18 Dec When God Feels Far Away

There is a misleading saying in Christian circles that goes something like this: “If you feel distant from God, God isn’t the one that moved.”

But feeling like God is far away isn’t always our fault. Throughout history, many faithful souls have struggled to feel close to their Creator. Regardless of the reason, if you feel far away from God, know you are not alone.

It has been eye-opening for me to study the book of Psalms in the Bible. They are often quoted for their beauty and praise. But out of 150 psalms, over sixty are psalms of lament – that is, psalms that struggle with doubts, challenging circumstances, and feeling distant from God.

It is in these psalms that we see real people wrestle with life. Yet these authors are not shunned or their cries muffled; they are allowed to authentically share their doubts and fears. Now hundreds of years later, we can read these Psalms and see our struggles reflected in them.

When sin holds us back

One of the reasons we may feel distant from God is when we are not following His ways. I know when I am stuck in patterns of sin, I feel far from God. My own selfish desires hold me back from an authentic relationship with my Creator during these times. Until I confess my sin and surrender to God’s leading, I don’t – and won’t – feel close to Him.

Psalm 32 speaks to this: “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.” (Psalm 32:1-4, NIV)

God’s forgiveness is bountiful. Still, we first must confess our sin to God to receive the freedom and intimacy that forgiveness brings. Verse 5 shows this promise and hope: “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.”

On the other hand, there are many other times when sin is not the reason I don’t feel close to the Lord. 

When God feels distant

When I am dealing with chronic pain, loss, or depression, life can be so heavy. It feels like God is a million miles away.

We can feel forgotten by our heavenly father. Our emotions are real, but we must remember they are not the ending point. Feelings can be a catalyst for us to be honest with God and grow deeper in our faith. The Psalms show us that God welcomes our authenticity.

Psalm 13 begins with honest, even audacious questions. Verses 1 and 2 ask: “How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?”

God wants us to wrestle with our emotions with Him, not on our own. Like a loving father who compassionately holds and comforts his children in their times of need, our Heavenly Father does the same for us. Our questions don’t scare Him or chase Him away. Instead, our honest questions actually bring us closer to our Heavenly Father’s heart.

Verses 5 and 6 in Psalm 13 come after the author David has questioned if God is still there. He has openly emptied his heart, voicing his doubts and feelings of abandonment to the Lord. Then, he writes: “But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me.”

David is now reflecting on how God is worth trusting. These are not flippant words. However, David had to be honest with the Lord before he could fully embrace who He is.

God can feel far away because of our sin, challenging circumstances, or other reasons. But the Psalms can guide our prayers—whatever we need. Written by real people living out their faith, the Psalms are full of joy, praise, sadness, anger, and heartache. I have always appreciated the authenticity of emotion. May you also be encouraged and strengthened by these ancient words.

Carrie Crabb lives in Overland Park with her husband and son. She enjoys books, coffee, and improvising on the piano. Having Osteogenesis Imperfecta, she understands how challenging it is to trust God in difficult circumstances.

All Scriptures were quoted from the English Standard Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.