What if I don’t feel God?

I’ll never forget the conversation. He sat across from me and quietly muttered: “I’m done, Adam. Everyone else seems to feel God, but I don’t feel anything. I’ve asked for God to reveal himself to me, but he’s silent.” It was gut-wrenching. It was someone I cared about. And sadly, it’s not unusual. I’ve spoken to a number of people through the years who have rejected God because they felt as if God had rejected them.

What about you? Have you ever felt badly for not feeling anything? Have you ever thought to yourself: “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I feel God?”

The truth is, if you believe that what it means to be a Christian is an uninterrupted sense of overwhelming peace, endless warm fuzzy feelings, and God’s still, small voice at all times, you will be disappointed and disoriented. The Christian life is a pilgrimage that will include dry seasons of wandering in the spiritual wilderness. Both the Bible and the lives of Christians throughout history testify to this reality.

In his book, A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis wrote about his experience: “…a door slammed in [my] face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become.”

King David, a man after God’s own heart, once wrote out of deep anguish and confusion: “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” (Ps. 13:1-2). Even Jesus experienced the absence of the Father’s loving presence upon the cross: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matt. 27:46)

So, if you find yourself walking through the spiritual wilderness, where God seems distant and you feel discouraged, you should know you are not alone and your experience is not uncommon. Look down and see the footprints next to yours. Many other weary saints have walked this road.

But don’t just look down, look up and look away from yourself; look to the cross of Jesus Christ. In his death upon the cross, Jesus experienced true aloneness, true abandonment., true separation from God—and he did it so that you would never have to experience it. The Father turned his face away from his Son so that he will never turn his face away from us. Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” so we can cry out “Abba, Father”. In the words of Ephesians 2:13: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

This is why, if you are in Jesus Christ, the feeling of God’s absence is just that; a feeling, a deceptive feeling. It is an illusion brought on by the pain or confusion of your wilderness wanderings. Be assured, God is with you; he knows your pain, he hears your cry, and he never takes his eye off you. And this is why, when you feel alone and lost in the wilderness, you must learn to walk by faith and not by sight. You must recall and remember the promises of God in the Bible and the love of God revealed in the cross. You must remember Jesus’ name is “Immanuel”, which means ‘God with us’.

The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121:5-8)