The Most Comforting Words In The English Language (When God Feels So Far Away)

The Most Comforting Words In The English Language (When God Feels So Far Away) December 6, 2016

bare lonely tree with beautiful light and fog

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?”

unafraid 300Dr. 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.

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  • Ron McPherson

    Good article Ben. Reminds me of I Peter 5:9, “…your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.”

  • Herm

    The only way to truly love your neighbor as yourself is to know that it is you that you see naked, beat and left half dead on the other side of the road. What would you have others do for you?

  • Jennny

    British vicar Rev Terry Waite spent 5 years as a hostage in Beirut, in solitary confinement,chained and blindfolded. On release, christians expected him to tell of God’s constant comforting presence and strength.. Instead he said he felt nothing like that, he recited bible verses, said liturgical prayers but never prayed extemporary prayers for his release. I always felt he was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to accept that his desperate pleadings for freedom would go unanswered or perhaps God didn’t care (or even exist) at all, it certainly appeared that way to him…

  • penny jones

    When you’re used to knowing God’s presence and feeling Him close to you, it’s feels very dislocating when you go through dark periods when that’s not your experience. Thanks for this post Ben; it’s helped me knowing others are going through the same thing. However much you tell yourself that God is still close even though you can’t feel Him, it takes discipline and energy to stay in that place. You’re so right that sharing the discomfort with others in a similar place brings comfort.

  • Paul

    Maybe you’re looking for God in all the wrong places? God is present in you as love to your daughter. Being with you and feeling your love for her is in fact God’s way of being close. The reverse is true for you as well. I’m not sure how else to feel God’s presence except though the love of others.

  • You, too?

  • Ron McPherson

    Luther the Reformer experienced “the dark night of the soul.” Others as well like Spurgeon, Bunyan, et al. God’s grace will see us through.

  • Ron McPherson

    I have suffered through periodic bouts of scrupulosity for over 25 years. It’s been maddening and borderline debilitating for me. One of the biggest comforts though was finding out that others experienced similar things as well.

  • Wesley Edwards

    Sometimes stumbling on the right answer is more human than divine. That should serve as a hint.

  • Lynn

    Sometimes no one should be trying to fix things. Lean back relax. Take a moment. Sitting quietly with a loved one sometimes is the most comforting.

  • Mark Monsen

    Benjamin, I have figured out that it was watching the 700 club as a kid before Sunday School that cost me a better relationship with Jesus. I would love to know if there is a Church you can recommenf in Minneapolis, MN.

  • John

    It’s true that David, along with many of the other people in the Bible, had those feelings, but I always found it interesting how they always concluded positively. They start with how they are feeling, but end with what they know: that God is good, powerful, and active, even if they can’t see it right now.

    In many ways, it seems to be our failing when we feel far from God. He’s there. He’s always there, but we often get so wrapped up in our own experience that we forget to remember what we know about God.

    The danger is jumping from “I feel that God is far from me” to “God is far from me.” We may not feel him right now, but that doesn’t mean he’s not there. He’s there, working to bring about his good and perfect plans for us.

  • TLC

    Me, too!

  • Through this ‘annus horribilis’ that i have had in 2016, I felt a real decline in my faith. Was God REALLY there? I made a conscious decision to praise him all the more, since worship is the only thing we can give back to God freely that he has not already supplied to us – that is the TRUE sacrifice of a surrendered heart towards him. I found myself on one night of worship with Hillsong not only singing my heart out, but actually dancing! There was no reason for my joy, none that could be seen, but it came from my heart. Things are looking up now.

  • Realist1234

    Indeed Ben. That is why our faith is not based on ‘feelings’, but external reality. For me, my own doubts do not resolve so much around that reality – I would be genuinely shocked if it turned out Jesus was not who He claimed to be – as to my role in it. Am I really a child of God? etc But perhaps that goes back to my ‘father’ issues!

  • RonnyTX

    At times, I haven’t felt very great at all and that for the last several weeks. But in my 30’s, I had an even rougher time of it; but in time, God brought me out of such. :-) That’s the thing that keeps me going, even when I’m down. I know that in time, God will bring me out of such. And I’m just as sure, that God will do the same thing and that for every person. :-) Really, it’s simply a matter of when? And today, when I wasn’t feeling so hot, I happened to think of something, that has always put a smile on my face and made me feel better, in the past. :-) So, I went and looked such up online and watched it a few times. :-) My, this little girl and her singing, it alway makes me feel better! :-)

  • SamHamilton

    Thanks for this.

  • JD

    When your daughter is away in school does she think you love her less because of the physical distance between you? Do you feel like you love her less because of the physical distance between you?

    Just because you feel distance between you and God does not mean God loves you any less. Perhaps like a parent they have let you go out into the world while they stay behind and and lovingly watch you from a distance. The love is still the same strength regardless of distance. Just as parents trust in your ability to learn and grow, in those quiet moments of distance God is lovingly standing back and very quietly saying; “You got this.”

    God loves you. To God you are the most rare and most precious jewel in all creation. You are one of a kind and therefore loved beyond measure. It’s just once in awhile we forget this and feel alone. Nothing has really changed. It’s just at times we miss our parents back home. Yet you remember they still love you just as strong as on the day you were born and the distance doesn’t feel that far anymore.