try new things. We like to test the water. We like to feel things out and see how things go. That’s cool. It’s often important to check out things by experience.
There comes a point in a person’s life where they’ll do the same with God. In a search for truth or a reinforcement of what they have already been taught and grown up with, they make a decision to step out and experience the supernatural, far beyond themselves. If you have determined to seek God before, you probably would’ve found He’s there, waiting to be found. And the experience can be quite amazing. Your perspective is enlightened, your heart expands, your life starts to turn around, you have a new hope to face tomorrow. God feels so close – even more personal than Scripture describes Him as being. And everything seems right.
But what do you do when that feeling goes away? What do you do when God feels so far off?
Everyone goes through a time in their lives where they don’t feel anything, or worse, they feel distant. It can suck being in a church meeting or with other people who have their hands raised and in tears and hearing God’s voice so regularly, and you look at yourself in the same room and wonder if you’re doing something wrong. You talk to your friends who always seem to be learning something new or stepping into a new dimension in their spirituality. They seem to read the Bible with such clarity and love, yet when you pick it up it just feels dry. You once remember that experience, you once remember being so close. How do you get back there?
I know what it’s like to go through seasons where your feelings don’t line up with your faith. I’ve grown up in church my whole life and have been to a number of different types of churches through a number of different seasons. There are so many times when life has not felt right at all. There are a number of times where I’ve felt close in action, but far away in heart. I guess I’ve learnt through my own journey what to do in these seasons.
The first thing that really helped me was to realize that feelings can be an unreliable indicator of where you’re at. Case and point – waking up in the morning. Do you feel like doing it? But you do it. Your feelings say you should stay in bed, but that is an unreliable indicator of the fact that you’re faithful in your career or study and you should get up. How about for those who are married? Your feelings tell you your spouse is driving you crazy and you don’t want to see them, but the truth is that you’re committed to them and always looking out for their well being. Feeling does not change reality.
So what are these feelings exactly when it comes to God? Distance, fear, maybe guilt. We feel like we’ve stuffed up, or we feel like He hasn’t come through for us in the way we expect. Maybe those are the things we should focus on working through instead of letting those feelings drive us further away.
The feelings say that you’re too far gone, but the fact says God will never leave you or forsake you. You feel too dirty to be taken back, the fact is that God never let you go. You feel like you couldn’t go back, the fact is that for the joy set before Him (you), Christ endured the Cross, despising the shame. Just for the chance that you would know His name. Which one will you trust more?
Another thing we’ve got to watch out for is seeds of offense. You know, church people can really suck. They can. It’s a fact. I heard once that the church is full of hypocrits… but there’s always room for one more. We’re all imperfect and fallen, we’re going to let each other down in various ways at various times. People get hurt in churches all the time. As a result, people can be burnt out or frustrated out of going to church altogether. I would argue here that you should really identify the source of what you’re annoyed it – don’t cause your relationship with God to suffer because of something someone did.
I guess what is really sad for me a lot of the time is to see people just sitting on the outside of the throne room during worship, outside of the presence of God in their career, away from the fellowship and the family that we have promised. You were born to be a son or daughter in the house. You were born for companionship and intimacy with God. You have been forgiven and selected, predestined for greatness.
And you know, there’s also the real decision point for us as to who we are going to put first in our lives. We all have an opportunity to just go do our own thing and see how things go.
But how many years are you going to wander and wonder down that road when you already know that truth…?
The deepest thing the human heart could ever realize is this – Jesus loves you. This is the deepest, most relevant, most profound truth any of us could ever realize. We could strive and desire more than that, but there is nothing more important than that.
So today, tonight, wherever and whenever you’re reading this, don’t be ruled by those feelings any more.
And the next time guilt, distance or fear flood your emotions, don’t hesitate to put your faith in the facts rather than the feelings.
In closing, consider a steam train. You have your engine, you have your fuel, and you have your carriage. The carriage is all nice and warm and enjoyable (or not), the fuel is needed to power the train, and the engine is what keeps it moving forward. You don’t put fuel in the carriage of a train, otherwise it won’t move forwards. Instead, put your fuel into the engine. You don’t put faith in your feelings, or you may even end up moving backwards. Put your faith in the facts. In His love. In His mercy.
And you’ll notice that as the whole train moves forward, your feelings will follow.