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What to Do When God Seems Far Away

May 15, 2020

I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had turned and gone.
Song of Solomon 5:6

Sometimes God seems far away. But God has said, “I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.” We read in Romans 8 that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. So why does it sometimes feel like we can’t find God when we need Him most?

Song of Solomon is a book that speaks to this question. It is the story of a king’s love for his bride, and it shows us something beautiful about Christ and His love for us, even when it seems that He is far away.

As this story begins, we meet the queen who has retired to her private room. She has fallen asleep and begins to dream about the love of her life. In her dream, the king comes to her private quarters. She hears that her “beloved is knocking” (Song 5:2), but she is not prepared! She is not ready to receive him. And then by the time she opens the door, he is already gone. The queen leaves the security of the palace, searching the city streets for her beloved. And her dream becomes a nightmare when she is attacked and beaten by the city watchmen (Song 5:7). A dream like that must have had a significant effect on the queen, but what are we to learn from it?

Reading this story of a king who knocks at the door and finds his bride unresponsive, the Christian mind naturally goes to Christ, the great King, standing at the door, knocking, and calling out to His bride, the church: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” (Rev 3:20). Far too often, the church is just like the queen: unprepared and unresponsive.

When We Are Unresponsive: Two Problems

Selfishness

The church is often self-absorbed and unresponsive to our Lord. When we’re like this, we are, in effect, saying, “We have need of nothing. Our lives are full right now; don’t call us, we’ll call you.” People who profess to love the Lord can still be very selfish.

Sometimes we make selfish excuses instead of drawing near to God. We profess to love God, but too often, we are preoccupied and self-absorbed. It’s all about us and our convenience, as A.W. Tozer comments:

“Present day evangelical Christianity is not producing saints… God is valued as being useful and Christ appreciated because of the predicaments he gets us out of. He can deliver us from the consequences of our past, relax our nerves, give us peace of mind and make our business a success. The all-consuming love that burns… is foreign to the modern religious spirit.” [1]

Vulnerability

Sometimes we don’t remember how vulnerable we are without God. At times we remember His voice later, when it’s too late. We are just like the queen in her dream. As she runs through the streets, she remembers the sound of her king knocking and saying, “Open to me, my love” (Song. 5:2). And she realizes, “He was there! He wanted to come in! I could have opened the door, but now he is gone.”

Here’s what that says to us: You may think that you can come to God when it suits you and leave Him out when you want to do your own thing. But without the Lord, you would be very vulnerable, at the mercy of dark powers that are stronger than you.

When God Hides His Face: Two Truths

1. God sometimes hides Himself from the people He loves.

This is always distressing to a true believer. Our love for the Lord is shot through with a great deal of selfishness, and yet it is true that we love Him and we are distressed when we cannot find Him.

It is important to know that the times when we cannot feel the presence of God with us are a common part of Christian experience. Job said, “Oh, that I knew where I might find him” (Job 23:3). David said, “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?’” (Ps. 42:3).

When God hides His face, one of two things will happen: either we will begin to long for Him, like David and Job, or we will rest content without His presence. The proof that a person loves God is that you cannot be happy unless you’re near Him. The person without the Spirit knows nothing of this. The person without the Spirit may say she believes in God and may even pray to ask God for help. But the person without the Spirit does not love God. The felt absence of God is only a problem for those who love Him. If it bothers you that God seems to be far from you, that says something very good about you.

2. God can use the times when He seems far away to ignite a new spiritual passion in your life.

What might have been the outcome of the queen’s nightmare? Suppose, on waking up, she were to again hear a knock on the door and the king’s voice saying, “Open to me, my love.” Do you think she would say, “I’ve just awakened from a bad dream and I can’t open the door?” Not a chance! She would rush to the door. She would open it wide and welcome the king. The dream would have ignited a new passion within her. It would fan into flame a new love for the king, and it would spark a new gratitude for all the blessings that were hers, because she belonged to the king.

For you, too, the experience of feeling that God is far away may be the means by which a new desire for God grows in your own heart. The felt distance of God can be the means by which a complacent, self-absorbed Christian comes to a new experience of hungering and thirsting after God. If you feel God is hiding His face from you, that may be the exact blessing He has in mind for you. Tell God that you love Him and that you cannot be content without Him, and it will not be long before He turns his face toward you again.


This article was adapted from Pastor Colin’s sermon, “When God Seems Far Away”, from his series Loving and Being Loved by Christ.

[1] A.W. Tozer, The Size of the Soul (Wingspread, 2010), 48.
Photo: Unsplash

The Author
Colin Smith

Colin Smith is the Senior Pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He has authored a number of books, including Heaven, How I Got Here and Heaven, So Near - So Far. Colin is the President and Teacher for Unlocking the Bible. Follow him on Twitter.



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