When God Feels Far…
Below is the transcript of an IM thread I had recently with a dear friend of mine.
I pray it will be a blessing to you:
you are welcome and thank you for the helpful hints and was wondering if you know why at times when they are hard we cant feel Gods hand on us like sometimes I get really sad because my Grandma died and sometimes I cant feel God’s had do you happen to know why?
Do you mean feel God’s hand comforting us, feel God’s presence with us?
Great great question. Been thinking about this a while. Here are some thoughts to chew on:
1. Nothing wrong with feelings; God created them. But we often rely on them too much. They can become an idol of sorts, in the sense that we Western, American Christians (especially those of us younger than 35) are always trying to “experience God,” to get goose bumps from God, be brought to tears by a church service or song, get that spiritual adrenaline rush, etc.
God gives us times where we genuinely FEEL His presence, His love, His forgiveness, etc.
But He never intends us to always FEEL that way. Just like when a baseball player hits a home run to win the championship: the crowd is cheering wildly and it is often called “the greatest feeling in the world.”
But imagine if that athlete/person tried to have that same feeling everyday. Wow. They would be seriously depressed and disappointed. That moment of athletic glory is not bad, but it is not normal.
And so with God…
…He allows sometimes to FEEL Him, but what He is ultimately moving us towards is KNOWING Him. KNOWING Him is the end goal.
My Dad was VERY late picking me up from the library after school one day when I was in 6th grade (this was before cell phones were affordable!). The librarians were concerned for me. I wasn’t. Even though I had no physical EVDIENCE to “prove” my Dad would eventually pick me up, even though I didn’t FEEL as though he would pick me up, I said to the librarians, “It’s ok. I KNOW he is on his way.” (He DID eventually pick me up!)
Like that test friends do whereby you fall backwards and your friend catches you.
It can be pretty scary at first. But then after you do it a few times, it gets easy and becomes no big deal because you can always turn around and SEE if your friend is still there, you can listen to hear their breathing. But then the test goes a step further and you get a blindfold, get spun around, loud music gets played, and you wait blindfolded for like 5 minutes. Then you’re just supposed to fall back again, not knowing if the friend is still there or not. Much harder that time when we can’t use our senses.
And that is faith. Faith is what we do, what we believe, who we follow, when we can no longer feel God, when we can no longer sense His presence (like that great saying: “Prayer is asking for rain. Faith is carrying an umbrella…even if the sun is shining!”).
It’s kind of like when Jesus said, “What good is it if you are kind to those who are kind to you? Don’t sinners do that?”
But love your enemies and pray for them—be good to them when you feel NOTHING toward them. That is true love.
And so it is easy to follow Jesus when everything is going great and we sense Him with each new day, with each song on K-Love, with each church service.
But what will we do when God takes away that pacifier of FEELING, when God removes that security blanket? Will we abandon Him? Or will we keep going?
So I think God is always strengthening our faith by teaching us not to rely on what we feel about God, what we feel from God…
…but what we KNOW about God from the WORD. That He is Good, Loving, Kind, Patient, Merciful, Generous, Always with Us, Trustworthy, etc.
Keep in mind that that was the Isralites grave sin when Moses came back down from the mountain and he smashed the Ten Commandments…
The Israelites made a calf out of gold…
…not of some foreign god but rather a calf of gold to represent the LORD!
But even that is wrong, because they didn’t want to follow GOd on faith, but instead wanted to follow God as an image that they could see.
Hebrews says “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”
And so God lovingly and slowly is weening us off our addiction to our five senses and onto an addiction of true faith in Him, of KNOWING God even when we can’t feel Him.
And for many of us, it truly takes our entire earthly lives to move powerfully towards KNOWING GOD.
I know that was a long response, but those thoughts have helped me greatly through times of spiritual dryness and loneliness.
One last little story:
I sometimes go into my children’s rooms after they are asleep and hug them, hold them, kiss their little cheek, look at them, pray over them…and in the morning I ask them about it and they have no memory of it!
As far as they were concerned, it NEVER HAPPENED! But it did, and I was there.
And that happens every moment with God. Sometimes we “wake up” and find Him there and it is amazing!
But most of the time we keep on sleeping and fail to realize that He has been with us the whole time (like that famous poem called “Footprints”–amazing).
And sadly, many people get angry at God for not “being there” and end up walking away from Him, because He does not do what they think He should do; they leave Him to worship some idol that they can see, and touch, and hold close to them at night. Something that actually does make them feel better in the short-term…
But in the long term separates them from God because they are worshipping something other than HIM…
please let me say that what you are feeling is totally valid.
God is not angry at us for feeling lonely, for sometimes feeling as if He has abandoned us.
It’s what we do with those feelings that matter to God: do we keep following Him on faith alone, or do we walk away from Him…
Do not beat yourself up if you sometimes say to God:
“Please, I just want to see You, I just want to feel Your strong arms holding me, I just want to hear You say out loud how proud You are of me…”
That is a perfectly wonderful thing to feel…
…and someday your “hunger and thirst for righteousness” will be satisfied, perfectly and forever.
If you give your life to Jesus now–if you trust in Him with your eternity and life NOW–you WILL see His face, with your own two eyes. You WILL hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into your Master’s peace.” And it will be glorious. The taste of heaven’s water will make the dehydration of earth totally worth every cotton-mouthed moment of it…
But in the meantime, on this side of eternity, in this desert of spiritual existence, we have to press on and–with God’s Word, the Holy Spirit, and the friendship of others–“wait for the LORD. Be strong, and take heart, and wait for the LORD” (Psalm 27).