Overcoming The Illusion Of A Distant God
I want to be close to God. It’s what I’ve wanted from the moment I experienced the Holy Spirit. I was undone but in all the right ways. God was present and I knew it. I wanted that same sense of closeness as much as possible. In my passion, I unintentionally tried to earn God’s closeness and it became a reward for my good living.
It started as it does for most, having these intervals of experiencing God. One moment He was undeniably close, then I would go a week or month or whatever without that experience again. The gap of experience pushed me into living as if God was far off until I had another experience. It was frustrating because I wanted to be near Him more then anything. I examined my life like a detective searching for clues that once led to my experiences with God. I would try to connect the dots so I could do it again.
Did I fast?
Did I spend an hour in prayer?
Did I worship in quiet with no one around?
Did I give something away?
Did I pray for someone?
Did someone pray for me?
I seriously could create a checklist of things I wanted to create a formula for being close to God. I fell into a trap. I defined God being close to me as having a specific kind of experience and if I wasn’t having that with God then I was trying to get it. I thought God needed me to do certain things before I could expect Him to be close. I did all this because I loved God but it unexpectedly had me doubting how close He already was to me.
I had a moment that really helped me. I was reading the end of Luke where the disciples were walking with Jesus after He was risen from the dead but they didn’t know it was Jesus. He walks and talks with them but they didn’t discern it was Him. Have you ever thought about that? WHAT?!? This messed with me because I thought if I am that close to Jesus I would be on the floor in tears or something uncontrollable. It continues and Jesus then breaks bread with them, and it says “their eyes were opened.” In one moment they realized it was Jesus with them and they said “did our hearts not burn within us?”
These disciple where experiencing Jesus. It was in a way they were unfamiliar with, so they concluded in their minds that it wasn’t Him. Yet their hearts burned, and had they listened, they would have known. The distance between them and Jesus was an illusion. He was close the entire time, yet they didn’t see Him.
I read this scripture over and over again. I knew I had to come to terms that God being close to me isn’t earned. God doesn’t come as close as I fast or as I pray. Jesus’ name is Emmanuel, “God with us”, and I have to be careful to not reverse in my mind what God revealed about Himself in Jesus.
God is with me.
He is with me. It’s not because I am perfect and have found the formula for being near. It’s because Jesus has torn down any wall of separation and given us complete access to our Father. There’s always a way to connect with Him.
Our Father is not far off–Jesus has brought us near to Him.
I still love radical encounters with God, I pray for them almost daily. However, I don’t live believing He is far away until I get one–and I don’t try to earn one. When I realized God was with me in spite of everything, it was as if Jesus broke bread in front of me just as with His disciples.
Colossians 2:6 says:
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.
The truth is that we received Jesus in an undeserving way and were told that’s the revelation of Him we are to walk in. We walk with God knowing He came to us and we didn’t earn it. We walk expecting God’s nearness based on the truth that He loves me before I ever loved Him. He wants me, more than I could ever want Him. He is close not as a reward but His choosing of us.
It’s really important we remember that the earth received Jesus in the midst of being enemies to Him. (Romans 5:10)
The cross is a statement to our hearts that God would rather die than be without us. He doesn’t see being with humanity as a contradiction to anything that makes Him God. Colossians says “it pleased the Father to dwell in bodily form.” We even think He is too Holy to be close and try to get cleaned up for Him to be near. Well, Jesus debunks that. He is the friend of sinners. God didn’t ask for the world to be His friend before He would rescue them. God doesn’t ask you to be whole before He’s your friend but rather His friendship makes you whole.
The New Testament gives us such great confidence that our Father is so close to us. He is not a distant God that is not interested and reluctant. He is not sitting in the sky unmoved by us. He finds joy as being with us as one His truest expressions as God. That should blow our minds.
I will leave you with this last thought. King David found out that when he would worship he would get overwhelmed with God’s thoughts about him, “who is man that you are mindful of him?”
God can’t stop thinking about you.