Spiritual Growth

When God Feels Far Away and Uninterested

We’ve been talking over the past few weeks about how our perception of God can cause us difficulty in our walk with Him.  We long for closeness, but when our view of Him is skewed, we may resist drawing near.  If we see God as a demanding perfectionist, we can end up trying to earn His approval by performing rather than resting in the freely given love He has for us.

I can’t tell you how many times women have told me, “When I pray, I feel like my prayers are bouncing off the ceiling,” or “I keep feeling like God is distant even though I pray and read my Bible.”  Oh, sister, can I relate!  I have fluttered in an out of sensing God’s care and presence my whole life.  At times I have tasted the nearness of God – His care and touch being almost physically palpable.  I’ve also endured dry seasons.  Longing like the Psalmist, I have cried out, “As the deer pants for the water, my soul cries out for you!”  {Normally, deer don’t pant.  A panting deer is near death with thirst.}

Deer in stream

Over time I have learned that my emotions are not a reliable measure of reality.  God’s Word tells us not to lean on our own understanding.  In the same way we have to learn not to rely on our feelings.  The ebb and flow of our sense of God’s presence comes with the territory.  A poignant and beautiful example came to me through Aslan in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia.  As the god of Narnia, Aslan comes and goes as He pleases, yet he often reveals his omniscience and care at times when the children thought he was furthest from them.  There is this sense that while what they longed for most was to always have His tangible presence, he was after something deeper – their dependence, trust and even  for them to grow into their own abilities.  We too, as we walk with Jesus, will experience what saints of the first century and onward have called “consolation and desolation” – times of nearness and times when God feels far off.

Some of us, though, will experience God’s distance more frequently, more acutely and with greater anguish because it bumps up against old hurts in our hearts.  We can give a head nod to the love and compassion of God, but we don’t FEEL His care.  Instead of believing in the intimate concern God has for us, we see Him as emotionally distant and uninterested.

crossed arms

It could be you had parents who were not able to show empathy when you were hurting.  I was told on many occasions, “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.”  That statement gave me the impression that my tears were something to be choked back, not a bridge to intimacy, but a shameful burden.  On the other hand, God says:

[I] have taken account of [your] wanderings;
Put [your] tears in [My] bottle.
Are they not in [My] book?

He collects your tears.  They are precious to Him.


God is a God of compassion.  The word literally means to “feel with.”  When we suffer, He feels it with us.  He does not keep Himself far off.  He is near to us when we are brokenhearted.  Like any good father, He wants what is best for His children

Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you,
And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. ~ Isaiah 30:18

I could go on and on recounting scriptures like Philippians 1:8 where Paul uses Jesus’ care for us as an example of his own longing when he says, “For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.”  Do you see Jesus as affectionate, longing for intimacy with you, reaching down to make a home with you and in you?

In their study, Dale and Juanita Ryan refer to the passage in Hebrews 4-5 describing Jesus as our “Great High Priest who sympathizes”  In Old Testament times, the priest was one who would intercede for the people, make sacrifices for the forgiveness of their sins and deal with them gently and sympathetically.  The passage in Hebrews tells how the priest was able to be gentle and compassionate because of his own weakness and humanity.  Jesus was tempted in every way we are, but without sin.  Consider His willingness to enter into the limitations of humanity so that He could draw you near.  He felt every feeling and experienced pain.  He can sympathize with you because He chose to walk this earth on your behalf.  God stoops low to take human form, entering into His creation.  He is the God who feels.  Far from being emotionally distant, even now, He bends into your circumstances to bring His presence and compassion to you.

sorrow bw

All this truth may be helpful.  Yet, if you have old scars from emotional hurts – maybe not even from your family – your heart may hold calloused spots, numb to His care.  If that is the case, please know I have been there too.  It has taken years of walking slowly and intentionally with a loving mentor and other good supports for me to break through much of the wall I had built up to protect myself from being hurt.  God continues to be so very patient with me – moving at my pace and bringing me into deeper intimacy bit by bit as I increasingly open to Him.  Healing happens slowly.  He who began a good work in me is continuing it.  He is faithful to draw us near and help us soften in places which have been injured.  He is doing this for me.  He will do it for you.

I will continue in this series on “Distorted Images of God” next week.  We’ll look at the inattentive God versus the God who knows us intimately.  If something I shared here touched you, I’d love to know about it or to pray for you.  Join the conversation here by commenting below or on the Hearts Homeward Facebook page.

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