When God Feels Far Away
by Dick Innes
“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'”1
A Daily Encounter reader asks, “How can I have a relationship with a God that I cannot feel or hear even though I believe in him?”
Feelings. What would life be without them? No doubt, deadly dull and boring. As a Reader’s Digest writer once said, “Life without feelings would be like playing a trombone with a stuck slide.” However, as wonderful as feelings are, they can also be confusing if we don’t understand them.
When it comes to feeling God’s presence, one major reason we can’t feel him can have a lot to do with our childhood. If we had a close, loving, and warm relationship with our earthly father, it is so much easier to feel that God, too, is close, loving and warm. On the other hand, if our father was distant, cold, or not physically or emotionally present for us, we tend to project the same feelings we had towards him onto God our Heavenly Father and feel that he is distant, cold and not there either. Where this is the case, it can be helpful to seek capable counseling to help resolve one’s father issue.
Another reason why God can feel far away is if we are not living in harmony with his will. Guilt builds a “feeling” barrier between us and God.
When we are living in harmony with God’s will, we need to remind ourselves that God is not our earthly father (or mother), nor is he like a bad father, and that he is always close to us whether we feel it or not.
I like the words written on the wall where Jews had hidden from Hitler’s atrocities and death camps:
“I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining.
I believe in love even when
I do not feel it.
I believe in God even when He is silent.”
Suggested prayer: “Dear God, thank you that, even though my feelings fluctuate up and down, you never change. Thank you, too, that you are always present and will never leave me nor forsake me. I choose to commit and trust my life to you regardless of my feelings. And I thank you that you are always with me even when I can’t feel your presence. And please help me to see any barriers in my life that may be causing me to feel that you are distant and far away. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus’ name, amen.”
1. Hebrews 13:5-6 (NIV).
“God … is not far from each one of us.”1
“I attend church regularly,” one person said to me, “but I don’t necessarily believe in God. He seems so distant.”
The difficulty for many of us, even when we believe in God, is feeling close to him and experiencing his presence and love. When we can’t, as Cecil Osborne points out, it is our receptivity that is at fault. God is constantly broadcasting his love, power and blessings to all of us but when can’t feel these, it’s the barriers in our life that block God’s love getting through.
The barriers can be unresolved negative emotions such as anger, resentment, hurt, grief, fear, feelings of inadequacy, guilt and so on. Another barrier can be caused by any impaired relationship with a loved one or friend, by unconfessed sin, living out of harmony with God’s will, or by not making the effort to daily spend time with God in prayer and listening to his Word. When we starve our souls, it feels as if God is far away.
Another reason God can seem far away is because of a lack of sufficient human love, connection, and meaningful fellowship with fellow Christians. We were created for relationships—with God and people. Both are essential for emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. As John, the beloved disciple of Jesus put it, “If we love one another, God’s love is perfected or made complete in us.”2
Suggested prayer: “Dear God, whenever I feel that You are distant, help me to realize that I’m the one who has moved, not You. Help me to see any barrier/s in me and lead me to the help I need to resolve these. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus’s name, amen.”
1. Paul the Apostle (Acts 17:27, NIV).
2. 1 John 4:12.