What to Do When God Feels Far

What to Do When God Feels Far

Sometimes God can feel far away. What can we do to reconnect with God?

This morning, after dropping off my kids at school, I tried to pray. It should have been easy. I was alone in the car; it was finally quiet. But I couldn’t seem to summon the focus or desire. I felt distracted, lethargic, listless.

Thankfully, the clouds soon parted—like they always do. Before I knew it, I was cruising down the road, communing with the Lord and enjoying his palpable presence. Here’s my secret to a swift turnaround when I feel disconnected from God . . .

Just kidding.

That’s what I wish I could write. Perhaps it’s what you’d prefer to read. But it’s not accurate. The truth is more complicated, as it usually is.

Feeling Disconnected from God

Honestly, nothing supernatural happened while I drove. I’ve since made my way to a coffee shop, where I now sit, still stuck. God seems far from me today, and I’m not entirely sure why.

My wife and I didn’t fight this morning. There’s no stressful deadline at work. I’m not facing a massive financial crisis.

I wish that I could say the way I feel today is bizarre. But honestly, it’s a pretty normal Thursday. It’s not that unusual for me to feel a little disconnected, even when I try to prioritize my relationship with God. In fact, I don’t even always notice it as quickly as I did this morning.

Is that the case for you? Do you ever wonder if God is really there for you anymore?

Three Ways to Reconnect with God

It’s pretty normal for all of us to have seasons when we don’t feel particularly “plugged in” with God. So what should we do when we feel distant from God for days, months, or even years?

How can we reconnect with God and reestablish our relationship? There’s no quick fix, but there are a few ways to cultivate a sense of his nearness.

1. Continue to Seek God

When my feeble effort to pray fell flat, I should have kept at it rather than giving up so easily. Often, the moments when we don’t feel like praying are the moments when we most need to.

When it seems like God is silent in response to our prayers or when we’re simply feeling disengaged, it can be hard to keep talking.

But the Bible reassures us that what we’re experiencing won’t last forever: “For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.”1

Other translations write that last sentence like this:

  • “He does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of man.”2
  • “He does not enjoy bringing affliction or suffering on mankind.”3

This means that when you’re going through a tough time, God isn’t just messing with you. He finds no joy in watching you suffer. And it won’t last forever.

These times are opportunities to live out our faith, to exercise our belief that God is true to his promise to be with us always.4 So keep crying out to him, even if—or especially when—it seems your words are bouncing off the ceiling.

2. Examine Your Heart

Seize the opportunity to take stock of what’s going on in your heart and mind. Are there any areas of life where you’re holding on to anger, pride, greed, or envy? Are you struggling with any particular sins?

The Bible repeatedly warns that unconfessed sin impedes our connection with God. At its core, sin is the failure to uphold God’s commands. Sins aren’t like heavenly parking tickets; they are personal offenses against God. Disobedience, therefore, always leads to distance.5

And yet, the pages of Scripture ring with good news: “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”6

That means that if we own up to what we’ve done wrong and turn away from that wrongdoing, we’ll find forgiveness.7 The God of the Bible is a God of mercy. He forgives, welcomes, and embraces those who make mistakes, admit to them, and humble themselves in repentance.8

3. Consider God's Past Faithfulness

Perhaps the best way to draw near to God is to reflect on what he has done in the past to draw near to you. Two millennia ago, on a hill outside of Jerusalem, God demonstrated the lengths to which he would go in order to bring people closer to him.

Hanging on a Roman cross, Jesus, the Son of God, was crucified and died to bridge the gap between humans and God. Christians believe that with his resurrection, Jesus restored the pathway to direct, personal relationship with God.

When you are tempted to despair, when you fear that God has forgotten or forsaken you, when you worry you’ll never feel his presence again . . . take time to remember that Christ died for you. He won’t abandon you now.

This truth is the same no matter how we feel. We can take comfort in Hebrews 13:8, which tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Remembering God's Promises

Feeling far from God like I did this morning is a regular experience for most of us. Of course, many feel disconnected for more recognizable and challenging reasons: a wave of suffering has crashed into their life, wreaking havoc and leaving in its wake unwelcome questions and unspeakable pain.9

But the hope of the Christian rests in God’s promises: Whether your current circumstances feel common or crushing, there is a Father in heaven who sees you, who knows you, and who wants you.

Yes, our world is broken, filled with heartache and disappointment. But God promises that it won’t always be that way. There will come a time when “the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”10

Even when it may feel like it, you are not forgotten or forsaken.

  1. The Holy Bible, New International Version © 2011, Lamentations 3:31–33.
  2. The Holy Bible, English Standard Version © 2016, Lamentations 3:33, emphasis added.
  3. The Holy Bible, Christian Standard Bible © 2017, Lamentations 3:33, emphasis added.
  4. See The Holy Bible, Deuteronomy 31:6.
  5. As Christians understand it, distance from Christ for those who claim him as savior is only temporary. One way to think about it is that while our communion with Christ can fluctuate, our union with Christ is fixed. Union leads to communion.
  6. The Holy Bible, New International Version © 2011, Proverbs 28:13.
  7. Confession—which is essentially acknowledging our mistakes and taking responsibility for them—can be done privately between you and God, but confession is also encouraged within a community of believers. James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” There is vital accountability and encouragement to be found within a group of believers, especially within a healthy local church.
  8. I encourage you to read 1 John 1:5–10 slowly, prayerfully, and reflectively. Ask yourself: Am I hiding something that needs to come into the light? Such a question may seem frightening, but in truth it is freeing. The darkness is where sin grows and faith shrivels; the light is where sin shrivels and we grow in our faith.
  9. I’m reminded of a woman named Joni Eareckson Tada. It’s now been over fifty years since a diving accident left her paralyzed from the neck down. Here is how she testifies, from the platform of a wheelchair, to God’s faithful character: “He has chosen not to heal me, but to hold me. The more intense the pain, the closer his embrace.” Joni Eareckson Tada, A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty (David C. Cook, 2010), 35.
  10. The Holy Bible, Revelation 21:3.
  11. Photo Credit: Esther Driehaus / Unsplash.com.