Why sometimes God feels distant? In Isaiah 55:6 seek the Lord while he is near. Call upon him while he is near. What should we do when God is far and can’t be found?
Why sometimes God feels distant? In Isaiah 55:6 seek the Lord while he is near. Call upon him while he is near
Isaiah is a beautifully written book of the Bible, but it can sometimes take some time to fully process and understand the things that are being said(I personally need a lot of time). The NKJV, KJV, and ESV versions of this verse put it this way, “Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.” - Isaiah 55:6.
I think that what this truly speaks to is the fact that God will not be a choice for us forever. There will come a time, whether it is when we die or when He executes His final judgement, that He will not be available to us anymore. This verse speaks to the idea that we must seek Him and follow Him now before it is too late. Once we pass out of this life our choice is made, whether it is the one we intended to make, or not.
You are also quite correct, God does sometimes feel very distant. Unfortunately that is the consequence of living in this world that Has rejected Him. Sin caused a rift to form between us and God, it separated us from Him. Jesus Christ is the only bridge across that rift, and back to the Father. But sometimes in this life, especially in difficult and trying times, it feels as if God is not there or that He does not care. Nothing could be further from the truth. God is always there and He is always watching over us.
One great example of this is the Book of Job. Job lost everything that he had, his family, his possessions, and his health. Throughout the Book, Job feels as if he has lost all hope and even wishes at some points that he had never been born. In all this, he asks a question, “How many are my iniquities and my sins? Make me know my transgression and my sin. Why do you hide your face
and count me as your enemy?” - Job 13: 23-24.
The truth of it is, God is never distant. He is always right there with us in all that we do and all that we experience. The problem is that when we get into situations that are challenging or painful, we lose sight of that fact and the first thing that often comes to mind is the temptation to think that God has forsaken us. Satan loves it when we are down, because he can use those situations to try and convince us that God is not there and He has given up on us. But it is pure deception. God is with us in all times, the good, and the bad. When God feels far from us, we need to pray to Him and ask Him for His guidance and help. God wants us to develop the habit in our lives of seeking Him out, no matter what the situation may be. That is because we are always going to experience times when we feel as if He has left us, but if we know to react by seeking Him out even more, then we will be able to get through those challenging times. Psalms 145:18 states, “The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.”
James gave us an account of how to deal with all the many different kinds of trials in our lives in the first chapter of his book. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass, he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” - James 1:2-18. James tells us a lot in these verses. Even times when God feels distant are trials that we must deal with, and James tells us to be joyful in trials of all kinds. We may not feel very joyful in those times, but if we recognize those trials as times when our faith is being refined and strengthened, then we can be joyful in the knowledge that we are growing close to God and stronger in our faith.
I hope that this helps you Myriam. One of the best things that you can do when God feels distant is to pray to Him and ask Him for strength, and remember that He is right there with you. Even in those times, He will always be with you and hear your prayers. Be patient, be strong, and in all things seek Him and he will be with you and direct you in all of your paths. God bless you Myriam and if you have any other questions please do not hesitate to ask. Thank you.
Thank you Matthew!
@Myriamkhalil Thank you for sharing your question There are times and seasons in the Christian life when God may feel distant and I have found the best strategy for me is to seek, seek, seek the Lord during those dry seasons; perhaps especially in those dry seasons. We see in the Psalms a repeated pattern of waiting and pursuing God through those times when He feels distant and I believe that is a helpful road map for us.
Psalms 27:14 - Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
Psalms 143:8 - Each morning let me learn more about your love because I trust you. I come to you in prayer, asking for your guidance.
Psalms 42:5 - Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
Here are a few other thoughts and resources that have been helpful for me in this regard:
- pray daily to be filled with God’s Spirit and for a sense of His love
- pray for other people around you often - I have found a greater sense of nearness and love for God when I pray for others more
- engage with God in a way that touches your heart - singing worship songs, taking a walk out in nature, painting, writing a letter to God each morning or night - whatever it is that touches your heart as an individual - give God some space in that area of your life
- when you love others - such as these refugees - pray for God’s Spirit to fill you with a supernatural love from Him for them - I have often found that God’s love fills my heart most profoundly when I am serving others
May the Spirit of Christ fill you with a sense of His love and a love for Him. May He grant you wisdom to know how to engage your heart and how to invite His presence into your daily activities.
God loves us independent of our feelings.
While it is a blessing to be able to sense God’s love for us in a tangible way in the form of feelings, it is crucial that God’s truth and not our feelings become the foundation of our relationship with God. Feelings are variable and therefore unreliable but God’s word is constant (Matt 24:35). God values our love expressed as a willing obedience to His commands in response to the unchanging love that God has promised to all in Jesus Christ (John 14:15, 1John 4:19, Jer 31:3, Rom 8:39) . C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity writes “Nobody can always have devout feelings: and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about. Christian love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will. If we are trying to do His will we are obeying the commandment, ‘Thou shall love the Lord thy God.’ He will give us feelings of love if He pleases. We cannot create them for ourselves, and we must not demand them as a right (p. 132-133).” Though a feeling is not a reliable gauge or the goal of our faith in God, there are certain habits that could help our prayer life when our feelings do not co-operate.
Preach to Your Own Heart
If we read the Psalms, we often find that David, even though a man after God’s own heart, knew his own heart was not aligned with God’s truth, so he preached to his own heart. He reminded himself of God’s faithfulness and attributes and love. So I think we see from David’s example in the Psalms that it is normal for us humans to need to preach to our own heart.
Psalms 103:1-2 - Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits
Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence
I found this book by brother Lawrence helpful in learning to practice God’s presence, which I think is key to engaging our heart’s with a sense of love for God. I do not think it is a magic bullet, but it had some helpful thoughts and suggestions.
C. S. Lewis’ “Let’s Pretend” Chapter in Mere Christianity
So, one thing you may do is pick up a copy of C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity and read the chapter entitled ‘Let’s Pretend’. While his focus is not on feeling a love for God, I think it is relevant. If we have the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives, then if we live out God’s commandments as if we love God I believe that love will develop over time. Remembering of course that love is not simply a feeling but an attitude of the heart.
“Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. That is why children’s games are so important. They are always pretending to be grown-ups—playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits so that the pretence of being grown-up helps them grow up in earnest (p. 188).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him… There is, indeed, one exception. If you do him a good turn, not to please God and obey the law of charity, but to show him what a fine forgiving chap you are, and to put him in your debt, and then sit down to wait for his ‘gratitude’, you will probably be disappointed (p. 131).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Thank you @SeanO
Writer Jon Bloom* wrote that an atheist will tell us that the reason God seems silent is because, “No one’s home at that address. Duh.” But, John said, believing atheism is like believing in a flat earth. If we only trust our perceptions, the world does indeed look like a flat disk. In the same way, God’s apparent absence is how it feels, not how it is. Acts 17:28 says, “For in him we live and move and have our being.”
God does hear us and does respond. And there are many times in our life when He does fill us in an undeniable way. We have to trust His timing.
Vince Vitale** told a story of how, in his first year of college, he wanted to find the love of his life and get married right away. But it was another decade before this happened. He said she (Jo) was worth the wait. He said he believes that back in his first year of college he wasn’t ready for her, nor her for him.
*Jon Bloom. When God Seems Silent. July 14, 2014. Desiring God.
** Vince Vitale, Jo Vitale, Michael Davis. Why Doesn’t God Make Himself More Obvious? Feb. 08, 2018. Ask Away podcast. RZIM.
God is always there, this is promised in Matthew 28:20 when Jesus says “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” There will be times in every Christians life where they feel like God is not there, remember He is sovereign and always there and in control. Sometimes in the silent times, it could be that God is testing us (the teacher is always silent during the test). But to answer your question, what should we do when God is far and can’t be found? Just keep seeking him and abiding in Him and don’t ever stop.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
Thank you Pete
My Christian tradition has a name for this phenomenon: “the desert”. Mother Theresa spent many of the last years of her life in the desert. St Therese of Lisieux (a French nun) also died in the desert. Many, many great saints have experienced the desert. Their view of it was that it was a “test of faith”: When we first convert, God showers us with attention and feel-goody feelings so we “know” (really, feel) that He’s there. As we begin to walk in faith, we shouldn’t need so much reassurance. He begins to “withdraw” now and then—not to actually leave us, which He told us He never does, but to withdraw the feeling of His presence. When we are very strong in faith, we can walk without that feeling and still, by faith, believe that He is there. When we are really incredibly strong in faith, we can enter the desert—a prolonged period of that absence of feeling that He is near—and come out the other side with our faith intact. It is a trying time, but if we persevere through it, our faith is stronger on the other side. (Even though it does seem like a lot of people die in the desert… not sure why the desert so often descends on us so late in life. Maybe because it takes us a long time to grow so strong in faith!)
In any case, as much emphasis as modern Christians place on feelings, and rely on their feelings to “know” things, the desert is a good reminder that we do not know God is God because we feel it. We know it by faith.
Myriam, I just came across your question, and boy do I remember that same feeling when I was younger. I think this is especially true of those of us who are feelers by nature. You got some great replies here, so I’ll just share an experience with you. Years ago (maybe 20) I was feeling very downcast precisely because I just couldn’t feel God’s presence and get answers (that would feel like they’re clearly from heaven) to things in my life. I remember one day while alone at home I got down on my knees and cried out to the Lord, “Lord, you FEEL so far away!” Right there the Lord opened my eyes, and I understood these feelings had everything to do with my earthly father’s absence (a precious godly man but work and ministry took him away from us the majority of the time). So I think understanding some of our childhood losses or experiences can help us move forward in this area. Also like others wrote, sometimes God gives us those feelings to help us along, but at other times, we need to learn to walk simply based on His truths in His word. Feelings are not the ultimate barometer; they are delicious additions but not leaders in our faith walk. I’ve learned through the years to be led by truth and not by feelings. When truth leads, feelings will ultimately follow. God will also give you those feelings you crave when He deems them necessary for your growth in grace and probably when you least expect them. He likes to surprise us BTW Isaiah 55 opens with an invitation for us to come to the waters. I love that.