Question from a Site Viewer
I grew up in the church and I know the Bible well. But now, I’m positive that God left me. Like Saul. I’m empty and it seems pointless to live. I’m basically a corpse walking around. I have no joy, peace, patience or kindness. No fruit of the Spirit. How can I have the fruit of the Spirit when God left me? I got sick about a month ago and started doubting everything. I was thinking sick thoughts–blasphemous thoughts. I tried to fight with scripture but the doubt and evil thoughts continued to expand. And now I know that the beautiful spirit of the Lord is gone. God left me; He has deserted me. I’ve prayed and prayed but I’m sure God left. God has given me over to a reprobate mind. Now nothing affects me. My heart is hard. I know that the Bible is God’s Word and that Jesus is God’s Son and that He gave He gave the Holy Spirit to dwell in those who believe. I know who God is even if He gave me over to a reprobate mind. I will continue to let people know that He is true even thought God left me.
Though it may seem that you are banished forever from that feeling of intimacy with God, actually the situation is not nearly so dire. God has not left you.
We all long for the experience of closeness with our God. There is a sweet spot where we talk to Him and He talks to us and life seems only to get better. Yet, there is a truth that we all know. God tests the righteous (Psalm 11:5; Jeremiah 20:12) and disciplines or trains those who are His (Hebrews 12:5-8). Which of the saints of God have not gone through periods of testing? Testing is to make us stronger. God wants to see that we will cling to Him by faith when the feelings go away. He wants us to learn to walk by faith, not by experiences or feelings. He wants to demonstrate to the spirit world that His creation of humans have this great capacity to cling and love even when all of the outward and inward signs and feelings are gone (Ephesians 3:10). If we turn away in the difficult times, then our faith is weak. But when we cling through the difficult times, then our faith is shown.
How many of the Psalms are Psalms especially addressing such times? Over and over the Psalmist expresses the pain of feeling separated from God. And over and over the Psalmist also expresses His confidence that this time of feeling will pass. I particularly like Psalm 42 and 43 where the Psalmist carries on a dialogue with His soul. Sometimes, we need to talk to ourselves and tell ourselves to hope in God. Even though the Psalmist may feel that God left, there is a knowledge that God did no such thing.
We see the same type of sorrow and hope in Job 19. But my favorite passage on this subject is Lamentations 3. Jeremiah expresses so poetically what it feels like to be separated from God’s close presence. He feels as if God left him. Yet, His mind leads Him to cling to some basic truths. God’s compassions do not fail, they are new every morning. The fact that we are still alive is proof of this. He is faithful, even when we are not. It is good to suffer when we are young, because we learn about faith, perseverance, drawing close to God, and hoping in Him. As Jeremiah says, “The Lord will not cast off forever, though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies” (Lamentations 3:31-32).
The purpose of God’s testing is not to undermine us, but to purify and to move our assurance away from feelings which can be transitory to a solid faith that seeks to serve God even if it seems that He is destroying us (Job 13:14). Sometimes we think we are strong Christians when we do not realize on what weak legs we stand. Then the storms come, as Scripture says they will, and our worlds are turned upside down. God’s purpose through His training of us is to substitute for our weak legs some strong legs of faith, where we seek God and seek to live out His will even when our worlds seem to be collapsing around us. We are the house built on the rock.
So my encouragement to you is to lift up the feeble legs (Hebrews 12:12-13), stand strong in God, understand His purposes in your life, and hope in Him. When the testing is done, you will come through as pure gold, a treasure fit for His presence, and a blessing to all.
I think many times we read the Hebrews 12 passage and think that the passage only is speaking about God punishing the sins of our lives. But the Greek work that we translate as “discipline” has nothing to do with punishment; rather it is a word meaning to train a child. That is what God is doing. We may have no known sin in our lives, but God still wants to train us in righteousness. And just like training for a race can be a lot of agony, so training for righteousness can be hard at times. But when the training is over, and it always ends even as it did with Job, the writers of the Psalms, Jeremiah, Paul, and even Jesus, afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11).
So here is what I do when difficult times come. First, I pray and ask God to reveal if there is some sin that has brought about the feeling of estrangement. If there is some sin that comes to mind, I confess it.
Second, having dealt with any know sin, I remind myself of His promises to me and assure myself that God is not a liar. In fact, I go farther and reaffirm to myself His great character and desire for us. Sometimes I read some of the great passages of Scripture on God’s character. I reaffirm that He has forgiven my sin and cleansed me, even as He promised and even though I do not “feel” clean. The feelings follow faith. I talk to myself about Him.
Third, I stop and worship Him for who He is. I submit myself before Him and tell Him how great He is. I see this with Job’s response, where in his sorrow he paused and worshipped (Job 1:20).
Fourth, I talk to myself about me, my purpose in this world, my calling to represent Him well, my choice not to focus on myself but to focus on Him. I reaffirm that serving Him is my choice no matter how I feel.
Finally, I seek to engage with His word and continue to pray, accounting that He is listening even when I have no feeling of engagement. (But I must admit, usually by the end of step 2, I find that I have reconnected. There is something about worship that touches God’s heart and transforms ours.) Yet, in the times when I still feel remote, I choose to draw near to Him and trust that in His time He will draw near to me. And He always does.
Faith is trusting when we cannot see, banking that in the morning joy will return.
I appreciate that you still have belief. I appreciate that you also recognize the evil within. Evil thoughts that come are temptations. What you do with those thoughts determines whether there is sin or righteousness (James 1:14-15). Choosing to embrace thoughts of good (Philippians 4:8) and the things above (Colossians 3:2) rather than those tempting thoughts of sin is what maturity in Christ is about.
I encourage you not to be cast down, but to know that such times of struggle are part of God’s good gifts to His own, demonstrating His loving training so that our faith may stand strong and robust and be able to withstand any storm that strikes the rock on which our house is built. Even during this time, do not give into sin and those bad thoughts that intrude. Rather, keep yourself spotless and in the love of God, pursuing Him and loving others.
I know this is difficult, especially in times you are not feeling well. But I encourage you to engage with others, and seek their prayers for mutual support during this time. If you continue to pursue God, you will find a depth of relationship with Him that will far surpass what you formerly experienced. Always remember that feelings can mislead. It may feel as though God left you, but really, has God left? Certainly not!
May the Father and His Spirit guide you more deeply into the love and experience of Jesus, who suffered for us leaving us an example that we should follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21).
A fellow pilgrim,