The other day I was driving in the car with my 14 year old, when she asked me, “Dad, why does God feel so far away sometimes? It feels like he’s really far away from me.”
I didn’t really have an answer for her.
The best answer I could come up with is, “It just feels that way sometimes. It actually feels that way right now to me, too.”
I wish I had a better answer to give her. Something more hopeful. Maybe something with a formula as to how to fix it, because that’s my go-to in life: just try to fix it and make the discomfort go away no matter how unhealthy it is to do so in the long run.
I have a bad habit of being uncomfortable with other people’s discomfort, and trying to just make it go away for them instead of stepping into the tension, and letting it be.
But this time, I couldn’t just fix it and make it go away. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t even have a BS answer to give her to make her feel better about those chapters when God feels a world away.
My counselor recently reminded me that two of the most comforting words in the English language are, “You, too?”
And that’s really all I had for her: “Sometimes God feels far away to you, too?”
She seemed surprised that I knew this feeling well. Perhaps for her it was like that moment when you first saw one of your parents cry, and realized that they too experience the full-range of human emotions. In this case, all I had to offer her was the realization that I too know what that feeling is like.
And, not just that I know what that feeling is like, but that I’m also experiencing that same feeling, right now.
As I sat in the discomfort with her, acknowledging to myself that I too am going through what feels like a very dark and lonely chapter of life, I remembered that sometimes the only sliver of comfort we can find is to remember that we’re not the first to ever feel this way, or to experience whatever life event we’re experiencing.
In fact, I had to remind both her and I that even some of the people who wrote the Bible felt like we did. I was particularly reminded of David who seemed to frequently struggle with depression. David surely knew this feeling also, because he described God as “hiding his face” and would describe his sadness and depression, repeatedly asking God, “how long will it all feel this way?” and in other places said that he had to “wait patiently” for God to show up at times.
And heck, there’s even Jesus who, in his final breath, asked God, “Why have you forsaken me?”
It seems that even Jesus knows what it’s like to long to feel close to God, but to feel empty and lonely instead.
As we continued driving in silence, I think we both embraced the discomfort of feeling like God is absent in some way. But this time– this time I resisted the urge to just make it seem better or to make it go away.
It’s not always possible to make that kind of discomfort go away.
Sometimes, the best thing we can do is to resist the urge to fix it, and instead just say, “You, too?”
Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com.