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When God Seems Distant, Adopt These 3 Rhythms for Clarity and Hope

I’d never felt closer to God. His presence was almost palpable, like a warm blanket wrapped around my chilled, desperate soul. Through some of my darkest days, I felt God’s presence keenly.

Despite last year’s difficulties, God met me in profound ways I never imagined possible. I felt cared for and seen more than at any other time.

Even with His abiding presence, life came to a standstill, though not by choice. When tragedy strikes, there’s often no other option. 

From slowing down and paying attention, I learned first-hand some of God’s favorite ways to comfort His people in pain.

  1. Directly through His Spirit 
  2. Through people, both far and near to Jesus

It was a sorrowful yet sweet, painful yet precious season of God’s tender mercy sustaining me. 

I thought His tangible presence would last a lifetime, but I now find myself desperate: in a spiritual desert. 

It’s a mystery how I wandered into this dusty, arid habitat; I would not choose this destination intentionally, though I do believe it’s for my good:

Somehow.

Have you ever been in a season of spiritual dryness? Like God was elsewhere taking care of global emergencies, unable to take your spiritual call?

I admit to being here before, but I don’t recall the strong emotions continually swirling in my brain, occupying way too much cognitive space. 

Of course, time tends to dampen painful memories.

But since I’m here, I may as well get all I can from this dry wilderness. There are riches to unearth, even in the shallow, sandy topsoil. 

Yet how? I feel I’m doing all the normal things to hear from God, but something’s amiss, and it’s on my end I’m sure, not God’s. 

So during this dry season, I’m clinging to trustworthy rituals and routines that keep me close to Jesus, even when I feel deaf to His voice. 

The 3 most lifegiving practices are:

  • Pursue

Things are different when I’m too rushed to spend time with Jesus in the morning; I feel disconnected at best, desperate at worst.

Even if I’m not regularly hearing from God, I am changed in His presence. 

My mind slows from its frantic pace, I find more clarity, and I remember to pray more throughout the day. Mostly, I sense He’s with me. 

On the mornings I can’t spend early time with Him, I try to find a few quiet moments later in the day to connect, knowing my deepest soul-longing is nearness.

I desperately long for your deliverance. I find hope in your word. Psl.119:81 

  • Confess

Touching on this topic last week, I’ll briefly summarize. When I harbor unconfessed sin, with God or someone else, it creates a barrier in the relationship. 

Confession cleanses my heart, restoring rightness in the relationship and a lightness and ease in my soul.

So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness. James 5:16 

  • Wait

The most challenging of all, waiting fits well on no one in our busy culture. We wear busyness like a badge of honor. We can’t wait 8 seconds at a stop light or in a line before unlocking our screens to the buffet of scrolling or clicking distractions that await. 

However, when embraced not for what I can glean, but for what is needed to revitalize my soul, waiting offers rewards that far outweigh any discomfort.

As it turns out, patience—one of the advantages—is not only a virtue, it comes with added benefits according to scientific research.*

People who practice patience enjoy better mental and physical health, are better friends and neighbors, and achieve their goals more often.*

In a dry season, it’s hard to remember waiting produces patience, and patience is growing in me healthy, delicious fruit for others (and me) to enjoy. 

Reminding myself of this truth helps me muster the perseverance to keep going. 

desperate

But back to all those emotions arising from the desert experience.

Recently reminded of what to do when they rise with desperate tenacity, one of my favorite authors and world-renown social psychologist, Adam Grant, stated,

A sign of emotional intelligence is refusing to let feelings dictate decisions. Feelings are electrical signals in the brain. We don’t choose every sensation, but we are responsible for how we react. Emotions are rarely calls to action. They’re usually cause for reflection. 

With this in mind, I work to reflect before I act. If I sit with my emotions, considering why they surfaced and the possible root causes, I can pursue with more clarity, confess with greater integrity, and wait with hope.

While I’m desperate to glean what I need from the desert, I eagerly await those green pastures and quiet waters on the other side.

Friend, whether or not you’re not in a desert, is there a rhythm to cultivate? Maybe carving out a few moments to spend time with God this week?

Or could it be there’s something on your heart, a burden that confession would gladly lift?

Or perhaps cultivating patience would minimize anxiety, anger, fear, or frustration? Intentionally listening more than talking, or praying about a painful situation or lingering decision?

Jesus waits for us to seek Him first and foremost. He promises to be with us, even when we can’t feel Him.

Who makes the rain fall on barren land, in a desert where no one lives? Job 38:26

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