We don’t want to entertain the idea of a misstep on God’s part or an inadequacy in His nature. So we can internalize this awkwardness, blame ourselves, let guilt paralyze us, and begin a spiral downward. But what does the Bible say about this? Is this even a thing? If it is a thing, what can we do about it...anything?
The Bible teaches that there are any number of reasons why God may feel distant to you and me. Rest assured, probably all believers have felt this at some time, so it is not just you. The reason we all recognize immediately is sin. When believers sin, this grieves and quenches the Spirit, and creates a rift in our fellowship with God. This is not very different from what happened with Adam, Eve, and God in the Garden of Eden. They were accustomed to walking together in the cool of the day in fellowship, but Adam and Eve’s sin had introduced this awkwardness, this shame. It had created a separation between them and God. David’s sin with Bathsheba has caused him to lose the joy of his salvation (Psalm 51). When Jesus took upon Himself all the sin of mankind, He cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” God cannot look upon sin. God cannot endorse sin. God does not bless sin. So a decent place to start whenever God feels distant is to deal with any unconfessed sin.
In cases where God’s Spirit is not convicting us of unconfessed sin, there are other biblical reasons why God pulls back. To be candid, we do not always know or understand why this happens. In Mark 4, a storm is threatening the lives of Jesus’s disciples, while He is fast asleep. This was a test of their faith, and they did not pass. In Mark 6, there’s another storm. This time, Jesus isn’t even in the boat. He is up in some mountain somewhere praying, at least, this may have been the attitude of His disciples. This was another test of their faith, and Peter (more or less) passed.
In addition to sin and to building our faith and unknown reasons, there are times God feels distant for the sake of His own glory and sovereign plan. In John 11, Martha says what more people were probably thinking, “Lord if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Here Jesus’s friends were left to suffer grief and sadness in His absence. He had forgotten about them. They didn’t matter to Him any more. In fact, maybe He had lost touch with them and their situation.
All such thinking is borne out of human flesh and frailty and is only made possible through the fallen state of our minds. The Creator God who has given us all things that are beneficial to us and pledged to meet our every need as we remain faithful to Him, and did not even withhold His only begotten Son, but freely delivered Him up for us all -- how shall He not also with Him freely give us all things? God is indeed good. It was not God’s will to prevent Lazarus’s death, but instead, it was His will for Lazarus to die and be raised again. This was for the glory of God and as a testimony to the power of Christ -- a vindication of the person and work of the Messiah.
No one can tell you with much certainty the exact reason that God feels distant to you. That is between you and God. I can tell you, though, that James 4:8 is absolutely true, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” You draw near through prayer, Bible reading and study, public worship, hearing sound biblical teaching, and waiting. And we know what happens for those who wait upon the LORD. (Isa. 40:31)
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