Is it Normal to Feel Distant from God?
By JJ Gutierrez
Hear Him Louder Essay Series: JJ's Story
On homeschool days, the big kitchen island is where you’ll find my twelve-year-old daughter and I perched. Books and binders stacked high. Math worksheets and English papers in progress. Pencils scattered about and often on the floor. Coffee cups or water bottles half full and crumbs giving evidence of gobbled up bagels and cream cheese. But the most important happenings at the big, kitchen island are the conversations about life, God and growing up.
Last week, in between history and math, my daughter asked an honest and brave question that I’ve struggled with myself. Maybe you have too?
She asked, “Why don’t I feel close to God?” She went on to say, “I pray and read my Bible, but I feel nothing.”
Feeling far from God can lead to doubt, but what she was expressing is actually common. I knew normalizing my daughter’s experience would disarm her fears and doubts.
I began by sharing with her my longing to hear God speak directly to me, and to see Him move throughout the ebb and flow of my life. When I perceive His presence, I feel comforted, reassured and strengthened. However, when His presence seems distant, I can become discouraged and worried. It can scare me into believing that God isn’t working in my life or that my faith isn’t strong enough.
It’s good to be honest with our kids. Being real about our faith struggles makes us human.
We turned to the Bible and found the disciples endured a painful distance too. We tried to imagine the fear and doubt they might have felt after Jesus’s crucifixion. The Bible tells us that “darkness fell across the whole land” (Matthew 27:45) as Jesus was preparing to take His last breath. The disciples were physically with Jesus…that’s pretty close! And now in His death it seemed impossible to be close to Him.
Then, we paged to the Psalms and found King David, also known as “a man after God’s own heart” who felt far away from God. He said, “O Lord, how long will you forget me?” (Psalm 13:1). He was desperate to hear from God and asked four times, “How long?” King David often thought that God was slow to act, and in our face-paced culture, if it’s not instant, it’s tempting to grow impatient and begin to doubt God’s activity in our lives, too.
From there, we read in John, “But Jesus replied, ‘My Father is always working, and so am I,’” (John 5:17). It can be difficult to believe that God is working when crickets are the loudest noise we hear from God, but according to this verse, whether we feel inspired and uplifted or downcast and discouraged, God is always active. Always. Did you know “always” means forever, continually, constantly, repeatedly and invariably?
No matter how far from God we perceive ourselves to be, He is still working. His efforts, purposes and plans are independent of our feelings. Consider the disciples, who saw Jesus with their own eyes and then He was gone. Though it felt like Jesus was far away, His purpose was always to bring them closer than they had ever experienced before. Whether we see Him or not, He is working for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). We can choose not to worry during times of distance because we have confidence that God is always working!
God doesn’t always answer prayers according to our timetable nor can we understand why we endure certain hardships, and those things may make us feel distant from God, but the truth is God is never far away. The Bible says, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:20) and “I will never leave your nor forsake you,” (Hebrews 13:5). He is as close as a whisper and we are never out of His sight (Psalm 139:3). When we feel distant from God we can choose not to worry or be afraid because God is never distant from us!
At the big, kitchen island that day, my heart flooded with thankfulness. Homeschooling my daughter not only provides golden opportunities to disciple my daughter, but it’s also a chance for God to strengthen my faith too.
Together, we learned it’s normal to have times of feeling distant from God. If it happened to the disciples and to King David, then it can happen to us too. God’s presence is not anchored on our feelings. Though we don’t always feel close to God, we can know that God is always close to us. His nearness hinges on His Word not our emotions.
Friend, are you in a season of feeling distant from God? Write down these Bible verses:
Then, keep them close. Read them often. Rely on them completely.
Photo credit: Unsplash, Rostyslav Savchyn.
The Hear Him Louder Essay Series is a guest writer series where God's daughters share their stories of hearing God’s whispers in their every day. It’s meant to serve as an encouragement for the times when God feels far and seems quiet. When we read each other’s stories of how He meets us, it reminds and reassures us that He is near. May this series be an invitation for us to listen for His voice together.
Don't miss any posts in this series! Subscribe to receive notifications for each new essay, posted every other Thursday. When you subscribe, you'll receive a link to a FREE five-day devotional (45 beautiful pages!) called, “Closer: Five Days to Hearing God Louder.” Each day features teaching on one posture and a guided journaling section to help us practice taking steps toward hearing God louder in our every day.
Learn more about each of these five postures:
1 | Seek: If I Seek God, Will I Really Find Him?
2 | Know: Will God Speak, Even to Me?
3 | Expect: Can I Expect to Hear God?
4 | Listen: How Do I Listen for God?
5 | Connect: Is God Really Right Here?
New to this series? Check out the rest of the series!
Interested in contributing to the Hear Him Louder Essay Series? The call for submissions opens twice a year. To submit an essay outside of those windows, contact me.
JJ is a corporate-career-woman turned homeschool mom, writer, speaker and ministry leader. She is passionate about the Word of God and creating resources that put Jesus in the center of every woman’s life.
JJ is the author of two books: Chickening IN -- from FEAR to Courageous FAITH and Armor of God for Police Wives Bible Study. She co-founded Blue Line Brides, a Bible study community for law enforcement wives.
On days when she isn’t teaching, you’ll find her sitting outside, stringing words together while sipping iced tea with her German shepherd, Bella, at her feet. You can connect with JJ on Instagram and at her website.