Feeling distant from God? I don’t think there’s a believer out there who hasn’t felt an unnerving disconnect from the Lord. It leaves us feeling anxious and sad. It can have us unsure, unsettled and empty. At the same time though, we fight through those seasons of feeling distant and treat it as normal. We assume because everyone is feeling it that it can never change. Or we assume that because we can go from amazing moments of connection with the Lord to wondering where He is, we’re just screwing this whole thing up and not cut out for it. We think What makes me special? What makes me capable of experiencing the joy in the presence of the Lord?
Can I tell ya?…
In three words? A holy discontent.
A realization that you know you were made for more and if that’s true, you know it’s actually got to be possible. No, we won’t have a seamless rise in our relationship with the Lord with no steps back, but as we keep walking and we look back we will see so many more moments with the Lord because we pressed through, asked questions and didn’t let that distant feeling lead to despair, but instead let it be something that helps us figure out why we’re feeling distant.
Lysa Terkeurst shared a story recently about this excruciating pain she was feeling and the doctors spent days trying to relieve it and figure out what was wrong. The pain didn’t go away from the meds but she said what a blessing that was because the doctors had to keep searching and eventually found the root cause. Had the pain gone away, she could have died because the problem was still there. The pain signaled something was wrong.
So today, if you are feeling the pain of distance from the Lord, it is likely signaling the problem (at the end, we’ll talk about when it’s not).
I want to suggest 6 common reasons we might feel distance from the Lord. I encourage you to spend time praying and asking the Lord what it could be for you. And I’ll say, these all overlap a bit, but I think it’s good to see the different nuances of why we may feel distance from God to better identify and not miss what’s going on in our own situation.
1. UNCONFESSED SIN
9 times out of 10, when I spend extended time confessing sins to the Lord, I immediately feel the gap close. I am amazed at how immediately I feel God wrap His arms of grace around me but I do. If we have unconfessed sin, we will feel a distance from the Lord.
ACTION STEP: Grab a notebook (the Conversations section in our Yearly Prayer Journal is where I jot my prayers of confession) and start confessing. You might be amazed how hard or how easy it is. Start with the really small things and just keep on sharing your heart.
When we think we can handle things on our own, there is little reason to go to God, no? The truth is, even on our best, most capable days, we still need God. Have you noticed how hard times have a way of upping your prayers? Or in your most desperate moments, you realize God is the only thing that can help? When we humble ourselves, when we come face to face with our need for God, we will experience such a sweet intimacy with the Lord as we sit at His feet. I shared about this in Fresh Start for Moms (you can preorder now and get in April!). Moses had one of the most intimate relationships with the Lord, he spoke face to face with him. And it was said that he was one of the meekest men on earth (Numbers 12).
ACTION STEP: Do a little inventory of your life. How dependent are you on God? How consumed are you by worry and how does it drive you to control situations? Are there specific areas of pride that are the biggest struggle? Ask the Lord to reveal them to you.
Thinking something else will satisfy more. Crossing 5 more things off my to-do list FEELS more productive than prayer. Watching that movie FEELS like it would be more restful than prayer. Controlling the situation or worrying FEELS like it would be more purposeful than prayer. My friend Michelle Myers says “Prayer is productive.” We don’t always like to say it like that because it can sound funny but we need to know this. We need to know the VALUE of prayer. We need to knock off the things we place on pedestals because we know our relationship with God is worth so much more.
ACTION STEP: What is the thing that replaces your prayer time the most? It might be social media, it might be your kids (we’ll get to this next), it might be work or workouts or even indulgent sleep. Be alert to these moments and see the trade-offs. We need to know that we are replacing prayer with something not simply putting it off till later because my guess is, if you are feeling this post and feeling distant, putting it off looks more like forgetting to come back to it at all.
Valuing the service of others above all else. Guys, this is a really good thing. How can it distance us from God? I’ll tell you because this is one that’s recently gotten me. I used to be really good at taking care of myself spiritually. I prioritized my time with God because I knew full well it didn’t just serve me but it served my whole family or really anyone I came in contact with. But lately, I have let guilt creep in and tell me that my daughter needs my cuddles that moment. And let me say, this might be the case, but it has been a string of missed quiet times with the Lord and I’m starting to see how the devil is trying to get me to forget my quiet moments with the Lord, not by having me do something inherently sinful but by tripping me up with guilt over my precious girls.
ACTION STEP: I think we have to first remember how our time with the Lord not only serves us but our families too. When we remember that, it’s easier to choose quiet time with the Lord and a peaceful momma rather than extra cuddles with a mom on edge. I think we also need to see if any condemnation from the enemy is causing us to serve others instead of a heart of joy that wants to serve.
5. GOOD DEEDS
This one is really similar to selflessness but I think the difference is this: we spend so much time trying to earn our own salvation instead of accepting the gift. We’re too busy trying to pay a check God never asked us to pay. Instead, He’s invited us to the dinner of our lives and we’re spending the whole night in the kitchen doing dishes trying to pay God back for it. Our actions should be a response to God’s gift of salvation, not the payment for it. Our actions should be an outflow from time in God’s presence. When we’ve spent time in God’s presence, these good deeds become an offering and an opportunity to point others to God’s handiwork.
ACTION STEP: Get really real with yourself. Do you believe without your good deeds you aren’t worthy of God’s love and acceptance? Pray for him to reveal even the smallest hint of this. I can tell you up and down I don’t believe my works are the way to salvation, but there are moments that I still get it mixed up in thinking that way.
Here’s one more reason you might feel distant from the Lord, He has a purpose for what feels like a wilderness. I hesitate to mention this because I know we can easily jump to this one and just assume we’re feeling distant because God has a plan for it. This shouldn’t be our default answer. I think we need to flesh out the possibility of the things mentioned above, and if we don’t find any hidden things there, we can find hope here. I think it’s hope-filled because we can remind ourselves that God is good and be encouraged to pursue Him in the midst of whatever circumstance. It this is you, you might find some more encouragement in this post.
I’m not sure where you find yourself right now but I have grown so passionate to help women find prayer more accessible and ultimately close that gap we can feel that causes us so much anxiety and overwhelm. We can enjoy life in God’s presence. Is every day perfect? Of course not! That’s honestly why we’ve made so many tools to help you.
If you’re tired of the distance, do not chalk this post up as a sweet encouragement but take it as a challenge and a charge. Root out what might be creating the distance from the list above and know what we want to help equip you. Here are three specific ways we want to do that.
Developing a Fluency in Prayer course – coming this January, we’ve got a 9 module course all on getting fluent (and comfortable) in prayer. Want to know when it launches and get it for an introductory price? Sign up here.
Yearly Prayer Journal – I created our monthly formatted journals because the physical distractions were too much. I needed a place for my wandering eyes to land. If you want to pray more but struggle to make it a reality, this is for you! I was in your same shoes 5 years ago and hold cow has the Lord changed my life as I’ve gotten practical and made effort to spend more time with Him. Get one here.
Fresh Start Devotional – This 31-day Devotional is the perfect place to discover the internal struggles that keep us from praying and creating distance with God. Daily action steps help you start moving in the right direction. Grab it here.