9 Hopeful Truths for When God Seems Distant
Written by Madeline Kalu
Two months ago, l felt like l experienced a breakthrough in my 3-year convalescence from burnout and depression.
I was trying to fall asleep when l felt like my head opened up, and all the heavy, dark thoughts and anxiety came out and drifted upwards. It was like l was handing all of them over to God. I remember thinking, “Papa, l think you’ve healed me!” Shortly afterwards, l fell into a deep, restorative sleep.
Unfortunately, my recovery only lasted for about two days. The depression and anxiety returned, and God’s presence, which l had felt so intensely that night, remains but a beautiful memory for me now.
“Where is God?” l have been asking myself since my heavenly encounter. “Why does He feel so far away?”
If you’re like me, and you’re feeling like God is maintaining radio silence, l hope that these 9 tips will give you encouragement that God is very near – in fact, He’s closer to you than you think.
God is close to the broken-hearted
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,
and saves the crushed in spirit. ”
We have all encountered sorrow and loss at some point in our lives, may it be a family estrangement, receiving a negative doctor’s report, or the passing away of a loved one. It’s a heartbreaking process to go through.
God’s empathy for our heartache is demonstrated through His Son. When Jesus first began His ministry, He stated that the Lord had sent Him “to bind up the broken-hearted” (Isaiah 61:1).
Jesus Himself experienced great sorrow on earth. His feelings upon hearing of the death of His friend Lazarus are demonstrated with two words – “Jesus wept” (John 11.35 NIV).
Furthermore, knowing that His moment of sacrifice was nigh, Jesus said to three of His disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:34 NIV).
In addition to His own personal experiences, Jesus showed compassion for those who suffered, through His many acts of healing.
Photo credit; Alex Boyd on Unsplash
God promises to never fail us, nor forsake us
‘ “Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.” ‘
It is repeated throughout the Bible that God will never leave us to fend for ourselves.
Therefore, when it feels like God is far away and we’re feeling vulnerable and alone, God is actually right there with us, protecting us and keeping us safe in the midst of what we are going through.
God will not let anyone or anything harm us, and He will not leave us to face difficult times on our own – that is His promise to us.
Photo credit: Dan Meyers on Unsplash
God’s assurances that He is with us are reflected in His names
‘ “Therefore I am surely going to teach them, this time I am going to teach them my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is the Lord.” ‘
God is known by many names in the Bible. Here are a few that apply directly to His character:
- Yahweh, meaning “The Lord” (Genesis 2:4)
- Abba, meaning “Father” (Mark 14:36)
- Jehovah Rapha, meaning “The God who heals” (Psalm 147: 3)
- Jehovah Jireh, meaning “The Lord will provide” (Genesis 22:14)
- Jehovah Nissi, meaning “The Lord is my banner” (Exodus 17:15)
- Jehovah Shalom, meaning “The Lord is peace” (Judges 6:24)
If you would like to learn more about the names of God and the relevance of their meanings for us today, then click here to read our article on this topic.
God’s many names reflect an assurance that He is always with us. They bear a promise that God will always protect us and provide for us. He is not only the Lord God Almighty, He is our Father, who loves us and brings us peace.
Photo credit: eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash
God is working behind the scenes
‘At the seventh time he said, “Look, a little cloud no bigger than a person’s hand is rising out of the sea.”’
Sometimes, we feel like God is far away because we don’t see a change in our situation or an answer to our prayers. In such times, God is actually behind the scenes, working in our circumstances.
This was the case for Elijah in 1 Kings 18. After three years of famine in Samaria, the prophet told King Ahab to expect an abundance of rain. However, despite Elijah sending his servant six times to check for signs of precipitation on Mount Carmel, not one drop was to be seen.
Though it looked like nothing was happening, God was sending a cloud as small as a man’s hand out of the sea towards Samaria. Only after Elisha’s servant checked a seventh time, did he see a visible manifestation of God’s promise of rain.
Photo credit: Samuel Zeller on Unsplash
God wants to test your faith
“Because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”
The Greek transliteration of the word “test” in the scriptures is peirasmós, which means a trial or a proving. When we feel like God isn’t near, it is actually when He is closest to us; His apparent absence can be a test designed to strengthen our faith.
How can that be?
Testing is associated with purification – to cleanse out those things that aren’t serving us and produce perseverance by strengthening our belief that God is greater than any adversity we face (1 Peter 1:7).
Testing is designed to bear fruit by bringing us up to a mature level of faith. For that reason, James assures us that “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).
Photo credit: Ronaldo de Oliveira on Unsplash
God adheres to His own schedule, not ours
‘ “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.” ‘
TV evangelist and author Joyce Meyers once quoted, “God is never late, but generally He isn’t early either.”
The omnipotent power of God transcends space and time. Whereas we have plans that we want to achieve during our short visit on this earth, God’s agenda spans all of eternity.
God’s schedule runs differently to ours, so when we wonder why He isn’t responding to our requests, prayers, and petitions, His assumed distance can only mean He is sorting things out in His own perfect timing.
In Acts 1:7 it states that it is not for us to know God’s timing. However, He does assure us that all things work out for good by Him because we love Him (Romans 8:28).
Photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash
God makes a clear declaration that He is with us
” Do not fear, for I am with you,
do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”
When thoughts and emotions start to rise to the surface that God is far away, His Word assures us with bold declarations that He is always with us and that we should not fear, neither should we be dismayed.
In Psalm 46:1, God even encourages us to seek refuge in His strength when we face troubles, for He is always with us.
What is so wonderful about God is that He not only offers us the comfort of His presence in our time of need, He always helps us over and above our expectations.
Photo credit: Alexei Scutari on Unsplash
Remember all the times that God was with you in the past
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
I keep a journal which l call my “Miracle Book”. In it, l record all the times God has touched my life with His supernatural favor, mercy, and kindness.
During times when l feel that God is far away from me, l get out my “Miracle Book” and l read my previous entries. Not only do they encourage me that God is indeed working in my life, they remind me that what He has done in the past He will do again, for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Photo credit: Angelika Spanke on Unsplash
Feeling distant from God has helped me connect with others in my situation
“Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
When l first got diagnosed with burnout and depression, l was optimistic that with a bit of rest and a change of lifestyle that the Great Healer would make me whole. However, as the months went by, it became obvious that my convalescence was going to take longer than l thought.
Three years later, I sit in church and hear regular praise reports of people who have been healed from depression, and l ask God sometimes, why l can’t be one of those people whom He miraculously heals. I start to criticize and question myself if my faith is strong enough to warrant a full divine-appointed recovery.
However, God works in mysterious ways. He has been using my infirmity to reach out and be a comfort to others, who are also waiting on God for their healing – either through my writing as a blogger and writer or in my daily interactions with people. In return, these wonderful people comfort and encourage me in my faith. l feel truly blessed that they are in my life.
I’m not saying that if l had the chance at a do-over that l would choose to be sick again. Nor am l saying that l would voluntarily choose to go through those feelings of doubting God’s presence and enduring self-chastisement again. However, if l hadn’t gone through all of that, l wouldn’t have been able to connect with the people who have enriched my life and l theirs.
God does not only show us His presence during good moments, such as through a glorious sunset, the carefree chuckle of a child’s laughter or the blooming of a beautiful rose. God is always near – in the valley and on the mountain top.
However, when we start to doubt this, we need to hold onto God’s promises that He reveals to us in the Bible – that He loves us, He will never leave us, and that He will fulfil His purpose over our lives with His perfect timing for our good.
God never goes back on His Word.
This article was first published on Crosswalk.com on the 14th June 2019.
Photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
Blog banner credit: Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
About the author:
Madeline Kalu is a Christian writer and co-founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog. She has written articles for SheLoves, Converge, and Ruminate Magazine and is a contributing writer for Crosswalk.com, Christianity.com, and YMI Magazine.
In her spare time, Madeline gets creative as a freelance SFX Makeup artist and dances to Sister Sledge whilst cooking. She is British but lives in Germany with her husband.