It is inevitable, that as a Christian, you will most likely have seasons of your life when you feel far from God. Sometimes this comes with a reason – perhaps you have just lost a loved one and you wonder why God would allow it to happen. Other times, you simply feel like Jesus is far away for no reason at all. You find it difficult to pray, you’ve lost motivation to get into his Word, and you just feel a bit rubbish.
If you have experienced either of these situations, let me first assure you that it is completely normal and I don’t know a single Christian who hasn’t felt this way in one format or another.
And also, know that there is a difference between truth and emotions
God will never leave your side, even when you feel like He’s further away than ever.
When the Israelites were about to cross over the Jordan, where they knew armies of their enemies would be, God told them through Moses to ‘not be afraid or terrified of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Deuteronomy 31:6). Do you think the Israelites were 100%, wholeheartedly, sure of this truth? I don’t think so.
The fact that God needed to reassure them and tell them the truth that he is always with them shows me that they weren’t fully aware of it in the first place. You don’t usually tell someone something that they already know, unless you want to reiterate a fact to them, perhaps because they didn’t completely believe or understand you the first time. In either case, this piece of scripture tells me that as humans, whether you’re facing an army full of your enemies or you don’t feel God’s presence, it’s normal to not feel like God is with you (even if you’ve heard many times before that he is).
The story of the disciples on a boat out at sea comes to mind when I think about the natural reaction of humans when we feel like God isn’t there. The disciples are on a boat, and a storm suddenly appears. They immediately panic because Jesus is asleep – a part of the story that I personally love, because (a) it shows that Jesus liked to sleep and (b) Jesus was so sure of his power and authority that even when a storm was brewing, he could still take time to rest. When the disciples wake him up, he calms the storm before saying to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ (John 4:40). It’s as if he was saying, “Guys, just because I was asleep and you thought I wasn’t ‘present’ doesn’t mean it was true. I was still there with you, and I was fully aware of the storm. I am God, and you can trust me.”
Now, of course, I am assuming that the disciples did have a form of faith in Jesus, but they were still learning and walking with him. It’s the same with us as Christians. We have declared our faith in Jesus, but we still need to learn on a daily basis how to trust in him more and more. Just because we find it difficult to trust in Him all of the time does not mean we don’t have full salvation in him. If we had completely unwavering faith and trust in him all of the time, we wouldn’t be human. All it takes is a mustard seed of faith to be saved, and then Jesus works that into a fully blooming plant.
Know that God wants to reassure you. He is with you, he always has been, and he always will be. He will never leave your side – whether you feel that way or not, the truth still stands. How comforting is that – no matter how we are feeling, good or bad, God is above it all and he is so much better than it all. On your worst day, he is better, and on your best day, he is better.
We are in a battle between flesh and spirit
Jesus has already won the final victory, but we aren’t living in that complete victory just yet. It’s like we are people of the future; Jesus has already resurrected, and we have Him living within us. This means that we are able to tie a lasso around heaven and bring it down to earth right now, despite still living in a fallen state. As Jefferson Bethke puts it in his book ‘It’s Not What you Think’:
‘Identity, or the idea of defining who we are, is primarily about living life as if the future restoration has happened right now. It’s imagining what will be true when heaven and earth are fully reunited and grabbing onto that now. Jesus has already resurrected, and that resurrection power is in every one of us who trust Jesus. God calls us to live as our future selves right here in the present, and by his Spirit he gives us the power to do so.’
When we realize that we already have everything we could ever need because we are wrapped up in Jesus, and his identity is now our identity, we no longer have to worry or freak out when we feel as though he’s not there anymore. Because the truth is, he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Which means that even when we feel different today than we did yesterday, Jesus’s doesn’t. Our future is already safe with him, which means that we can know we are safe now.
Hebrews 7:24-26 says:
‘...because Jesus lives for ever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest truly meets our need – one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.’
How amazing is it that no matter how we are feeling, Jesus is forever sat upon the throne, and he is always interceding for us. In other words, he is always fighting our case before the Father, and we are therefore always a part of the eternal community of the Trinity; a dance between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that we are now a part of. Cling on to that when you feel as though God is far away, and know that actually you are never far from God, despite how you feel, because Jesus is always interceding for you.
The ‘little man downstairs’ isn’t happy
One of my best friends refers to Satan as ‘the little man downstairs.’ I love this. It is so true – the enemy’s place is below us, because Jesus has defeated him once and for all when he defeated death by dying on the Cross and then rising again. And ‘the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you’ (Romans 8:11), which means that we also have the same victory over the little man downstairs that Jesus does.
In my own experience, I’ve often found myself feeling apathetic, doubtful, fearful, or just generally rubbish when I have recently done something awesome with God, learnt something new about Him, or been encouraged significantly in the truth. I know from scripture that the enemy is looking to attack us as Christians, because he isn’t happy that we are living our lives for God - just look at Ephesians 6:10-17 where Paul prepares us for the fight ahead and tells us what we should do about it. So it seems only natural that when I am really living out my faith, been encouraged in the truth, or had an amazing time of worship, prayer, or teaching, that I will receive more attacks from the enemy.
Instead of looking at your seasons of doubt, fear, or unrest as times where you’re failing God (which is not true AT ALL), look at it as the little man downstairs getting annoyed at you because you are one with Christ (which is COMPLETELY true). The enemy wouldn’t be attacking you if he weren’t scared of your potential. He knows that with Christ, nothing is impossible for you (check out Matthew 17:20), and he is determined to stop or undermine that. But do you know the good news? He can’t stop that, and he can’t take away what God has given you (namely, eternal life), because he has already lost the war. Romans 8:37-39 proves this:
‘No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
Truth is not contingent on your belief in it
Finally, I feel it is important to tell you that truth is truth, whether you believe in it or not. How comforting is it to know that even when we are finding it difficult to trust God, or to believe that he really is always by our side, he is still God? He has still won the victory, he is still living within us, he is still fighting for us, he is still for us, and he will never leave us.
Be encouraged that no matter how you’re feeling, the truth hasn’t changed. Jesus always has been, always is, and always will be with you and for you.
So even when you feel like he is further away than ever, even when you feel that the battle between flesh and spirit is just too much, and even when you feel like the enemy is attacking you more than ever, know that Jesus ‘will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life’ (Psalm 121:7).
Throughout scripture, we see God constantly comforting and encouraging his people. God knows our human condition, one where are emotions are always changing and we often find it difficult to trust him. But instead of just leaving us to wallow in it, he gives us promises for us to hold on to when life seems more difficult than ever. Jesus said:
‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ (John 16:33)
When you feel far from God, remember that Jesus never said life would be easy. But he also said he has defeated it all. Jesus also said he is ‘with you always, to the very end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20) – and that is true no matter how you’re feeling.
Alice is 18 and from England. She gave her life to Jesus about 5 years ago, and was baptized in July 2015. She feels that she is called to creative evangelism after receiving many prophecies from various people. She's a keen musician, photographer, writer, and speaker, and she hopes to involve all of these passions when sharing the love of Jesus to the world. She looks forward to moving to a city to attend university, engrossing herself in youth culture and wider communities.