What should I do when God feels distant?
A lot of people say they feel somehow that God is distant from them. They describe a sense of loneliness and long to feel closer to God. There can be a few reasons why they feel this way, let’s look at them.
- They may not have asked Jesus into their heart yet. Jesus knocks on the door of people’s hearts and asks that they open the door and welcome Him in. (Revelation 3:20) He makes a promise that he will come in when we open the door of our heart. So the first question to ask yourself is: Have I asked Jesus to come in? If not, why not watch through the CrossCheck presentation and make that decision today? www.crosscheck.org.uk
- They have not understood that God keeps his promises. Jesus always keeps His promises. So, when he says He will come in and live in your heart, you can be confident that He is living in your heart. God is close to His people, no matter how they might feel, because he says He is. There are many other promises of God like this, which we can trust completely because the one who promised them is always faithful: “6 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.’” Deuteronomy 31:6
- They have received Jesus, but have struggled with sin and Satan rubs it in. Satan is called ‘the accuser’ in Revelation 12:10-12 “10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 11 They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. 12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.’” Often it is the case that when people become Christians they are surprised that they still struggle with sin. They somehow think that they won’t sin anymore! Then when they do, they are truly sorry for it and are repentant, but they are greatly discouraged and feel distant from God. The reason why is that Satan accuses them, he tells them that they aren’t really God’s children - that if they were they wouldn’t sin anymore. This is a lie, but we often believe it. If this is the case for you, then you need to be reminded that Jesus has paid for all your sin when he died on the cross. It no longer separates you from God, you have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13).
- They have sinned and have not repented. The parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 is a good example of this. The son takes his inheritance and goes off to a ‘distant’ land to live life the way he wants to. He literally distances himself from his Father, but in terms of their relationship too, they can no longer be close. The son has sinned against his Father and left him, and he becomes unsure of his Father’s love for him, whether he will be accepted back into the family. The son inevitably feels distant – he has turned his back on his Father and walked away. He knows that in order to get right with him, he needs to turn back and say sorry. This can be true of us too. When we engage in sin and are rebellious, when we live our lives our way instead of God’s way and don’t want to change, we feel distant. We are damaging our relationship with God. But the good news of this story is, when the son repents and returns to the Father they are restored and become close again. If you have sin in your life, that you know is wrong but you don’t want to give it up, it is inevitable that you feel distant from God. If this is the case in your situation, you need to repent of your sin and return to God and he will receive you gladly with open arms.
- Sometimes God just feels distant. He isn’t, but it just feels like that. The Psalms often speak about this kind of feeling. It’s not that the person has sinned, it’s just one of those times in life when God seems far away. Psalm 42:1-5 is one such Psalm: “1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’ 4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. 5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.” In this Psalm, the writer doesn’t mention sin, confession, or repentance. He doesn’t seem to indicate that it is because of sin that God seems distant. He just does feel distant - it’s one of those times. He can remember times when he felt close to God in the past, and he longs to recover that. So what does he do? He instructs himself to remember the God he knows, to put his hope in Him again and to praise him. He keeps trusting God and His promises as he knows from God’s Word that God will never leave him. He has a sure and certain hope in the promises and character of God.
It is worth thinking through these 5 things to see where you are at. Once you have done so, you can proceed to walk forward with the Lord and strive to keep seeking Him every day through prayer, by reading His words in the Bible, and by making sure you keep on meeting with other believers to receive their encouragement.