When I’m being completely honest with myself, I have to admit that I doubt my faith and the whole premise of Christianity a lot. I don’t know if it’s my over-analytical mind, or if faith just doesn’t come as easy to me, but I tend to wonder if this whole Christian thing is pure lunacy, and I do so on about a weekly basis.
Most of the time, the main cause of my doubts is an inability to feel the presence of God. When I was in college I grew like crazy and it was a very exciting time for me spiritually. I could feel God everywhere in everything, and my thirst for Him was nearly unquenchable. But I haven’t felt that way in a long time, and it’s during those time when I feel the least connected to God that I really begin to wonder if He’s even there at all.
During these times, I come before God in near despair asking, “Why? Why does it have to be so hard? Why can’t you just make your presence known to me?” I feel frustrated and helpless, yet I trudge on obediently, knowing this is merely a time of wilderness.
However, I have begun to detect a pattern in these times of spiritual alienation. They are not random. There is almost certainly a common denominator to them. The strength of my Christian walk and the degree to which I can feel God’s presence in my life is almost always proportionate to my spiritual self-discipline. If my time in the Word and prayer has been inconsistent for awhile, if I don’t have a consistent group of women who are encouraging me and pouring into me, or if I’m not worshipping regularly, I feel further and further from God. There are exceptions to this, of course. In times of tragedy or depression I have felt isolated from God as well, despite my time in His Word. But overall, this has consistently been the rule.
This pattern become clear to me today as I reflected on Scripture verses that challenge us to seek and search for the Lord:
Proverbs 2:4-5–If you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.
Matthew 6:33–But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 7:7–Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
As a Christian, I tend to assume that the “searching for God” portion of the process ended the day I got saved. I don’t need to search anymore. I found Him.
But therein lies my problem. While the Holy Spirit does dwell within me, God has designed us to access Him in other ways as well–through His Word, through prayer, and through His Church. When we fail to seek Him and relate with Him using all the resources by which He promised to make His spirit known to us, then we shouldn’t be surprised if we begin to feel isolated. God isn’t pulling away–we are.
What’s more, there is no quick fix to this problem. If you’re reading this and you realize that you’ve felt somewhat estranged from God because you’ve neglected the means by which He has promised to make Himself known to us, you can’t solve the problem with one really good quiet time tomorrow morning. One, single day of obedience cannot repair weeks, months, or years of neglect. Numerous military wives report that when their husbands return from duty, there’s an adjustment period in which they have to rebuild parts of their marriage relationship, remembering what’s familiar, how to live with one another, etc. It is the same with God. The difficulty in rebuilding closeness with God is not His way of spiting you for being lazy. It simply takes time to restore Him to the center of your life. You need that time to transform yourself.
So if you find yourself struggling to discern the presence of God, if your faith feels empty or someone fake, ask yourself how your time in the Word and prayer is going. Are you a member of a local church that you attend regularly? Do you have Christians friends there who know you and can encourage you?
For some of you, you can answer “yes” to all of those questions and yet you still feel alienated from God. In your case, I would seek counsel from your pastor since he can get a better idea of what’s going on in your life. But no matter the reason, remember to never stop searching for God. He gave us His Word and His Church for a reason–they are to be an ever-living source of spiritual refreshment and truth in our lives, but we must use them.