Last week, l felt like l experienced a breakthrough in my three-year convalescence from burnout and depression. I was trying to fall asleep when l felt like my head opened up, and all the heavy, dark thoughts and anxiety came out and drifted upwards. It was like l was handing them over to God. I remember thinking, “Papa, l think you’ve healed me!” Shortly afterwards, l fell into a deep, restorative sleep.
Unfortunately, my recovery lasted about two days. The depression and anxiety returned, and God’s presence, which l had felt so intensely that night, remains a beautiful memory.
“Where is God?” I‘ve been asking myself since my heavenly encounter. “Why does He feel so far away?”
If you’re also feeling like God is maintaining radio silence, l want to encourage you that He’s closer than you think. Here are nine hopeful truths you can count on:
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
We‘ve all encountered sorrow and loss at some point in our lives, be it a family estrangement, receiving a negative doctor’s report, or the passing of a loved one. It’s a heartbreaking process to go through.
God’s empathy for our heartache is demonstrated through His Son. When Jesus first began His ministry, He stated that the Lord had sent Him “...to bind up the broken-hearted..." (Isaiah 61:1).
Jesus Himself experienced great sorrow on earth. Upon hearing of the death of His friend, Lazarus, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
Furthermore, knowing that His moment of sacrifice was nigh, Jesus said to three of His disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, “...My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death...” (Mark 14:34).
In addition to His own personal experiences, Jesus showed compassion for those who suffered through His many acts of healing.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
It is repeated throughout the Bible that God will never leave you to fend for yourself.
Therefore, when it feels like God is far away and you’re feeling vulnerable and alone, God is actually right there with you, protecting you and keeping you safe in the midst of what you‘re going through.
He will not leave you to face difficult times on your own—that is His promise to each of us.
God’s many names reflect an assurance that He is always with you. They bear a promise that God will always protect and provide. He is not only the Lord God Almighty; He is your Father who loves you and brings you peace.
"The seventh time the servant reported, 'A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea'..." (1 Kings 18:44)
Sometimes, you might feel God is far away because you don’t see a change in your situation or an answer to prayers. In such times, God is actually behind the scenes, working in your circumstances.
This was the case for Elijah in 1 Kings. After three years of famine in Samaria, the prophet told King Ahab to expect an abundance of rain. However, despite Elijah sending his servant six times to check for signs of precipitation on Mount Carmel, not one drop was to be seen.
Though it looked like nothing was happening, God was sending a cloud as small as a man’s hand out of the sea toward Samaria. Only after Elisha’s servant checked a seventh time did he see a visible manifestation of God’s promise of rain.
“because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:3-4)
The Greek translation of the word 'test' in the Scriptures is peirasmós, which means a trial or a proving. When you feel like God isn’t near, it is actually when He is closest to you; His apparent absence can be a test designed to strengthen your faith.
How can that be?
Testing is associated with purification—to cleanse you of those things that aren’t serving you and produce perseverance by strengthening your belief that God is greater than any adversity you face (1 Peter 1:7).
Testing is designed to bear fruit by bringing you up to a mature level of faith. For that reason, James assures, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).
“He said to them: 'It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.'” (Acts 1:7)
A well-known TV evangelist once said, “We often say, God is never late, but generally He isn’t early either.”
The omnipotent power of God transcends space and time. Whereas you may have plans that you want to achieve during your short visit on this earth, God’s agenda spans all of eternity.
God’s schedule runs differently to any of ours. So when you wonder why He isn’t responding to your requests, prayers, and petitions, His assumed distance can only mean He is sorting things out in His own perfect timing.
Acts 1:7 states that it is not for us to know God’s timing. However, He does promise that all things work out for good by Him for those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
I keep a journal which l call my “Miracle Book.” In it, l record all the times God has touched my life with His supernatural favor, mercy, and kindness.
When l feel that God is far away from me, l get out my “Miracle Book” and read my previous entries. Not only do they encourage me that God is indeed working in my life, they remind me that what He has done in the past He will do again; for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
9. Feeling distant from God can help you connect with others in your situation.
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“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
When l first got diagnosed with burnout and depression, l was optimistic that with a bit of rest and a change of lifestyle, the Great Healer would make me whole. However, as the months went by, it became obvious that my convalescence was going to take longer than l thought.
Three years later, I sit in church and hear regular praise reports of people who have been healed from depression. So I still ask God sometimes: why can’t I be one of those people whom He miraculously heals? I start to criticize and question myself: is my faith strong enough to warrant a divinely-appointed recovery?
However, God works in mysterious ways. He has been using my infirmity to reach out and be a comfort to others who are also waiting on God for their healing – either through my writing as a blogger and writer or in my daily interactions with people. In return, these wonderful people comfort and encourage me in my faith. l feel truly blessed that they are in my life.
I’m not saying that if l had the chance at a do-over that l would choose to be sick again. Nor am l saying that l would voluntarily choose to go through those feelings of doubting God’s presence and enduring self-chastisement again.
However, if l hadn’t gone through all of that, l wouldn’t have been able to connect with the people who have enriched my life, and l theirs.
God doesn’t reserve His presence only for good moments; God is always near—in your valleys and on your mountain tops.
When you start to doubt this, you need to hold onto God’s promises that He reveals in the Bible—that He loves you and will never leave you and that He will fulfill His purpose over your life with His perfect timing for your good.
God never goes back on His Word.
Madeline Twooney is a Christian writer and blogger. She has written articles for SheLoves, Converge, and Ruminate Magazine and is a contributing writer for YMI Magazine. In her spare time, Madeline gets creative as a freelance Special Effects Makeup artist, and she dances to Sister Sledge whilst cooking. Madeline is British but lives in Germany with her husband and their one-eared pussycat. You can contact Madeline at firstname.lastname@example.org tweet her at @MTwooney.