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Why don’t I feel close to God?

Courtesy Pixabay
Courtesy Pixabay

Have you ever eaten a piece of food that went bad? Last time I ate a bad almond, I was surprised by the bitterness. It was unexpected and nasty. Occasionally, I experience a similar event in my Christian life: I sit down to pray or read my Bible, only to be shocked at how dry and boring it feels. I know it’s not supposed to feel this way. So why does it?

In the Christian life, one basic truth is that we need to be close to God. Quality time with God allows us to give God the glory He deserves (Psalm 29:2), as He gives us the spiritual nourishment we need (Isaiah 55:1–3). When the Lord ministered on this earth, He consistently found opportunities to spend time away with His Father. He still made this a priority. He couldn’t become “more perfect” or “more holy,” yet His example emphasized the importance of this vital time with the Father. He loved His Father and delighted in spending time with Him. We need to follow His example.

How we feel doesn’t affect this fact. We might feel far from God. We might feel like we don’t need God. We might feel like we need to be close to God, but it just doesn’t seem possible. No matter how we feel, the truth is that spending quality time with God is a blessing. If our time with God doesn’t build us up as we glorify God, then it’s not quality time.

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A mark of a poor-quality time with God is a lack of guidance of the Holy Spirit. When we don’t hear the voice of God the Holy Spirit, we won’t be led us into all truth, and we won’t have Christ revealed to us (John 14:23; 16:13–15; 1 Corinthians 2:12). Someone just going through the motions of reading God’s Word without the hearing the Spirit will often think of the Bible as dry and the Christian life as boring. Jesus said the words He spoke are spirit and life (John 6:63). Jesus told us that He wants us to do great and mighty things (John 15:5). A dry, boring Christianity isn’t what He wants us to experience.

However, when we aren’t in fellowship with God, we won’t experience the filling presence of the Holy Spirit. Romans 12:1–2 reveal that full surrender to God is necessary for Him to transform our lives with this fellowship. Sin will prevent this fellowship with God (1 John 1:7), but broken fellowship doesn’t always mean living a life that is visibly wicked. Though that would certainly result in broken fellowship, it can be more subtle than that. However, broken fellowship always means the absence of one good thing — the focus on Christ. We are to live our lives “looking unto [focusing on] Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2) and disobeying this will prevent us from walking with Jesus.

When this Christ focus is absent, we may not be unrighteous in the eyes of man, but there is a focus on something other than God (a form of idolatry) that can and will hinder us. This is entirely wrong in the sight of God; it’s a violation of His commandment to focus on Christ. Even if we, with our limited perspective, don’t see it the same way He does, His truth remains the same (Romans 3:4).

God says, “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth [literally, is cleansing] us from all sin.” Fellowship with God is not focused on trying to avoid sin, but rather focused on walking with the Lord. “Cleanseth” is in the present tense, because it is constantly happening. When the Spirit convicts us of a sin, we can respond immediately in faith and repentance by agreeing with God’s truth about our sin (1 John 1:9, confess literally means to agree with God). When we get this right immediately, the blood of Christ will cleanse us, and we will continue to have fellowship with God.

When Israel was in this condition, God told the nation that when they would search for Him with all their hearts, they would find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). To search for God with all our hearts, we need to want His presence in our lives. We need to understand our need for Him. This involves truly believing that without Him working through us, we can do nothing good in His sight (John 15:5). When we have this right view, a wrong focus on ourselves won’t distract us from a right focus on Christ.

Now that we’re not distracted by ourselves, we can focus on Christ. We should talk with Him, because He’s not just our master (John 13:3), but also our friend (John 15:14). We can praise Him with all of our hearts (Psalm 9:1), because He deserves it (Psalm 29:2). We can tell Him how holy and perfect He is (Psalm 22:3). We can praise Him for how He offers us freedom from the power of sin (Romans 6:11). We can pray for Him to add hearts to His spiritual kingdom (Luke 17:21), and for Him to return quickly (Matthew 6:10a).

We can pray for His will to be done in our hearts, through our lives, and though the lives of others (Matthew 6:10b). We don’t have to just pray generally! We have the privilege of praying specifically for things that we know God wants to happen, but which haven’t happened yet because His children have not asked for them (James 4:2). Whether it’s the salvation of the President or the store clerk (1 Timothy 2:1–2), we know God wants everybody to get saved (1 Timothy 2:4). He doesn’t want them to get saved so we can add a notch to our belt; He wants them to get saved to glorify Himself. He doesn’t share His glory (Isaiah 48:11). As we seek after God’s will and pray for it to be done here just as it is in Heaven, He promises that we will see remarkable answers to prayer (1 John 5:14–15).

As we pray, we better understand God’s heart. We see how God wants everyone to be saved. We see how God wants to give good gifts to His children. We see how God wants His children to honor Him. We see God’s love and care for a lost and dying world. We begin to become men and women after God’s own heart, like David was. Before, we knew that the Bible was true, but now it’s more than a fact in our heads; it’s a truth we believe with all our being. We don’t just want God’s will because we know it’s the right thing to want — we want God’s will because His desires have become our desires. When this is the case, He will give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4).

Part of searching for God with all our hearts is asking Him to search us (Psalm 139:23–24). When He searches us, He reveals us — including the stains on our garments. Isaiah experienced this before He cried out “I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). Fortunately, it doesn’t end here. Though Isaiah was a man of unclean lips, he agreed with God about his sin (he saw it from God’s perspective, and wanted it gone), and God cleansed him. Isaiah did not focus on his sin but focused on his God. We would not consider Isaiah evil, yet there were things he needed to get right. As we get closer to the light, the stains on our garments become more visible.

So, friend, let’s draw closer to God. Let’s humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways (2 Chronicles 7:14). No matter where we are, the Bible says “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8). As we take a little step towards God, He takes a big step towards us. Let every Scripture we talked about jump off the page and become a reality in your life.

Charlie Monk is a research assistant at Ann Arbor Baptist Church. 

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