When You Feel Disconnected From God
Brad Bailey – June 8, 2003
One of the challenges that is common to our human condition… is that of going through seasons when we feel disconnected to God….. Such seasons may be described by terms such as a ‘wilderness’ because they feel spiritually dry and lifeless… or like being in a ‘fog’ because everything seems less clear and it’s hard to see what’s ahead.
While I may not hear about extreme seasons often… I think to a lesser degree such seasons are often felt… and in fact we’ll all face seasons when we feel less connected to God.
Shouldn’t surprise us… all relationships go through seasons where intimacy flows more or less naturally. How much more should we expect to connection to be a challenge when it’s between an infinite God and finite beings?
Nearly every historical… even heroic figure had seasons where they experienced disillusionment… and disconnection.
Mother Teresa - Archbishop of Calcutta Henry D'Souza knows that at times in her life, Mother Teresa felt abandoned by God.
She wrote in her diary, "I wandered the streets the whole day. My feet are aching, and I have not been able to find a home. And I also get the Tempter telling me, 'Leave all this, go back to the convent from which you came.'"
She found her home, and the rest is history. The Missionaries of Charity feeds 500,000 families a year in Calcutta alone, treats 90,000 leprosy patients annually, and educates 20,000 children every year.
Citation: Kevin A. Miller, Vice President, Christianity Today International; source: CNN
Psalm 13:1-6 (NIV)
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
….5But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6I will sing to the Lord,
for he has been good to me.
Psalm 42:4-5 (NIV)
These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go with the multitude,
leading the procession to the house of God,
with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
among the festive throng.
5Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and
Often the most passionate people will face the deepest sense of pain and disconnection.
Ø But there is a wisdom we find as well… they understood that God was bigger than their feelings.
Important to recognize what the very word “Feel” implies… something about us… more than God… By nature, the feeling of disconnection is subjective… and may reflect nothing about objective reality.
Psalm 145:18 (NIV)
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
Philip. 1:6 (NIV)
I am ‘confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’
“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.”
But while our feelings may not reflect any change in where God is… they do reflect something about where we are…our condition.
I don’t believe there is one cause… and one way to overcome such feelings.
Something is not allowing us to experience the flow of God’s Spirit
Three common causes that effect our sense of connection with God…
1. Lack of a clear tangible experience for faith
God is experienced by faith.
Hebrews 11:6-7 (NIV)
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
7By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
He truly lived by faith… connected to what could not be seen…and in that, connected to God.
Too often there is little that we are attempting for God…too little of a clear tangible active faith… too little that says, “Wow… here goes….You better be real”….too little cutting edge to our walking with God.
> The result is that the vital connection … the dynamic where we experience connection… grows more still… and we feel less connected.
This can be effected by…
· “Corporate comfort” that reduces risk and expectation
· Tendency to diminish faith to greater knowledge apart from response
· A season of overload in which we get stuck in a ‘functional’ mode
I’ve found this a common challenge for those going through Grad school… a consuming project such as remodeling a house…or just the fullness of parenting.
> Time for the soul to catch up.
à From time to time we need to revitalize an active faith through discerning and exercising God’s call.
2. “Unrealized Expectations” – Disappointment with God, Others, or Self
We all grapple with life and its myriad difficulties, its ups and downs. We're all hassled from time to time by debt, failure, sickness, broken promises, and a host of uncertainties. Decisions made one year with confidence turn out to be disasters in the next. Friends we thought we could count on disappoint us, and we in turn disappoint those whom we say we love. (PP.com)
When old issues still affect our lives. Some of you have already accepted God. You have already accepted his grace, his forgiveness, and his freedom. You know the peace that comes with that. Yet, some of the issues from your past still reach up and grab you. Some of the scars, hurts, and pains can be troublesome at moments.
When Jesus came out of the grave, rose from the dead, there was new life. But he carried with him the imprints of the nails in his hands and his feet and the spear thrust into his side. There was new life, but old wounds. (PP.com)
Jack Welch, former corporate chief at General Electric, grew up as a devoted Irish-Catholic. Early on he was an altar boy, and later, as an adult, his religion was so important to him that he was known to travel more than an hour to attend mass. However, his commitment to faith changed 34 years ago when his mother died of a heart attack. In his book Jack: Straight From the Gut, he writes, "I felt cheated, angry, and mad at God for taking my mother away." He claims still to believe in God, but says he lost his heart for religion and no longer attends church.
Citation: Lori Quicke, associate editor, PreachingToday.com; source: Del Jones, "Welch 'Angry at God' after Mom Died," USA Today (9-06-01)
In John, chapter 11, one of Jesus' best friends has died and he goes up to Bethany, Lazarus's hometown. The two sisters, Mary and Martha, came at different times with the same statement, with the same response to Jesus. They say to him, "If you would have been here, our brother wouldn't have died." Do you know what they were saying? You didn't do what we thought you should do. You didn't help like we thought you would help. If you were really God, we wouldn't be preparing for a funeral.
When God doesn’t fit our expectation… what do we do? On one hand… can show how self-centered we are…but even when our hearts are generally well meaning and surrendered… there is a natural disorientation we must go through.
· My exp… India… visiting a young woman named Terri who had cancer when I first began serving as a pastor here… who died. > Effected my prayer life.
· Grown to live with unknown… to see God beyond my presumptions.
Intimacy involves the ability to adjust perceptions of the other.
> Need to resolve our disappointments…. Dis-orientation > re-orientation.
‘In life I can either have disappointment with God or I can have disappointment without God.’
> FINITE DISAPPOINTMENT BUT INFINITE HOPE
It was Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, "We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope."
3. Sin – Actions or Attitudes that quench the Holy Spirit.
While certainly true of being caught up in some sort of obvious action or addiction… far more common… far more dangerous to our connection with God… are attitudes.
Far more of a block… and for far longer… because less often recognized… and repented from.
1 Cor. 3: 3
You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?
If we will… easiest cause of disconnection to overcome.
We can walk 1,000 miles away from God… and find He’s one step away.
“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
1 John 1:9
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Has sin ever driven a wedge between you and God, making him seem distant? David had sinned with Bathsheba and had just been confronted by Nathan the prophet. In his prayer he cried, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.” God wants us to be close to him and to experience his full and complete life. But sin that remains unconfessed makes such intimacy impossible. Confess your sin to God. You may still have to face some earthly consequences, as David did, but God will give back the joy of your relationship with him.
As long as a tiny spark remains, a fire can be rekindled and fanned into a roaring blaze. Similarly, if just the smallest remnant of true believers retains the spark of faith, God can rebuild it into a strong nation. And if only a glimmer of faith remains in a heart, God can use it to restore blazing faith in that believer. If you feel that only a spark of faith remains in you, ask God to use it to rekindle a blazing fire of commitment to him.
Before refrigerators, people used ice houses to preserve their food. Ice houses had thick walls, no windows, and a tightly fitted door. In winter, when streams and lakes were frozen, large blocks of ice were cut, hauled to the ice houses, and covered with sawdust. Often the ice would last well into the summer.
One man lost a valuable watch while working in an ice house. He searched diligently for it, carefully raking through the sawdust, but didn’t find it. His fellow workers also looked, but their efforts, too, proved futile. A small boy who heard about the fruitless search slipped into the ice house during the noon hour and soon emerged with the watch.
Amazed, the men asked him how he found it.
"I closed the door," the boy replied, "lay down in the sawdust, and kept very still. Soon I heard the watch ticking."
Often the question is not whether God is speaking, but whether we are being still enough, and quiet enough, to hear.
-- Phillip Gunter in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.
"You have to be present to win," was a sign at a raffle at a retirement center in Florida. I like that sign because that is how life is, isn't it? We have to be present if anything is going to happen. We have to show up. So many people sit on the sidelines. They drift through life. They hang back, checking in sometimes, putting in time; but, if we are going to win, we have to be present.
If we are going to be present to win the raffle, there is also the option that if we are present to win we might be present to lose. Only one person can win a raffle usually; not everybody wins. We don't always win at life. Sometimes things don't work out for us like we want them to. Sometimes circumstances or choices or issues affect our lives in negative ways. We end up feeling like we are not winning at all. But life requires a very basic thing...that you show up every day.
Dave Dravecky -Looking back, [my wife] Jan and I have learned that the wilderness is part of the landscape of faith, and every bit as essential as the mountaintop. On the mountaintop we are overwhelmed by God's presence. In the wilderness we are overwhelmed by his absence. Both places should bring us to our knees; the one, in utter awe; the other, in utter dependence. (Citation: Dave Dravecky in When You Can't Come Back. Christianity Today, Vol. 38, no. 2.)Copyright 2007 VCF Westside. All RIghts Reserved