Some days God feels more like a dusty, old book than a nearby Father. These moments happen to all of us, and our Christian faith can find itself under interrogation. When I experience them, a blitzkrieg of questions follows:
- Do I really believe a Middle Eastern man rose from the dead twenty centuries ago, and his Spirit lives inside me?
- Do I really believe God loves me and wants the best for my life?
- Do I really believe the Bible is true?
We cannot simply repress those questions – letting them creep about in our minds – waiting for doubt to strike before popping out again. What, then, should we do in moments when God seems a universe away? How can we avert these little existential, faith crises? There is a skill that, if mastered, will keep you from spiraling into despair:
Learn how to untangle your thoughts.
Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote to the church explaining how false and deceitful thinking is a spiritual issue. We often speak of “strongholds” in light of demonic influence (and rightly so – other Scriptures affirm as much), but look carefully at how he explains it:
2 Corinthians 10:4-5
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
God’s divine power gives us the ability to resist Satan as well as destroy arguments raised against the knowledge of God. These opinions attack from every angle:
- God seems distant because He’s not real.
- God seems distant because He doesn’t love you.
- God seems distant because The Bible is fictitious and unreliable.
We must master the ability to untangle such thoughts; demolishing them rather than submitting to their weight (or ignoring them altogether). With practice and time, you will find it becomes easier. After years of trial and error, here are three statements I hang my hat on when days of doubt or distance come:
#1: GOD EXISTS
I have, to the best of my abilities, tried to find a consistent worldview that does not require God. Atheism (or philosophical naturalism) and Buddhism were the closest I discovered and they left me wanting when asked questions like,
“Do people live as if this were actually true?”
“Is epistemology, meaning, and conscious explained in a way that seems consistent with real life?”
Some aspects were more convincing than others but, when viewed holistically, each system fell apart over time. Monotheism (belief in an all-powerful, eternal God) was the most consistent in explaining the human experience; specifically, as it related to ontology (a branch of metaphysics that focuses on being).
For anything to exist, there has to be Something with the power of being. In other words, Something has to be able to exist without having been created. That Being must also be eternal, otherwise it would have to first create Itself before anything could exist (I’ll wait for your brain cramp to subside).
Simply put, there is a reason why His name in Hebrew is Yahweh – I Am.
R.C. Sproul’s arguments on this subject convinced me further of the philosophical necessity for God’s existence. Listen to it here. However, many Jews, Muslims and, to an extent, Hindus would agree with me on this point. It becomes necessary, then, to continue untangling.
#2: THE GOD OF THE BIBLE IS THE ONE, TRUE GOD
Dozens of books helped solidify my confidence in the reliability of the Christian Scriptures. I’ve written about them here and here. Enough ink has been spilled by scholars in this area to spill more now. Instead, I will quote one of them:
If God exists and we are made in His image we can have real meaning, and we can have real knowledge through what He has communicated to us. If this is taken away, we are left only with man and his finite self-expression.
The God Who Is There
#3: THE GOD OF THE BIBLE IS FAITHFUL
God makes thousands of promises throughout the Bible, and cannot lie (Titus 1:2). Here are a few of them:
Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
I will never leave you nor forsake you.
What if God still feels distant though? Perhaps you agree with the statements above, but your spiritual life seems stuck. Although He has promised to never leave us, there are various causes that hinder our communion with God. The following ones tend to show up in our lives the most:
#1 UNCONFESSED SIN
(or lack of true repentance)
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus proclaimed, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Sin can hinder our ability to see God, but Christ paved the way for us to see again. “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
For more, see “When I Sin, Then What?”
#2 UNBELIEF IN GOD’S PROMISES
One of the loudest reasons we stumble in our spiritual journey is not a lack of knowing God’s promises, but a lack of believing them.
For more, see “Who Do You Trust?”
#3 UNWILLINGNESS TO RECEIVE FORGIVENESS AND GRACE
We feel unlovable. Our sin is too great. Our pride is too real. Our lust is too strong. We don’t deserve grace. (Of course, grace isn’t grace if you deserve it.) Remember, the Biblical God is faithful even when you are not.
2 Corinthians 5:21
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Does God seem distant right now? Learn to untangle your thoughts while fighting for faith. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
He’s not as far as you think.