“Why do some persons 'find' God in a way that others do not? Why does God manifest His Presence to some and let multitudes of others struggle along in the half-light of imperfect Christian experience? Of course the will of God is the same for all. He has no favorites within His household. All He has ever done for any of His children He will do for all of His children. The difference lies not with God but with us.” –A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God
This has to be one of the top questions I get as a pastor. And it’s a very important question to ask: “What do you do when you can’t feel or sense God’s presence?” The frequency of times I get this question attests to the fact that it’s quite a common experience. And if you’re wondering, the answer is “yes”; I for one have experienced times like these. There are days when you simply don’t feel close to God. And no matter how hard you try to draw close to Him, it continues to feel that way. It’s as if God has distanced Himself from you.
You’re not alone.
First, it’s important to understand that what you’re experiencing is not unusual. It’s quite common amongst Christians no matter if they’re new to the faith or if they’ve been journeying with Christ for a long while. You would be hard-pressed to find a believer who doesn’t know what you’re talking about. It’s a well-documented experience. King David, one of the spiritual greats, even wrote a Psalm about it. He lamented, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1, ESV). So if you find yourself in that place, take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone and that others have gone before you.
Bank on your knowledge of God.
The problem with feelings is that they can easily sway from one end of the spectrum to another. So it’s important for us to be cautious about fully relying on our feelings. We must bank on what we know to be true and not necessarily what we feel is so. We can certainly feel that God is distant from us. And we do not deny nor trivialize those feelings. They are legitimate feelings. But we must bank on what we know to be true about God’s character, attributes, and ways. Although we may feel He’s distant, we know that God is with us no matter what. We know that He will never leave us nor forsake us. So when people tell me they can’t feel God’s presence, I often counsel them to increase their knowledge about God. I believe our feelings will eventually follow suit from well-grounded truth.
Check for sin.
Although it may not always the case, check for sin and disobedience in your life. Sin and disobedience have the tendency to produce a hardened heart that can put quite a strain on our relationship with God. If there’s sin involved, begin by repenting and banking on the knowledge that Christ has forgiven you of every sin. It’s hard to be close to God when a disobedient heart keeps getting in the way.
This is really not the best time to take a break in your spiritual walk. Keep coming before the Lord in prayer. Keep opening your Bible and reading. Keep fighting. We’re probably not going to feel like praying or reading Scripture or being with other believers. But that’s exactly the time when we need to hustle. For sure, it’s not going to be easy. Every inch of us might not want to do it. But the payoff will be tremendous: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8. ESV).