Why is it that we can go to church, join a small group, read our Bible, sing the worship songs and still somehow feel like God is this ethereal concept rather than our closest Friend? Many factors lead to this sense of distance – let’s take a look at just a few…
We haven’t invited Him in. Do you go to church on Sunday and ignore God the rest of the week? It’s easy to do. It’s easy to compartmentalize God into this box that we only open for a couple hours once a week, or a few times a year. Jesus said, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal” (Rev. 3:20). He’s there knocking on the door of our hearts – will we open the door? Will we invite Him in to every facet of our lives? Try talking to Him throughout the week – in your car, in your kitchen, during your workout, while playing with your kids – ask Him to come in to that moment and make Himself known right there in that space.
We’re too distracted. It’s no secret that our lives today are busy. It seems like every moment is accounted for and, often, overbooked. Between excess possessions, excess commitments, excess media and too little quiet, we’re overwhelmed by the noise of life. If you happen to have a few moments where nothing is happening, what do you do? Do you turn on the TV or pick up your phone? (I’m definitely guilty of this one!) Challenge yourself each day to stop for 5 minutes and be quiet. Silence your phone, get into a quiet corner (at-home parents…feel free to escape to the bathroom or closet), close your eyes, and just breathe. Psalm 46:10a says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Another translation says to “Cease striving…” For just a few minutes each day, set down your striving and rest in the simple knowledge that God is God.
We’re buried in shame. Shame is so incredibly heavy. Shame tells us that we’ve messed up too bad to go to God – that He doesn’t want us anymore. But that’s a lie. Take a glance through any human (aside from Jesus) in the Bible and you’ll find countless individuals who messed up. And, despite that, God still chose them to experience His presence and change the world. “I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces” (Ps. 34:4-5). I’ve felt this weight that distanced me from Him. And I have been amazed at how a simple prayer (“God, help me!) lifts shame off of my shoulders and brings God close – though it’s actually just my awareness because He’s been there all along.
We’re in charge of our lives. I used to think I was a Christian – a follower of Jesus. I believed He was my Savior, I knew my Bible pretty well, I attended church, and I knew all the “Christian-ese” language. But I was still in charge of my life. My agenda outruled anything God had planned. Jesus may have been my Savior (in my intellectual awareness), but He wasn’t my Lord. It wasn’t until I surrendered my own personal lordship that He could come close and take control. Yes, we need to know that God is God – but we also need to know that we are not. After all, if He is God (who knows all, is everywhere, and is all-powerful), isn’t He more qualified than we are to guide the direction of our lives? “Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, ‘Why have you made me like this?'” (Rom. 9:20). In your own life, who’s in charge?
We have ongoing sin. So, yes, we’re humans and we mess up. God is not put off my our messiness. But when we allow ongoing sin in our lives – when we continue to do things that grieve His heart – our ability to hear His voice lessens more and more. If you have an ongoing sin, think back to the first time you did that. Did you feel guilty, knowing that you were doing something wrong? What happened over time as you kept doing that thing? For me, that sense of guilt gradually numbed. The more I repeated that same sin, the less bothered I was. The less I felt God’s presence prompting me to turn away from it. “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:8-9). What habitual sin is keeping God at a distance?
God has chosen to partner with humanity across history, and you’re a part of that! He wants to be close rather than being compartmentalized. Bring Him your distractions, your shame, your agenda, and your mess. Nothing is too much for Him to handle.