Emotions - Blog

When God Seems Distant

Emilie Vinson August 22, 2016

Two years ago, my relationship with God felt intimate. Six months later, I went through major upheaval, mostly connected to my job.

At the beginning, I worked hard to be honest with God about how I felt rather than pretending I was fine. As I prayed, I communicated my emotions. I was angry. I hated the daily ambiguity. I felt scared, exhausted, and on many days like I was losing my mind. But I couldn’t really understand why.

God’s silence shocked me.

My prayers gradually shifted from, “This is how I feel” to “Can You please fix this?”

More silence.

My prayers slowly changed again. “This is killing me,” I’d cry into my pillow most nights. “Can You at least show me You’re present in this pain? Because if I know You’re here, I can keep going.”

Nothing. Not I’m with you, not I have a plan, not I love you. Just nothing. God’s promises in Scripture to never leave me felt hollow, as if they’d been written to a mass of people, but were no longer intended for me.

I knew prayer could be a road back to intimacy with Him, but it also became a piercing, daily reminder of how distant I felt He was.

So after a year of apparent silence from God, I basically stopped praying.

For the first time in my life, there were days when I longed to leave my faith. Choosing isolation sounded less painful than committing my life to Someone I couldn’t trust.

But every time I thought seriously about walking away, I got stuck on the same truth: the cross.

While I regularly questioned God’s goodness, His care and His presence, I knew one thing He said was unequivocally true: “For all have sinned” (Romans 3:23).

As long as that’s true of me – and it will always be true – there’s nowhere else to go. And so the cross became a tether.

A Christian counselor helped me piece together different elements of my story and understand how my current situation exposed unresolved pain.

While I appreciated understanding why I hurt so badly, especially when my pain often didn’t make sense to other people, God’s apparent silence still hurt.

My workplace eventually began to stabilize. The ambiguity ended. The dust started to settle. I longed for the closeness to God I’d once experienced, but had no idea how to soften my heart toward Him.

I began to wonder how to pray from this place. How do I pray when I’m struggling, not with whether God exists, but with whether He is trustworthy?

Pray From The Rubble

I am writing from the rubble of a once-thriving relationship with God. He remains silent most of the time, and I would often rather stay angry with Him than talk to Him.

But on days when I am able to pray, I pray from this place. Kneeling in the dirt, coughing from the still-settling dust, with broken blocks of concrete piled around me.

You do not find tidy, perfect prayers in the rubble.

Here you find raw, burning prayers. Here you find questions, honesty, tears – the stuff of real relationships.

And here you find Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane before His death, sweating drops of blood and begging God, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me.” God chose not to, and Jesus went to the cross. But not before He prayed from the rubble of the anguish He was experiencing.

Let Others In

My past experiences make opening up to and relying on other people very difficult. Vulnerability feels dangerous, and I’d often rather be alone in pain than risk letting others in. I prayed for God’s presence primarily so I didn’t need other people.

But God didn’t design me to function as an island. As the pain grew and He felt further and further away, I had no choice but to risk letting others into my brokenness.

Some days, that means crying on someone else’s shoulder. Other days, it means letting them stand in the rubble with me, praying for me, when I can’t pray for myself.

Remember The Tether

The cross felt like a tether to me. Because of this truth, that I have sinned and Jesus died to redeem me, I felt chained to God, no matter how badly I wanted to walk away.

A friend suggested I look at this picture from another perspective. If I am tethered to God, then He is also tethered to me. He went through this painful season with me.

I’ve spent months angry with Him over His silence. But He might have known that without it, I’d never learn to have the deep relationships He designed me for.

God’s commitment to my growth in this season felt to me like abandonment. But Scripture says He keeps my tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8), which means He had to be close enough to see them. He stayed nearby; I just couldn’t tell.

A Time To Rebuild

And so, we’re left with the tether: the cross. And if we’re left with the cross, we’re also left with the image of Jesus in Gethsemane on His knees, crying out to His Father, who chooses to remain silent during the darkest and most horrific hours of His Son’s life.

The silence doesn’t change Jesus’ resolve. His trust in His Father was unshakable. He went to the cross, and He died.

And still God was silent.

The silence lasted three agonizing days. But when God acted, He forever changed the course of the world. Death no longer had the final say. We no longer had to live separated from God.

If I’m honest, there are days when I still feel separated, and I cry for Him to tell me where He is. But because of His silence, I know the foundation of my faith is the truth of the cross, not my feelings. I know I am able to persevere through painful seasons.

Because of Jesus’ prayer and the Father’s silence that night in Gethsemane, I am comforted knowing I serve a God who understands what rubble feels like. And I’m hoping that the rest will come in time.

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