Earlier this year, I was feeling great in my walk with God. I would awake eager to dive into His word, to pray to Him about my day, to put on worship music and just rest in His embrace. I could clearly feel His presence as I went about my days and was able to vividly see the many ways in which He was at work within my life.
And then, suddenly, I couldn’t.
It started when I opted to scroll on Instagram instead of read my Bible. And pushed off prayer until the wee hours of the night, falling asleep before really saying anything. Worship music began to not have the same effect on me as it used to, and my prayer journal stayed buried underneath various pens and pencils in my drawer. That burning desire I once had to commune with Christ, to spend time in God’s word – these things were now nowhere in sight.
Feeling distant from God like this can be frustrating and discouraging. We want to go back to how things once were – to the time when there wasn’t a wall between us and Him – but for whatever reason, we just can’t. Whether it was involvement in a sinful activity that made you steer away, a new busy schedule, or simply a lack of enthusiasm, it’s hard to navigate life without God by our side.
So what can we do?
Reflect on the root of the problem
Often times I’ll feel distant from God for what seems like no reason, but after doing some introspection, I’ll realize that the problem is tied to something deeper. For instance, I may realize that I’ve consciously neglected to read my Bible over a period of time and that fear or shame is stopping me from being intimate with God. Maybe you dig deep and realize that it’s the ways you’ve been spending your Friday nights that have been keeping you from God, or that you feel he was absent in a time of need. Whatever they may be, recognizing these feelings is key to getting over them.
Look to the word for truth on what you’re dealing with
The things we feel when we’re distant from God are often so far from the truth.
Take the above example of not wanting to face God due to shame over not reading the Bible. We may feel that God will judge us if we return to Him, but scripture says that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus and that God will welcome us back with open arms no matter our sin (Romans 8:1, Luke 15:20-24). Or maybe we feel that God has abandoned us and isn’t hearing our prayers, but when we look at what scripture says, we learn that He is with us always and has a special time and place for everything in our lives (Matthew 28:20, Ecclesiastes 3:1). Aligning our ideas of God with the actual characteristics of God enables us to approach Him out of love, not out of guilt or fear.
Repent anything that you realize has been keeping you away
Perhaps you realize a certain sin is driving your distance from God. Even though it’s hard, bringing this sin to Him and praying for forgiveness is so crucial in enabling you to carry on in your faith journey without its heavy weight bearing down on you.
Maybe, though, you’ve searched and searched but can’t seem to find an answer as to what’s driving the distance and thus don’t have anything in particular to repent. That’s completely normal; sometimes we can’t figure these things out until after the fact. In this case, no matter how futile you feel your prayers may be, just continue to ask for clarity and guidance.
Listen to worship music
When we feel distant from God, it can feel as though there’s just no way for us to be moved by the Spirit anymore, no way to experience God’s presence. I find that listening to worship music is the one caveat. By simply putting on the music, closing my eyes, and praying for God to help me let go and embrace the lyrics, I almost always am able to feel His presence again.
Journal/write down your prayers
Feeling far from God can make it hard to pray as usual. If you’re like me, your thoughts will start to wander until you eventually zone out and return to whatever it is you were doing. That’s why I find transcribing my prayers works so well. I’m still praying just as I would in my head, but by putting these prayers onto paper, I’m able to stay focused and concentrate more fully on what I am saying. As you begin to write, ask God for assistance in breaking down any mental blocks you’ve constructed against Him and for strength to communicate freely with Him.
Start small: Read devotionals
There is no replacement for spending time in the word of God as it is in the Bible, but I know how daunting this book can feel during the dry seasons of our faith. So rather than waiting around for the motivation to read your Bible to return, instead start small by reading a short devotional every day. Getting into the habit of spending even a couple minutes with God can help minimize how distant He feels and ease us back into communion with Him.
Even if it doesn’t feel like it at the moment, know that God is always by your side. Feeling distant from Him is a struggle like all others that, with prayer and perseverance, can be overcome. As James 1:2-4 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”