When God feels Distant

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Do you feel lost?  Feel alone?  Feel that God is distant?  Haven’t heard from Him in a while?  Psalm 73 is a beautiful poem reflecting the honest human condition, and revealing God’s response to our fallen-ness and broken-ness.

It is a Psalm written by Asaph, chief musician, who wrote 12 Chapters in the book of Psalms.  Commentaries tell us that we don’t know for sure if Asaph wrote them or not, but one thing we do know is that he had a lasting influence.  Bob Kauflin writes the following;

“Asaph ministered at the tabernacle as a Levite. When David recaptured the ark of the covenant and returned it to Jerusalem, Asaph was appointed by the other Levites “to raise sounds of joy” on the cymbals (1 Chron. 15:16). Later on, Asaph was elevated from cymbal player to chief musician. David commissioned him to be among those who ministered and worshiped regularly in the tent of meeting, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the LORD (1 Chron. 16:5).”

and

“Asaph and his sons served so faithfully under David that Solomon appointed them to serve at the dedication of the temple. It was there that “the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the LORD.” And they sang, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (2 Chron. 5:13). Side-by-side, Asaph faithfully taught, instructed, and ministered with his sons and others, who in turn did the same to their sons, who in turn taught their sons, and on down the line for generations.”

(Click here to see the full article)

When we look through the Psalms written by Asaph, we see some common thoughts…he reminds readers of God’s leading in the past with the Israelites, the goodness of God, how good it is to praise God, and the desire to tell everyone of His goodness. In Psalm 73, Asaph reflects on the seeming unfair state of the wicked having prosperity, and the faithful who are struggling.  He writes about the envy he felt for the proud (vs 3) and the physically healthy.  He questions God when he says “Did I keep my heart pure for nothing?  Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?  I get nothing but trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain.” (Psalm 73:13,14).  When God feels distant, these can be some thoughts we have.  When it feels like we are in a season of pain, or the ‘valley of the shadow of death’, or in an episode of so-called bad luck, we can often question like this.  In the valley, it can be hard to see the “light”, and feel the warmth of the spirit.

So what should we do when we feel distant from our Creator?

  • We need to remember it is a feeling, and not a reality.
  • We need to pray continually for God to help us out of our fog, and to trust.  Trust unashamedly.  Trust without tangible reason (as that is where we are in times of spiritual fog).  Trust bodly and with an almost childish dependency – and that can be particularly hard in a world where we are so independent and self-reliant.
  • We need to pray again and again that God would reveal himself and his plan for us in a real and tangible way.  Sometimes now is not the God-determined time, and it is these times we need to simply trust, breathe and trust again.
  • Surround ourselves with spiritual mentors, inspiring music and conversations that are productive for building and not tearing down.
  • Delve into the Word.  In the Bible we see God’s character through every page. We read of people in our very situation, the outcome and the promise for us.  We are encouraged, uplifted and reminded.
  • Remember the leading of God in the past – in your life and the lives of others.  This is where I find value in journalling my thoughts.  I can look back and remember when prayers were answered, and felt God’s leading.

We need to pray for forgiveness and ask God if there is anything in us standing in the way of his leading.  Asaph realised this in verse 21, 22 where he writes “Then I realised that my heart was bitter and I was all torn up inside.  I was so foolish and ignorant – I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.”  This is the human condition right there.  And what I love to bits about this Psalm is the next few verses, which illustrates so beautifully God’s response to us…

23 Yet I still belong to you;
    you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    leading me to a glorious destiny.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    I desire you more than anything on earth.
26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
    but God remains the strength of my heart;
    he is mine forever.
27 Those who desert him will perish,
    for you destroy those who abandon you.
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28 But as for me, how good it is to be near God!    
    I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter,    
   and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do. (NLT)

Psalm 73:23-28

 

“Yet” …despite my foolishness, bitterness and sinful mind… “I still belong to you”.  In my foolish state, I still belong!  I am not orphaned, I am not alone, I am not abandoned.  Despite my failing, “you hold my right hand”.  When I feel alone, when God feels distant, it is a feeling not a reality, as this promise tells me that God does not let go of our hand or stops calling us sons and daughters.  When we feel like we have no inner strength or control, “God remains the strength of my heart” (vs 26).  Do we realise that this is the God who spoke the universe into existence…he is the strength of our heart.  That is why it is “good to be near God” (vs 28).  Because it is when we are near God, we give him permission to pour out his strength into an empty heart and mind.

Take courage as I am today, that God is near, even when he feels distant.  He never lets go. You will always belong to Jesus Most High.  Isa 40:31 ” But those who trust [hope] in the LORD will find new strength.  They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not faint.” NLT


Lord – our Father and friend,
Thank-you for your encouragement through this Psalm.  Thank-you for revealing your unfailing love and unbreakable connection with us.  Help us all to see you clearly in times of ‘fog’, may you reveal yourself in a very clear and specific way. We ask for forgiveness for our foolishness, bitterness, envy and lack of trust in You.  Today we pray that you would restore us, and replace those earthly, human things with wisdom, joy, peace and contentment.  Please fill our empty hearts and mind with Your courage and Your strength. Please fill us with your Holy Spirit that we may hear you, recognise you and take your leading. Thank-you for always being our Father, and for always holding our hand. We thank you, praise you and honour your name.  

Amen

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View from my couch!
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