“If God feels distant, guess who moved?”
It’s a saying that gets tossed around in Christian circles sometimes, and honestly, I’ve likely even said it myself at some point. Lately though, I’ve been pondering it, and am beginning to see it for what it is: A lie.
If Christianity made total sense, then yes, reading the Bible, praying, going to church, being in a Bible study, and volunteering would likely guarantee we always felt God’s presence.
Except Christianity often doesn’t make sense. It’s not a religion of checklists (though it may be treated and presented that way at times), making sure we tick all the right boxes so God hands us our Perfect Little Lives. There’s much more mystery and ambiguity to it than that. I love God, I want to know him better and follow him well, so I try to read the Bible and pray and serve him in various ways, but a lot of the time I’m pretty bad at all of those. And then he seems to go missing for a while, and the ways I used to feel him, though they weren’t big and flashy, don’t work like they used to. Even though I’m still doing “all the right things.”
Which means, I’ve been told, that I’m the one who moved…like I somehow messed up, and God is punishing me by not letting me feel his presence anymore.
I don’t think it really works like that though.
As someone who interprets the world largely based on feelings, I want to feel God’s presence as a real, tangible work in my life. He works that way sometimes, but not always. So I don’t think I’ve moved and God is holding back from me because of that; I think I’m finding my way to a faith beyond feeling.
A kind of faith that trusts God is there, that he is who he says he is, that he will do what he has said he will, even when my present reality may not bear the witness of it like I had hoped it would. It’s a kind of faith that knows there are seasons, some where God makes himself known through feelings, and some where God makes himself known in the complicated, uncomfortable way of simply being held by his grace.
There’s an easiness of “If God feels distant, guess who moved?” which is probably why we say it. We are sometimes, perhaps even often, the ones who wander away from God. I don’t think God ever really wanders away from us though–that seems to go against his very nature, of one who is love, who is always there fighting for us. He does seem to use unorthodox methods for getting our attention, so maybe it’s more that he lets it seem like there’s distance.
I’m not sure how this all works. I’ll never claim to understand the complexities of God.
But I don’t think we need to feel like we’ve failed when God seems distant. Do we always have to put the blame somewhere, either on ourselves or on God? Or can distance sometimes just be…a thing that feels true right now, even if we ultimately know that it’s not? And maybe it’s a way to a different kind of faith, a faith beyond the need to always feel it.
Til next time…
p.s. How do you make sense of it when God feels distant?