Written By Priscilla G., Singapore
I don’t see, hear, or feel God anymore. Why love God then? Why go to church then? Why believe then?
Recently, a friend whom I had led to Christ seemed to have such thoughts. And they were the same thoughts that went through my mind about a decade ago.
Back then, it was very tempting to give it all up. Doing so would free up all my Sunday mornings and some weekday nights spent at cell group sessions or meeting mentors. I might lose some church friends, but I still had other friends, I thought to myself. The church friends might get disappointed, but I figured they’d get over it in a matter of time.
But I knew it was immature to give up on something just because I didn’t have “the feeling”. I knew that I should love God even when I didn’t feel like it. This not only applied to my relationship with God; it applied to other human relationships and work too. This world would be in a mess if people fulfilled their responsibilities only when they “felt like it”.
I also knew—even with my limited knowledge of the Bible back then—that “without faith, it is impossible to please God”.
And yet, my love for God and faith in Him got weaker as the drought of feelings dragged on. I wasn’t sure how to get out of this dry state even if I wanted to.
And I wanted to. I wanted to go back to better times in my relationship with God. God’s presence had been real to me before; I had felt touched by Him—both at altar calls and in my own bedroom. I had gone through times when I felt comforted and filled by the Holy Spirit, times when tears just flowed beyond my control, times which I knew were not the result of some contemporary music psyching me up but simply, the result of God’s supernatural work.
I remembered those times. I missed those times. And that’s when I realized: to give it all up and stop believing would be akin to saying that all those times with God were a lie.
So, back then, and for every similar “desert season” since, I ended up doing the following:
Remember what God did
Many times, we forget what God did for us. When the Israelites left Egypt, they complained about various inconveniences in the desert and said they would rather die in Egypt where they were slaves (Exo 16:2-3). They focused on the immediate problems and failed to remember the miracles that God had performed (Neh 9:17).
This is probably why Moses, in his first address to the Israelites before they entered the promised land, reviewed the entire history of how God had cared for them (Deut 1-4) and told them repeatedly to remember how God led them out of Egypt (Deut 5:15, 7:18, 8:2, 15:15, 24:18).
Remembering what God did helps us to not take Him for granted, and to remember truths which we may have lost sight of in the midst of busyness or trials.
Whenever I have a conflict with someone, I remember what we’ve been through as friends and I remember the good that he has done. This enables me to trust that his intentions are good even if I’m upset about something he did or said. Similarly, if I’m upset about not feeling God or not having prayers answered, I remember the good that He has done in my life and trust that I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living (Psa 27:13).
Some ways to remember His goodness include writing about it in a journal or sharing a testimony with your friends. Count your blessings and name them one by one!
Recalling God’s goodness in the past helped me to see the importance of my relationship with God and convinced me that this effort to seek God would be worth it.
If I believe a school lecture to be important but feel sleepy, I’ll try to get over this feeling. I’ll eat a sweet or drink coffee and fight to stay awake. Similarly, it helps to make the effort to overcome the emptiness you feel, and fight the good fight of faith (1 Tim 6:12).
To be sure, faith is a gift from God. But the Bible also says that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Rom 10:17). Salvation is a gift of God, but we’re called to work out—not work for—that salvation.
This fight starts with admitting that we need help. Have you met people who needed help with directions but are reluctant to ask for help? Sometimes, when we are caught up with problems, we try to fix things ourselves instead of seeking help.
When I eventually came out of that desert season in my life, I felt convicted that I had not sought the Lord earlier. There was a lot of self-talk—“I’m not feeling God”, “I don’t feel like I’m receiving from the church service”, “This is not working out”—but not much of actually talking to God about how I felt.
Psalms has records of people lamenting that they felt distant from God. They were honest with God about how they felt (Psa 27:9, 88:14, 102:2), and I tried to do the same.
I sought the Lord as I continued going to church, hearing the preaching of God’s Word, and singing songs of praise with whatever little faith I had left. It was like visiting the doctor’s: I did not know what exactly was going wrong in my relationship with God or why things turned out this way, but I prayed to God; I was honest with Him (the doctor) about how I felt (my symptoms) and I was open to receiving help (medicine). And I gave God and myself time for the situation to improve (even medicine takes time for its effects to be seen).
Seek God and you will find Him (Matt 7:7). Call to Him and He will answer you (Jer 33:3). Finding Him or hearing His answers may not happen instantaneously, but it will happen, in God’s timing. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9).
Trust God’s Promises and Persevere
I held on to the promise that God would never leave me or forsake me (Heb 13:5). I also held that promise up to God and asked: “You said you won’t leave me or forsake me, but somehow you don’t seem close. Why must you hide when I need you the most?”
Over time, I felt His assurance that He had never left me, and that this desert season was a time to refine my faith in Him, so that our relationship would not be based solely on feelings (important as they were).
I even composed a song (the tune sounds rather amateur to me now and it’s the only one I’ve ever composed to date) but it has served as a personal reminder that His love never fails even when I stray.
While waiting, it’s important that we do not close our hearts to God. Nothing can separate us from God’s love (Rom 8:38-39), but sometimes we ourselves are not opening our hands (and hearts) to receive His gift.
God is a speaking God and still speaks today, but do we have the ears to hear His voice (Matt 11:15; Mark 4:9, 23)?
“So do not throw away your confidence; it holds a great reward. You need to persevere, so that after you have done God’s will, you will receive what He has promised.” (Heb 10:35-36)