WHAT TO DO WHEN GOD FEELS DISTANT
By John Bevere
A few years into being a Christian, I went through a very tough season. When I first got saved, it felt like a honeymoon. Life was a near constant spiritual high. When I went to pray, I felt God’s presence. When I opened His Word, I could feel it coming alive to my heart. His presence seemed near. His love felt tangible. I could see Him moving all around me in profound ways. It was amazing.
But then, one day, it seemed everything shifted. Where it used to feel like I could find God at every turn, it felt like I walked around a corner and suddenly, He wasn’t there. I started experiencing difficulty finding His presence or hearing His voice.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was entering into a wilderness season—a time where God refines us and prepares us for His promises. Often, in these seasons, it can feel like God’s presence is distant. It can even feel like a total absence of God! Maybe you heard God’s voice and stepped out in obedience, but then, when you felt you needed His presence the most, He seemed a million miles away.
Because it was difficult for me to perceive God’s presence, it felt like He had abandoned me. In my immaturity, I had interpreted my lack of sensing His presence as His absence, but this was far from the truth.
To show you what I mean, we need to explore the two manifestations of God’s presence. The first one is based on these words from Scripture, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5 NKJV). This is the omnipresence of God. It’s what King David refers to: “If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there” (Psalm 139:8 NKJV). If we believe what Scripture says and we trust God, then the reality is that no matter how we feel or what happens, God is with us.
The other presence of God, which all of us love and is also a part of the Christian life, is the manifest presence. To “manifest” means to bring out of the unseen and into the seen, out of the unheard and into the heard, out of the unknown and into the known. It’s when God makes Himself real to our actual physical senses. It’s wonderful to enjoy this encounter, which can happen during worship, private prayer, on a walk through the forest, in common activities of daily life—in perhaps an infinite number of ways.
But when God’s manifest presence is hard to find, don’t make the mistake I did and assume it means He’s abandoned you. I’ve walked nearly four decades with God, and I can assure you that whether or not you feel His presence, He has not left you. That is His promise.
So when you are spiritually hungry and thirsty in the wilderness, if God doesn’t come and bless you with His beautiful, breathtaking presence, just relax. Lean into His promise—the main one being, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Even if you don’t feel or sense His presence, know that He is faithful and just take Him at His word. His nearness, felt or not, will see you through.
If you got something out of this post, I encourage you to grab a copy of my newest book, God, Where Are You?! where I dive much deeper into how to handle season of waiting. I really believe it will help you find answers to tough questions and will be a source of strength and encouragement for you as you seek to navigate tough times well!