When God Feels Distant

I could see how God had gently been calling me to Himself through this very song, all morning long. I just wasn’t listening.

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Do you ever wonder sometimes if God hears you?

Is your heart still heavy even after you’ve managed to cry out in prayer?

That was me this morning on my crisp, morning walk. As I waited for the sun to peek over the horizon and bring light to the darkness, I prayed for light to shine and bring relief to my weary heart.

Morning walks have been my thing for the past several months; a time to be quiet, enjoy the scenery and talk to God. I hadn’t taken a walk like this in quite a while and I was craving how the view of a glorious sky renewed my spirit and how the country stroll revived my soul.

But, it didn’t happen. Not this time.

Instead, as the sun rose behind a thick layer of clouds, all that accompanied me was a gloomy overcast light and a tune from an old song.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face…”

I mumbled the chorus softly; maybe the words would uplift me.

They didn’t.

I was there, body and soul, willing and ready…but no matter where I looked, God was nowhere to be found. My supposedly refreshing walk was only making me feel wearier.

I pushed the song from my mind.

Such an oldie. I wasn’t as fond of the song as I once was as a young teenager. I tried to think of a newer song that fit my preferences.

Confused and disappointed, I felt like God was withholding Himself from me. Why wouldn’t He meet me where I was at? Why wouldn’t He give me what I was asking for? After all, I was asking for HIM. Why was he hiding from me?

I went home and poured myself a cup of coffee; the song still running on repeat in my head. It was one of the very first things I learned to play on the guitar in my adolescence, but I only ever learned the chorus. Curious to know what the rest of the lyrics were, I opened my computer and did a quick Google search to pull them up:

O soul are you weary and troubled?

No light in the darkness you see?

There’s light for a look at the Savior

And life more abundant and free.

The first verse stuck out to me like a ray of sunlight I had hoped to see that morning.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.

As I read these lyrics, it was like a veiled was pulled away from my mind and I could see what I was doing. I was looking for intimacy with God in the things OF Him, but not IN Him.

I was turning my eyes to the sunrise; hoping its glory would renew me.

I was turning my eyes to my actions; hoping my effort would reward me.

I was turning my eyes to my past experiences; hoping my understanding would enlighten me.

But I wasn’t actually turning my eyes to Him.

As I continued to read these lyrics I could see how God had gently been calling me to Himself through this very song, all morning long. I just wasn’t listening.

Just when I thought He was withholding, He was actually drawing me near. But, because it wasn’t in the way I expected, I was disappointed and doubtful. Though my heart longed for Him and my effort sought Him…my eyes—my mind— were not fixed on Him. It was busy turning to the sky. Busy turning to the endeavor of my walk. Busy turning to the expectation of what these things might bring me for my soul. Ultimately, it was busy fixated on ME.

With this song, God was lifting my chin to meet His gaze, but I was so quick to dart my eyes everywhere else. Like a child fighting eye contact with their parent bent low to draw them close, I was hesitating to lift my eyes to meet His.

When a child’s eyes meet the accepting, loving, and tender gaze of their parent, the walls they’re trying so hard to stand behind, always crumble. Independence doesn’t withstand a loving and accepting presence.

I am always so prone to try to stand on my own.

Turning my eyes upon God was a dismantling of my own self. A crumbling of my own strength. An undoing of my own efforts. A fight against my very self.

But, in turning my eyes, I am met with His tender mercy. I am wrapped in the fullness of His grace. I see my worth in the delight of His eyes and the kindness of His smile rescues me from myself, yet again. In looking full in His wonderful face, I see the life I long for, hidden with Him there in His presence. I see who I am in the light of His love and the reflection I see of myself in His gaze reminds me that, here, I am complete. I am forgiven. Redeemed. Fully supplied. Abundantly whole. Secure and free.

Everything else pales in comparison.

Somehow, for the five-hundred-thousandth time, I believed I could obtain the things of Him, apart from Him. He wasn’t withholding Himself from me, it was me who was withholding myself from Him.

Is your heart weary today? Is your soul tired? Have you been looking for God and feel like He’s withholding Himself from you? I hope these words bring light for you to recognize that God is right before you, drawing you near; it just might look different than you expect. Will you quiet your heart and listen? Will you still your efforts and hold your thoughts captive? Will you consider that, perhaps like me, your eyes are fixed on the things of Him, instead of on Him?

Will you lift your gaze to meet His and dare to let yourself be dismantled in the light of His glory and grace? Will you turn your eyes upon Jesus and look full in His wonderful face?

 

This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Kristina Ward

Featured Image by EMILY GENEVISH from Pixabay

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About the Author

I write to encourage you in the work God is doing in your heart by sharing my own continuing journey of being made new. As someone who spent most of her life avoiding conflict, I know the discomfort of leaning into the tensions that arise as everyday life and faith intersect. Still, through the unexpected journey of helping my husband replant a broken church while simultaneously doubling our kids through adoption, I learned the importance of embracing the things I would rather avoid and what it means to suffer well. And as I venture on as an unlikely pastor's wife and mother to six, I hope that my journey into abundant life can encourage you on yours as I share my story along the way.

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