The past couple months, I’ve had conversations with a few people who each said they feel like God is really far away, or is just so silent in their lives. The reasons for why varied from person to person – some were saying they felt like that on a particular day. They had come to church and just couldn’t engage – it all felt forced and as if they were just going through the motions. Others said they had felt that way for a very long time and were struggling with understanding why.
These conversations prompted me to dig into my own notes from previous seasons. I’ve had times where I have felt very distant from God – I spent time reading, praying, singing in corporate worship, but in those seasons it sometimes felt empty and maybe even forced. It was a really awful feeling. Feeling distant can be scary and confusing. It can lead to questions about your faith, guilt from even asking those questions, and a pressure to get it fixed.
In thinking about this, I had some takeaways that helped me as I walked through those seasons – some truths to remember:
1. Remember that God doesn’t change, but you may need to
“I the LORD do not change.” (Malachi 3:6a)
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)
God does not change. He’s not just a spiritual experience that we encounter on a whim or when things feel good. He is constant and unchanging. Always in control. Always good. But sometimes, when we feel like God has changed, or has gotten farther away, it’s an indication that we have changed.
- Sometimes it indicates that something in our heart is interfering with our relationship with God
If there is something in our life that we’re holding on to that is counter to God’s will, it will cause us to feel distant. Are you holding on to a sin in your life that you need to confess?1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
- Sometimes we just haven’t been willing to direct our heart – to change our posture and perspective.
If we are feeling distant from God, we may need to direct our heart toward Him. Carve out time to prepare your heart, to listen to Him, and to stand in awe of Him. Your heart can be directed…
- Proverbs 23:19 – “Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path”
- 1 Kings 8:61 – “And may your hearts be fully committed to the LORD our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.”
- John 14:27b – “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
- James 4:8 – “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
2. Remember who you are in Him
If you feel distant from God, remind yourself of who you are in Him. Not only does God not change, but our identity in Him is constant as well. We have been made new and brought close through Jesus.
- 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
- 1 Peter 2:9 – “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
- John 1:12 – “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”
- John 15:5 – “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
3. Remember to worship Him, celebrating that we can’t ever fully wrap our heads around Him:
When you feel distant from God, acknowledge how vast and amazing He is. Lift your hands anyways. Sing out, and celebrate who He is. Tell Him of your amazement. Engage with Him, and He will be faithful to draw you close.
- James 4:8a – “Come near to God and he will come near to you.”
- Romans 11:33-36 – “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”
4. Remember to accept His timing
God’s timing is perfect, and we can’t always know why He chooses to time things the way He does. Sometimes He may stay silent on something in order to teach us to trust Him more deeply. In these moments, don’t be confused – God hasn’t gone anywhere. He’s still close. He still loves you. He doesn’t change, but He may be teaching you how to trust Him more deeply. Choose to accept His timing and prepare for the moment when He does speak.
- Psalm 27:14 – “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”
- Lamentations 3:25-26 – “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”
In addition to these notes, I’d point you to some really great teaching from Pastor Jerry Gillis on the subject of “Spiritual Depression.” He really digs into this topic and provides some great insight. You can watch that here: Spiritual Depression – The Chapel