“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
– Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)
As a minister of the Gospel and a follower of Jesus, I have counseled many Christians who were experiencing a season of not ‘feeling’ God. This experience can be quite disheartening and a discouragement for believers, especially for those whose conversion was a sensational experience. I would argue that these seasons of darkness are not only common, but are necessary for our maturity as followers of Jesus.
Early on I would have spiritual highs and spiritual lows. My faith would be shaken if I had a day where I could not ‘feel’ God. The way I would gauge a worship set or a sermon would be based upon how it made me feel, and whether or not I could feel God. I’ve heard people say that, “The Holy Spirit really showed up when we started singing, Shout to the Lord!”, which is a prime example of how people perceive God’s presence through feelings.
As I have wrestled through these seasons and encouraged others going through them, I found there is much to be gleaned from these perceived silences from God. If we could always feel God, why would we need to have faith? After all, the scripture above from Hebrews 11:1 says that we need increased hope and conviction in order for our faith to increase.
In view of the scriptures mentioned, here are a few things I offer to folks who are going through these seasons of feeling far from God:
Remember, God is not just something to feel – He is Someone to know. Our need to ‘feel’ God is often a sign that we need to know Him more.
Confess and Repent
There are times that our sin hinders our fellowship with God. If we are sensitive to notice a distancing of His presence, let’s make sure it isn’t us who have caused this separation. Fortunately, God’s grace abounds and our salvation is secure. With this confidence we can confess our sins and trust in His gracious forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
Jesus is the Prize
We are all guilty of longing for the benefits of God at the expense of the presence and Person of God. It is important to rejoice that the reality and existence of God are not contingent on how we are feeling. Instead, God’s grace can be illustrated further in His desire that we mature in our faith and not stay in the same place.
Continue the Pursuit
If the goal is knowing God more than just feeling God, then we must continue to get to know Him through prayer, worship, community, and intentional time in His Word. This is where your faith is tested and ultimately strengthened. Continuing to pursue and obey in spite of not feeling God is like adding more weight to the bar as you exercise. It will be difficult, it may hurt, but it is definitely worth it.
This lack of ‘feeling’ becomes even more pronounced in moments when we are going through trials (see James 1:2-4). James tells his readers to rejoice in their trials because it is in these times that our faith increases, or becomes complete. Those times of not feeling God are helpful in the long run, and meant for God’s glory and for our good. This is not to say that this it’s easy, but if we desire to mature in our faith we have to expect our faith to be tested and tried.
One of the great gifts of God is His people, the Church. When we struggle with this issue, we will be encouraged by those around us in our community. Living your faith in a vacuum will amplify those times that you are feeling that God is far off. The good news is this season does not last forever, and it will ultimately amount to increased faith and greater intimacy with Him.