Sunday, April 15, 2012

Feel far from God?

I saw a sign outside a church recently: Feel far from God? Guess who moved? There's a popular teaching in Evangelical Christianity that basically says "If you feel far from God, it's you who moved."

This is not only a terrible guilt trip, it's also not always the case. Sometimes, yes, we do walk away from God. Sometimes this is intentional. We get mad at God or the church and decide it's not worth following Him anymore. We willingly, knowingly leave Him. Sometimes through inattention and laziness we simply slowly, quietly drift away from Him.

However, there are other cases.

First, I want to point out that just because we feel far from God, doesn't necessarily mean we are. Feelings are fickle and unreliable. When we feel far from God, we need to look to see if it's just a feeling or if it reflects reality. I'm reminded of the well known poem Footprints. The writer felt far from Jesus, but in fact He was carrying him in those very times he didn't feel His presence.

Next, When we continually, willfully sin He will draw away. This is to protect us. Just as light destroys dark, so will His holiness destroy us if we are dark with sin. In these cases, He will pull back so His glory does not undo our weak frames. He remembers we are dust and takes that into consideration in His dealings with us. There are some schools of thought that believe this is the true manifestation of Hell. The complete and utter lack of God's presence because He has completely withdrawn from a soul due to its repeated and continuous rejection of Him.

Finally, there are times where God pulls away, not due to our sin, but to increase our desire for His presence. This is typified in Song of Solomon 5:2-16 where the Bridegroom knocks on the door but leaves before the Bride has a chance to open the door. She immediately gets up to open the door. She wants and desires His presence with her, but He departs prior to her opening the door; just His scent is left behind on the latch. The purpose of this withdrawal is to increase her desire for Him and cause her to come follow Him. And it works. She leaves the comfort of her chamber and goes out searching for Him. Her search, driven by a deeper desire for Him, takes her to the very places that she refused to go earlier when He simply asked her to come with Him.