If God Feels Distant, Move Closer—Here’s How
I recently met a young woman for coffee. She was busy doing life – running multiple little ones from school to their next activity, nurturing a fledgling career, attending to an exasperated husband, and to top it off, she just learned the family dog is expecting puppies.
It’s life with all its challenges and gifts.
As we nestled into the corner of the coffee shop, mugs in hand, my young friend began to share. She paused mid-sentence, took a deep breath, and announced, “God feels distant.” Her statement caught me off guard.
You have to understand, this woman prays and reads her Bible religiously, attends church faithfully, and even serves in the children’s program. Yet, this morning her faith is shaky. She no longer feels God’s presence or experiences His comfort. She reluctantly added, “If I’m honest, I’ve run out of the time and energy to seek Him.”
She is living her life in a vacuum, one that keeps her centered on the busyness and the works, all while unintentionally pushing God aside.
In my life, the shoving starts as soon as my eyes open each morning and my feet hit the floor. My mind is flooded with potential distractions and the everyday collides with my good intentions to live present and attentive to God’s direction.
I know I need Him close. I have the flexibility in my schedule to make Him a priority. But, I have to admit that in the midst of the daily collision, I too have carelessly pushed God out. Not out of my heart or my mind but just off to the sidelines away from my busy days and weary nights into a safe place in my soul. A place where He no longer has to compete for attention. And I’m saddened to say I have left Him there, on the outside of my priorities, decision making, and actions.
Are You Too Busy to Hear God?
Regardless of the cause, we often live lives void of the Life-Giver, pushing God to a safe distance, just within earshot of our prayers but far enough away so as not to compete for our hearts.
As we continued to talk, my exasperated friend confessed she was tired of the endless demands and expectations, the emptiness, and restlessness. She looked at me and said, “What if I just stopped? I can’t keep pouring out for Jesus or others, there’s no more to give!”
For the next few minutes, a hush filled the space. And in the silence, we both recognized we have been going about this life thing all wrong.
Nudging God to the edges of our lives is not something that happens because we aren’t well-intentioned, Jesus-loving women. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. We wear His image as a badge of honor and work hard to please Him. We are the hands and feet of Jesus, serving Him in our families, our communities, and within our small spheres of influence.
We are so busy doing the work of our Father that we can no longer hear His gentle voice.
Our propensity for pushing isn’t just a product of youthful ignorance. My friend is a late 30s mom; I am retired and I have met countless women of all ages, socioeconomic classes, and nationalities that keep God at arm’s length. It is a universal problem, a human condition.
This behavior isn’t even about misaligned priorities. Our earnest priority is to have a consistent prayer life, read our Bibles, attend our weekly small groups, and as we go about our days, listen to Christian music and podcasts for inspiration and direction. We long for intimacy with God.
However, all of this activity has somehow failed to draw us closer to Him. We no longer have the time or energy to have an intimate relationship with the Life-Giver.
Perhaps, we’ve forgotten how to allow all that we are learning to penetrate our hearts and truly transform our souls.
Are You Willing to Surrender Control?
I recently took a morning and sat alone with Jesus. We sat on the edge of a small stream that runs near my home. I prayed, He listened, and I waited. Something bittersweet was produced from that encounter. For the first time, I accepted that all my busyness, the shoving God to the periphery, was not about external pressures. Rather, it was about my need to control, it was about my pride.
When I focus my existence on protecting my image or promoting my worth, all while asking God to watch over me from a distance, I make myself god. I am figuratively thumbing my nose at my Creator and crawling to sit atop the golden Throne of Self. Once I’ve occupied that seat, I am in conflict with God and myself.
And regardless if we end up on our thrones by way of busy days or working harder, careless actions, or conscious decisions, it all results in the same outcome – we no longer feel God’s presence, and we no longer hear His voice.
So, the question is how do we shift our focus from us being the center of our existence, to God occupying the throne of our lives?
What I am finding is it requires awareness and a willingness to surrender.
As I sat by that stream, I became aware of the subtle and not-so-subtle ways I try to manipulate God. If I have a strong prayer life, God will be pleased. If I read, memorize, and quote His words, then He will be impressed. If I serve the poor, feed the hungry, and care for the sick, God will be content.
Yet, none of these actions draw me into a relationship with my Father. Please don’t get me wrong—all these things are wonderful outcomes of a loving relationship with God. But when what I do becomes more important than hearing God, I have a problem.
If God Feels Distant, Here’s What You Need to Do
So, be aware when your motivations are a higher priority than God’s plan and once you’ve become aware, surrender your plans to God.
This is the hard part: surrendering. It feels a little like giving up or giving in. And I’ve been taught to be tenacious and stand my ground.
God desires that we live so closely to Him that our hearts, our minds, become entwined. From this connection, we naturally allow His will and truth and His purpose for our existence to emanate from our hearts. Our actions become a reflection of Him. Our words, His words. Our thoughts are held captive by His presence.
Sisters, this is not an easy endeavor. It takes courage to leave the image, purpose, and future we’ve created for yourselves at the feet of the cross. It takes strength to climb off the Throne of Self and humbly sit at the feet of our Father. But that is what He is asking us to do.
Tomorrow, I’m going to get up and my mind is immediately going to be invaded by the desperate cries of a world that needs my attention. My young friend is going to experience the pull of her children and that mama dog. But we are both committing to stopping just a few seconds and remembering that we have a choice. We no longer have to be controlled by external demands or our internal motivations. We can decide to sit nestled at the knee of Jesus and let Him take His rightful place as the Life-Giver.
When we get too busy, our faith walk can feel disappointing. Listen to this podcast episode for encouragement: Ready to Overcome Disappointment? Here’s How with Baylor Wilson – 176