Why Does God Seem Far Away?- Part 2

great-questionsWhy does God seem far away?  When I struggle with this feeling one question that I ask myself is, “Do I think God’s presence must be super sensational?”  Am I looking for a quiver in my liver? Or for lighting to strike or something big or am I missing God’s gentle whisper?  I wrote about this in the last post.

A second question that I ask myself, is …

  1. Am I distracted?

God is with me, but there are times that I get so busy that I’m distracted and cannot experience Him.

The story of Jesus friends, Mary and Martha illustrates this truth well.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. Luke 10:38-40

Jesus was right there and yet, she was distracted and missed the moment of enjoying His presence.

We can be distracted by so many things today.  Do you know that someone that can’t go four minutes without updating their Facebook status?  Are you that someone? They are like, “Oh hang on, status update: I just went to the restroom!” As if the whole world needs to know! And they must keep checking on everyone else’s world, or every news story or every celebrity or sporting event.  Then we are bombarded by thousands of marketing ads and people spending millions of dollars to make us feel like we are missing out and we believe them!

We over schedule ourselves: “I’ve got to get the kids to soccer and the other ones to dance!” and “We’re out of eggs at the house!” and “I’ve got to mow the yard!” and “Oh, but we need gas for the lawn mower!”  We’re distracted. God is with you and you’re missing His presence.

Even for those of us who want to experience God, We’re often distracted by doing the work of God, and then we miss the presence of God. Like Martha, we’re so busy doing that we’re not being in His presence.

The third question to consider and this one isn’t fun, but:

  1. Has my heart hardened?

Why don’t I always feel the presence of God? There are times that my heart has grown harder to the truths of God. There have been times that I have been sensitive and tender to the God, but then slowly things happen such as being too busy, being anxious, hurts, and fear or anger and my heart hardens.

In Matthew 13, Jesus had just taught on what was known as the parable of the sower, and then He quotes the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah that says this in Matthew 13:14-15:

You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Matthew 13:14-15

I don’t know how this might play out, but maybe you prayed for something and said, “God, I believe you’re going to do this.” And then, God didn’t do what you thought and you think, “Well, forget God!” and you hardened your heart toward God.

Or perhaps God was leading you to do something, and so you took a step of faith. And when you took that step of faith it didn’t work out the way you thought it would and you think, “I must not hear God or I can’t understand Him or, He’s not trustworthy!” And so you’re heart hardened to the things of God.

I’ve met people who were close to God at one time and then, some Christian did something that wasn’t Christ-like. So they say, “Well God, because of what they did forget you!”

Why does God seem far away? It could be that my heart has grown calloused or harder to God because of something that happened in my life.

Here’s another hard question,

4. Do I have un-confessed sin?

Now, let me be really careful and really clear here. If you’re a follower of Christ, if you committed your life to him and you sin, you’re still a Christian even when you sin. Just because you sin doesn’t mean you’re out of the game.  You’re covered by the blood that Jesus shed on the cross for you; your past sins, your present sins, and your future sins! But the reality is, if you continue living with un-confessed sin; in other words, you’re sinning and you’re not sorry and you’re not turning away from it, that is going to negatively affect the potential of intimacy with God.

Let me explain it this way, If I sinned against Niki, would we still be married? The answer is yes! Would we be as close if I continue to sin against her? The answer is no! Imagine that I tell a big whopping lie. Well, you might as well put a brick in between me and her. Then, let’s say that I talk down to her, put another brick. Let’s say I’m verbally abusive to her, another brick. Let’s say I’m continually disrespectful to her, another brick. Let’s say I look lustfully at some girl that walks by, put four bricks up there! Now, if I sinned against her are we still married? Yes, but if I’m not apologizing and turning from it, what am I doing? I’m building a wall of sin.

Maybe the reason you don’t feel God like you could is because you’re not confessing and turning from the sin that separates us from a Holy God.

Un-confessed sin hinders our intimacy with God.  What is confession? It’s agreement. God knows, you know, just admit the problem.

Look at Isaiah 59:1-2, God says:

Listen! The LORD is not too weak to save you, and he is not becoming deaf. He can hear you when you call. 2 But there is a problem — your sins have cut you off from God. Isaiah 59:1-2

There’s a problem. He can hear you, but your sins have cut you off from God.  The good news, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.”   1 John 1:9

And then finally, this question is not for me, but for you, why does God seem far way?

  1. Maybe you don’t know God yet.

There are so many people who know ABOUT God, but don’t know God personally. And there’s a huge difference between having a head knowledge of God and having a heart relationship with God. Jesus said it plainly, He said in John 7:28-29, He said about His Father, ‘

You do not know him, 29 but I know him because I am from him and he sent me. John 7:28-29

God wants us not to not only know about Him but to know Him.

Maybe today you recognize that you don’t know Him personally. You’ve realized that going to church doesn’t mean you know God. Getting baptized or confirmed when you were a child doesn’t mean you know God. Just because you consider yourself a spiritual person doesn’t mean you have a relationship with God.  Here’s how to begin that relationship with Jesus, pray this,

“God thank you for loving me and making me even when I’ve gone my own way.  I acknowledge that I need you to forgive me of my sins.  Come into my life Jesus.  As best as I can, I want to follow you from now on. Help me to grow in my relationship with you. In Jesus name, Amen.”

Congratulations on beginning a relationship with God!

Now, we’ve talked a lot about feelings, and we do feel God’s presence, but you may not always feel God’s presence. It’s going to take faith to believe in Him even when you don’t feel Him. And the good news is faith is pleasing to God.  If you always felt His presence, then you wouldn’t need faith, and Scripture says without faith it’s impossible to please God. So, walking with God is not always about our feelings, it’s always about our faith.


For more about the series, Great Questions, please visit, www.RidgeFellowship.com


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Why Does God Seem Far Away?

great-questionsAs a follower of Christ, I’ve often asked, “God why do you seem far away from me?” If you’re not a follower of Christ that may not be a question you’ve ever asked; but for those of us who are, we wonder, “Why does God seem far away?”

Here’s a question to consider, “Have you at some point in your life believe that you’ve felt the presence of God?

I asked some people recently, “If you’ve felt the presence of God, how do you know when you feel God’s presence?”

One person said, “I got a tingly sensation!”

Another said, “I was overcome with emotion and I cried in response to what I believe is the presence of God.”

One person said, “There’s a presence of something that is bigger than myself that I can’t describe”

I believe that God can give you any of those feelings and infinitely more feelings than we can ever even describe. But the truth also is, even though God can make you feel tingly, so can sitting next to a girl you like in a movie theatre. Even though God can make you cry, so can cutting onions! Just as God can give you a warm sensation, so can going to the bathroom in a swimming pool!  It doesn’t mean I’ve done that because everybody knows that if you do it the water will turn blue around you! At least that’s what they told me when I was growing up.

If you don’t always feel God’s presence; you’re not alone.

Believe it or not the writers of the Bible express this frustration with raw and real feelings.  There are many different verses in the Bible about this topic, but here’s one from Psalm 88 that is particularly strong,

13 I cry to you for help, O LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14  Why, O LORD, do you reject me and hide your face from me?  Psalm 88:13-14 (NIV)

 The first shocking fact, the author of this psalm is a worship leader!  He’s devoted his life to worshiping God and leading others to do the same. He’s praying in morning.  He’s is crying out, “Why can’t I feel you God? Where are you when I need you? I don’t sense that you’re near God, why is it that I can’t feel your presence?”   Later in verse 18 he says, “Darkness is my closest friend.”   Now that’s an honest expression to God. I hope you can be that real in conversation to God.  He can handle it, let it out.

Let’s wrestle with this question, “why does God sometimes seem far away?” I won’t be able to give a specific reason for everyone.  What I would like to do is to ask you five different Biblical questions that I ask myself.  They may also be for you reasons as to why you might not feel the presence of God.

The first question,

  1. Do I think God’s presence must be super sensational?

For me, on my faith journey in college there were times when I thought God’s presence had to be super sensational.  When I was 21 years of age I went with some friends to a charismatic church.  For those of you that aren’t from the church world, a charismatic church is typically a church where people are really excited about God! Sometimes they speak in tongues or they’re jumping up and down, and some of them have their own little dance or a banner they run around with. It’s like everybody drank two cans of Red Bull before they came to church! I was very intrigued by this. There was something about their excitement that I’d never experienced in my Baptist Church growing up.  We sang verses one, two and four of Hymns, everyone was stiff as a board, you never raised your hands and dancing was a sin!

Because I wasn’t used to moving and expressing myself in the ways people at a charismatic church did, I began to question if God was really working in my life. What’s interesting is that God had been clearly speaking to me through His Word, in bible studies in churches I attended. But because I didn’t respond like others at a particular church I questioned, “Do I really experience God’s presence?” Or is something missing for me?”

Like I did at one time, perhaps you’re looking for something really big and dramatic to move you.  Or maybe you think you need some massive sign from God. “God, if this is really you, may lighting strike right now so I’ll know that you’re leading me to do this!”

This isn’t uncommon. We can see it in the New Testament when the crowds of people were asking Jesus in John 6:30,

“What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you?”

Some people define God’s presence with something they either see or feel in big way.  “Oh God, do something big, help me see it!” Shake the room and give me, the James Earl Jones voice:  “I am your father!”

Maybe you’re still waiting for a “quiver in your liver” or some electrical charge to come over you.  I believe that sometimes God’s presence will be very strong. Other times it may calm you with a peace that goes beyond our human ability to even understand.

A passage that I love about God’s presence is found in I Kings 19:11-13.  The prophet Elijah was looking for God’s presence. “There came great and powerful wind that tore the mountains apart, but God was not in the wind. There was an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake. Then a fire, but God was not in the fire.  After that came a gentle whisper.  God spoke in a gentle whisper.”

Why don’t I always feel God’s presence? Maybe like I me, you have thought God’s presence must be super sensational like an earthquake but he’s actually in the gentle whisper.

For David, God was there “in the valley of the shadow of death”- Psalm 23:4. Jonah experienced God, “when my life was ebbing away” – Jonah 2:7.  Job experienced God’s presence went he lost everything.

I think when I am hurting and broken hearted, I experience God’s presence the best.  “ The LORD is close to the brokenhearted.” Psalm 34:18 (NIV)   It’s gentle not sensational.

I no longer need a big miracle to believe in God, His presence in my hurt is enough, His whisper through His word is all I need.  Sometimes I may not feel him, but that’s okay too, it doesn’t mean he’s not there.  I pray that you experience God’s presence whether it’s super sensational from time to time or just a gentle whisper, “I love you.”

In the next post, we’ll examine the next four questions about why we don’t always feel God’s presence.


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Why Evil and Suffering? Part 3

great-questionsHave you ever asked, “Couldn’t God have foreseen that evil was going to happen?  The answer to that is, “of course.”  So why did He go ahead and create the world as it is?

I think the answer is, using an analogy, is like those of you that are parents.  Niki and I have three children.  When you were pregnant you probably knew that there was a very real possibility that your child would endure suffering in their life, some pain and some hardship.  That your child would have some disappointments in life, some failures in life and that they may even reject you.  You child may walk away from you and cause great hurt to you.  And yet knowing the very real possibility of that you went ahead and had kids anyway.  Why did you do it?  Because you also knew there was also the very real possibility the potential for tremendous joy and a loving relationship and a deep meaning in that relationship that you would have with your child.  If you knew the problems and pain would be a part of life would you have that child anyway?   I would and we did!

And the same thing is true with God.  He knew that we would rebel against Him.  But He also knew that many people would choose to follow Him, would choose to love others, would choose to spend eternity with Him in heaven.  And it was all worth it for those people even though it meant for Him the suffering and the death of His Son Jesus Christ on the cross.  The third point of light is this:

  1. Evil Is Temporary And Each Evil Deed Will Be Judged.

 The day is coming when evil will be judged.  A lot of times you hear people say, “If God has the power to eradicate evil and suffering, why doesn’t He do it right now?  There are people suffering in this world this very moment.  Why doesn’t He come back right now and cause suffering to cease and to judge evil?”  The answer, I believe, is just because He hasn’t done it yet does not mean He’s not going to do it.

To criticize God for not coming back yet or not taking care of every case of evil immediately is almost like taking a John Grisham novel, reading the first third of the book and then throwing it away and say, “What a stupid book!  He didn’t tie up all the loose ends of the plot.”     The book’s not done and God promises the day is coming when He will consummate history and then evil will be judged.

We think of a child being murdered such as Jon Bennet Ramsey and what a horrible thing – an innocent child murdered and somebody’s apparently gotten away with murder.  They haven’t gotten away with murder.  God will judge that person and they will be held accountable for the crimes they’ve committed.  They’re not getting away with murder.  Even in our courts and judicial system we have what’s called “due process.” Can’t God work in His time table or are we going to tell him how and when to do things?

Why doesn’t God come back now? Why does’t God judge evil immediately? Because of His love, that’s why.  When God ends the world, it’s over! When He brings judgement that’s it.  Are you ready for judgment now?  Are your loved ones, friends and neighbors?  Our memory verse reminds us:  2 Peter 9:3, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

I’m so thankful God has been patient with me!   I have walked away from Him and said, “I want to live my own life!”  If people said they were praying for me, I would say, “Don’t pray for me, I want to do things my own way, not Gods.”  But God never gave up on me.  He was patient and I’m so glad.

What is this verse saying?  God is saying, “I am holding back the curtain of history, holding back the consummation of history.”  Why?  Because of some of you, some of you don’t know God yet, he waiting.  He’s patient.  And if God were to come back at this time you would be shut out of knowing Him.  You’d be shut out of heaven forever.  You would be judged for every evil deed.  But when you trust and receive Christ, he took the judgment that was due to you and it was put upon him.

 24  He took our sins on himself, giving his body to be nailed on the tree. 1 Peter 2:24 (BBE)

 5  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)

God says, “I love you so much I’m going to hold back the curtain of history knowing that some of you may very well make that choice saying, ‘God, I want to turn my life over to You.  Take my sin.  It’s paid for on the cross. I want to spend eternity with You in heaven.’”  The reason God hasn’t come back yet is an expression of His unbelievable love for you.

Have you received him?  If you want to do that just pray this prayer: “God I’ve chosen in the past to do my own thin. Today I choose to follow Christ.  Come in my life, forgive me of my past and help me follow you.”  In Jesus name Amen.

God doesn’t give us the answer to “why,” but does give us His presence. He promises:

 8  The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”   Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)

 Though I walk through the valley of the shadow death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”  Psalm 23:4

 “And surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

When I ask the question “why is there evil and suffering?” I don’t always get the answer I’m looking for but am given Christ who will be with me.


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Why Evil and Suffering? Part 2

great-questionsHave you ever driven in heavy fog and you can’t see anything in front of you?  For me, besides just pulling off the road and giving up, my only hope is for the fog to lift or someone to pull in front of me with fog lights that knows where they are going!  Then I  can see their tail lights dimly and I can follow them!

In a similar way, that’s how our understanding of why there’s pain and suffering in this world works.  We may not be able to make out all the peripheral answers in terms of why.  They still may be enshrouded by our limited ability to understand.  But there are some key biblical truths that are illuminated to us through scripture.  I want to share three. And if we keep our eyes on those three points of light – just like the taillights– I believe they will take us to a place of understanding where our hearts and our minds can be satisfied.

 1. Evil and suffering are NOT GOD’S doing.

“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”  I John 1:5

The Bible says a lot about God’s character and one thing he is not is evil.

Another common question: “Why didn’t God create a world where there was no evil and suffering in the first place?”

And the answer to that is, He did.  Genesis 1:31 says, “God saw all that He made and it was very good.”  So here’s the question.  If God is not the author of evil and suffering and if what He created is good, then where did it come from in the first place?  The answer to that has to do with the fact that God, in His wisdom, decided to give human beings free will.  Why did He give us free will?  Because the greatest value in the universe is love: To love God and to love other people.  Love is the highest value.  And the only way that highest value of love can really be attained is if we have free will.  Then we can make the choice to love or not to love because true love must involve a choice

When our youngest daughter Danielle was born, a friend gave us this little stuffed dog that was programmed to say her name.  It would say, “I love you Danielle.”   Petty clever, but does that stuffed dog really love Danielle?  No, it’s programmed to say it.  It has no choice.  It must say it.  So it’s not love.

For me to really express love I must be able to make that choice.  I must be able to make the choice NOT to love in order for my expression of love to be true.  And God, knowing this, created a world in which He gave human beings that free will.  The problem is we’ve abused that free will and we’ve rejected God.  And we’ve walked away from Him.  This is why we meet on Sunday’s to encourage you to choose Christ.  Choose to KNOW him in a relationship.   It’s our choices:

2. If Evil is Not from God, Then, why does Evil exist?

 a.  Because of OUR CHOICES.

   Have you ever made a choice that hurt you or someone else?  I have!  Our choices cause problems.

God tells us to “choose” over _200_ times.   

 When God gave Moses the precepts his people were to live by he reminded them:

 “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live  Deuteronomy 30: 19

God is begging us to choose life for ourselves and our children! What is your choice?  Follow God or not?  I’m tired of making the wrong choices, I have decided to follow Jesus.

It’s why we have church and teach the bible.  We can learn about the right choices and with God’s help make them.   Its why we have Growth Groups.  Sign ups are now!  To sign up go to http://ridgefellowship.com/growth-groups.  Get involved with a group of people, be encouraged to choose right for your family, marriage, kids.  Learn the bible and how to make choices that honor God.

 “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way”  Isaiah 53:6

We’ve all done things out of our free will that have resulted in hurt to ourselves and to other people.  I read recently, I believe it was from author Lee Strobel who estimated that 95% of the suffering in this world is the result of bad choices from us or other people.  For example, people look at the famines that take place in Africa and say, “Where’s God in all this?”  People are dying of starvation.  How does He allow this famine to take place?

The truth of the matter is we produce enough food on this planet to give every man, woman and child three thousand calories a day.  But it’s because of our own selfishness our own irresponsibility, corruption and misplaced nationalism that people are starving when there is plenty of food in the world to go around.

Another way to look at this is to consider your hand.  You can say, “I can either take this hand and pick up a gun and shoot and kill someone or I can take this very same hand and feed someone who’s starving to death.”  It’s my choice.  But it isn’t really fair if I pick up a gun and shoot someone and then say, “Why does God allow evil and suffering?  Why is there evil in this world.” You’ve made the choice to pick up the gun and pull the trigger.  It’s like the old cartoon:  “We’ve seen the enemy and he is us.”

 b. The second reason we have evil is because of the ENEMY’S INFLUENCE

Who is the enemy?  He is called “Satan” in Hebrew- to slander or “Diabolos” in Greek – to slander.  We’ll have an entire message coming up on Satan in the coming weeks, but quickly, he’s a liar and was from the beginning.  In Genesis we read about “the fall of mankind.’  It was a combination of the enemy’s lie and our bad choice.

 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:5

Sin is not completely Satan’s fault.  We are still held accountable for our choices.  He just makes the bad look good.

His plan is to “steal, kill and destroy”  (John 10:10)  What the enemy does is become a parasite of what is good.  Think of something good like sex:  God created it to be great and it is.  But what the enemy does is twist something good like sex into evil: Rape, abuse, prostitution, pornography, affairs, broken hearts, venereal diseases addictions and the list goes on.

Where did he come from?  We learn from the scriptures: He was a created being, an angel.  He is not God or equal to God. God gave him a choice and he chose to rebel.  God removed him from heaven and he lives on earth.   The prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah describe these truths about our enemy:

You were anointed as a guardian cherub. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.  So I threw you to the earth;” Ezekiel 28:14-17

 “How you have fallen from heaven, O Lucifer! You have been cast down to the earth!  You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”  Isaiah 14:12-14

*So let’s make one thing really clear as we begin this exploration.  God is not the author of evil and suffering.  It is true that He created a world with the potential for evil and suffering to take place.  Why?  Because it was the only way He could create a world with free will so that the greatest value of love could be experienced by you and me.

Some people say, “Couldn’t God have foreseen that this was going to happen?  That people would rebel against Him.  That the enemy would influence people to chose wrongly? Couldn’t He have seen that in advance?”  The answer to that is,  “of course.”  So why did He go ahead and create things?

I think the answer is, using an analogy, is like you being a parent.  Niki and I have three.   When you were pregnant may probably knew that there was a very real possibility that your child would endure suffering in their life, some pain, some hardship.  They will have some disappointments in life, some failures in life.  They may even reject you.  They may reject you as a parent – walk away from you and cause great hurt to you.  And yet knowing the very real possibility of that you went ahead and had kids anyway.  Why did you do it?  Because you also knew there was also the very real possibility the potential for tremendous joy and a loving relationship and a deep meaning in that relationship that you would have with your child.  If you knew the problems and pain would be a part of life would you have that child anyway?   I would and did!

And the same thing is true with God.  He knew that we would rebel against Him.  But He also knew that many people would choose to follow Him, would choose to love others, would choose to spend eternity with Him in heaven.  And it was all worth it for those people even though it meant for Him the suffering and the death of His Son Jesus Christ on the cross.

In the next post we’ll wrap up with the last point of light, until then,


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