Why Does God Feel Distant?
March 11, 2019
The Bible teaches that the emphasis of God’s promises is eternal. Consider one of the most famous verses in all of the Bible, John 3:16. There the Bible says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.” The aim of God is to provide everlasting life. The product of God’s love is based on producing an eternal benefit. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t any benefits to be received in this life. Still, often times Christians feel entitled to certain benefits in this life when following Jesus. This can lead people to expect God to do things that He never promised. Sometimes as Christians, we can feel entitled to certain benefits and comforts in this life. Yet, God’s promises are not predicated on the circumstances of this life. God’s focus is to produce a favorable outcome for the next life, and sometimes that requires us to go through difficulties now in preparation for our eternal blessings. God alone is wise and able, so we are called to trust Him even when times are tough. However, that trust shouldn’t be seasoned with discontentment and bitterness because we don’t feel a close connection with God. Our feelings concerning God are seldom reflective of the truth of God’s connection to us.
The testimony of Job explains this principle. In Job 13:20-28 the Bible documents Job’s pleas to God for mercy from his suffering. Job confessed that, regardless of God’s response to him, Job would remain faithful. Even if God killed Job, he would not stop trusting God, hoping God would preserve His soul in light of the destruction of his body. Job asked God for two things. First, that God would withdraw the weight of His hand against him. Job felt that he had endured enough of his pain and suffering. Job felt that he had reached his capacity. Job felt that he had endured all that he could. Feeling like an enemy of God, Job felt that if the weight of God’s hand were to continually press against him, he would be crushed into an oblivion. Job felt that if God were to relent just a little, he would be able to approach Him without shame. If Job could get just a breath of fresh air, he wouldn’t have to be so afraid of further offending God and could boldly approach the throne of grace to find mercy and grace in his time of need.
Job felt that if God were to relent in the pain He was inflicting, the intimacy of his relationship with God could be restored. The open line of communication could be better used. Job could call on the Lord with confidence rather than fear, and God would respond to Job with clarity rather than confusion. The truth of the matter is, Job was never severed from connection with God. The truth is, our internal feels don’t determine our connection with God. God’s mercy and faithfulness is what assures our intimate connection with God, whether we “feel” it or not. The Lord promised that He would never leave us or forsake us. God promised that He would be the God of His people who diligently seek Him and trust Him. God promised that if we seek, we will find; if we ask, we will get a response. While God may seem distant at times, it doesn’t mean that He is. His promises don’t allow Him to be.
Still, Job felt like he was an enemy of God. He felt like a leaf blowing in the wind. He felt weak, disconnected, and useless, yet wondered why God would continue to allow suffering for such a pitiful condition. Job felt like he was like dry stubble. Why would God continually press on someone so weak and worthless? This is why Job sought the Lord in desperation to know his sin. Job asked God to reveal his iniquities, sins, and transgressions. Though Job’s premise for his inquiry to God was wrong, the humility he demonstrated in his inquiry is noteworthy. Job was not an enemy of God. Job was not getting pounded by God. Job was not a loose leaf or dry stubble to God. God permitted Job to suffer, but was not the cause of his suffering. Yet, it was good that Job sought to know his faults. He understood that God is indeed holy, and if he were an enemy, even if he didn’t know why, he trusted God was right nonetheless. God cannot be wrong in His work. If Job suffered for a particular wrong, then Job desperately wanted to know the wrong to immediately repent. This should be the attitude of all God’s people. When the “feeling” of disconnection from the Lord arises, it is never a bad idea to seek the Lord to know of any faults that might have caused such a feeling. Whether there is specific fault or not, it never hurts to check with the Lord and humble ourselves before Him, recognizing that there is always a possibility for our fault because of our natural depravity.
Job explained that it seemed as if God was hiding His face from him. Job felt like God was taking purposeful time to authorize and decree certain things against him. Sometimes life can bring a pile of adversity that makes it seem like God has an agenda against us. This just goes to show that, whether believer or non-believer, there are seasons where life is hard. Job was considered blameless and upright in the eyes of God, yet God let Job feel this sense isolation and confusion. God will do this. God will allow His people to be confused. God will allow His people to feel disconnected. Why does God do these sorts of things like He did to Job? The Bible teaches that God uses these instances to teach us things about Him. Though Job was confused about the reason for his suffering, he was learning humility and dependency on God. He was learning about and expressing the righteousness of God. His faith was being expressed in ways that wouldn’t have been otherwise. Would Job have said, “though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” when he enjoyed the fruit of his prosperity? Yet history proves that Job’s statement is one of the most compelling and encouraging statements in the entire Bible!
Consider the type of affliction that God allowed. Job felt like he was paying for sins of the past. He couldn’t think of anything recently that warranted such punishment. He wasn’t guilty of the hypocrisy that his friends accused of. Job proposed that maybe the accumulation of sins committed in his youth were finally catching up to him. Perhaps certain instances were being recalled in his mind. This goes to show that, though a sin might have been committed long ago, time doesn’t excuse it. God was not punishing Job for past sins – at least the scriptures don’t say that He was. Yet God did not keep Job from thinking that past sins might be catching up with him. God let Job ponder that possibility. The Bible shows that sometimes the sins of our past will be brought to mind in the present to remind us of our depravity, of our offense against God, of our imperfections, and of our failures. This is not so that we can wallow in depression, but instead, remember that we are unrighteous by nature and in desperate need of a Savior that can correct the issues of past, present and future. Who but God is able to do such a thing? Thus, our past can be a good way to propel us into repentance in the moment as we humble ourselves, remembering that, though our faults have been forgiven, they are still faults to be dealt with by God.
Job felt like his feet were put in stocks; like he was a prisoner of God’s for some sin he was unaware of. Here, Job confesses God’s sovereignty to control the steps of our walk. He is able to sway our journey, to stop our walk, and to restrict our progress altogether. God is supremely sovereign and in control of all things. It is an easy thing for Him to bring life to a halt with distresses of various kinds. Job felt that God was expressing His sovereignty against him this way. This is true, but not for the reasons that Job thought. Job explained that all people decay like rotten things; things that are moth-eaten. Part of God’s control extends to the work God does to limit people unto rotting and decay. It is appointed for a person to die once, and then the judgment. Again, God’s focus is spiritual and eternal. The condition of the body in this life is never an indication of what God will do in the next. God causes the body to rot in the manner that He does to show that He is supremely in control. He is eternally self-existing and self-sustaining. He never changes, which means that His holy nature never deteriorates or decays. He never experiences corruption of any kind. This is such a contrast to the hopelessness of human life on this planet. Job knew this was true, but figured that he was just a tool God was using as an example to prove His sovereignty. Job knew the right things about God, but was wrong about God’s motives simply because Job forgot that God is not a respecter of persons and that our feelings have no bearing on God’s position or promise. Life isn’t always sunshine and butterflies, but that doesn’t mean that God has departed from us.