When He Feels Far Off
"He is near."
I say that a lot these days. In the hallway. In class. At my kitchen table last night while a candle flickers, light playing off our faces. I say it to convince others, but I say it to convince myself too.
He is near.
He is near because his Word says he is near. Because he is Immanuel, God with us. Because he came to earth as a baby wrapped in rags and humility. He is near because he was a suffering servant, drinking a cup that wasn't taken from him, even when he asked. He is near because he walked through the valley, in the shadow of his own death. He is near because he is God, encompassing, creating, drawing, loving, shepherding. He is near not because we feel his nearness, but because he says he is near.
Take this comfort if God feels far off:
1. His nearness is not a feeling, it is a truth.
"The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry." Psalm 34:15
We may be in the same room with one another, not touching, but we can usually feel presence. But what about those times when you don't feel that closeness? In my office my chair faces away from the door, so my co-workers like to startle me. Sometimes I don't know someone is standing there for a long time. I can't feel their presence, but it doesn't change the truth that they are standing there, feet behind me.
When we feel far from God it is important to note that our feelings cannot be trusted. Being apart from God is not a place where we will be sitting in truth. God cannot be far off. He is omniscient (having infinite knowledge), omnipotent (holding unlimited power), omnipresent (present everywhere). That is the truth. Our feelings are important, but they are important mainly to God, and that is the most important thing to know when we feel far from him.
2. We know it's true because his Word can be trusted.
"For the word of the LORD is true, and all his work is done in faithfulness." Psalm 33:4
When we doubt our feelings, when it seems he is not coming through, not answering us, or has turned a cold shoulder, it is time for us to first confess those emotions to him. He is not surprised by our doubt. He is not scrambling for plan B. He is not trying to sweep up the pieces of our lives. He is God, and we know that because his Word says he is God, and words, right there, in that beautiful book, breathed by the Spirit and recorded for us, can be trusted. Dreams, emotions, prophetic words, others, feelings---these fail. His Word does not fail.
3. We can trust his Word because his Word does not return void.
"So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:11
God cannot be mocked. No, even more, he will not be mocked. He won't stand for it. So neither will his Word. That may seem jeering and standoffish, but if we come a bit closer I think we will see that promise as a warm blanket. That promise means that he is for us, his children, his interest. That promise means that he is deeply involved in our cares and our feelings as they concern him. Why? Because he won't be mocked. He won't be standing there on that final day wondering what went wrong. That means we're safe---we may feel unsafe, but if you're his child, you're safe. He's got this.
Because he is near.