By John McRae | Thursday, June 7, 2018 | 7:00 AM
Have you ever felt distant from God? Have you heard His promise to be near, but wondered where He was? This is a scary and dangerous place to be because of how quickly things seem to devolve. Questions begin swirling. Doubt starts raging. The silence becomes so thick you can feel it. The truth you know begins to seem like fiction, and you’re left wondering if God is even real.
If you have ever been in this place, know that it is God’s desire to bring you out from there. He has led many people through this wilderness before. God wants you to feel His closeness. God wants to bring you out from the dessert and into the oasis of His presence. But to escape the wilderness, we must first understand what causes it.
First and foremost, we must acknowledge that sin creates separation from God.
- Isaiah 59:2: But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
When we feel distant from the Lord we must first examine ourselves rather than blaming God. Our first question should be to the Holy Spirit, asking Him to reveal any element of sin that may be in our lives. What are we holding onto that God wants us to lay down at Christ’s feet? Is there a temptation God is calling us to quit giving into? Are we resistant to God’s call for obedience in any part of our lives? You know these things about yourself, God has already revealed them to you. Quit fighting, ask the Lord for forgiveness, and enter into His presence.
In addition to sin, bitterness and unforgiveness create separation from the Lord.
- Hebrews 12:15: See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
Scripture tells us that an unforgiving heart forfeits the right to experience forgiveness. Forgiving others is hard but holding onto unforgiveness is fatal. Search your soul, ask the Lord to show you where you may be holding a grudge. Ask Him to give you the power through His grace to demonstrate the same kind of forgiveness you’ve been shown. Forgive others, receive forgiveness yourself, and enter into His presence.
Beyond sin itself, the shame that accompanies sin pulls us out of God’s presence.
- Genesis 3:8: Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
In the midst of our sin, we feel unworthy of God’s grace. We condemn ourselves for our actions and sin nature. But this is outside of God’s will for us. Romans tells us that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This means that if we have received the gift of salvation, our sin holds no power over us and the devil can’t point any fingers at us. Our sin has been washed in the blood and we celebrate God’s grace instead of sorrowing in our shame. Christ knew this was a struggle, so He bore not only our sin but our shame when He went to the cross. Yield your shame and regret, lay it at the feet of the cross, and enter into God’s presence.
If you still feel distance in your relationship with God after surrendering rebellion, resistance, bitterness, and shame, realize that God may be testing you. He may be seeing how hard you are willing to push to grab ahold of Him. God may be seeing what priorities you’re willing to shift to solidly put Him first in your life. God wants our faith and commitment tested so that when we do experience real difficulties we naturally turn to Him. So, if this is where you are – then keep pursuing Him with everything you are! God’s word promises that when we pursue Him wholeheartedly, He will meet us where we are.
- James 4:8: Come near to God and he will come near to you.
- Hebrews 11:6: And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
- Jeremiah 29:13: You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
- Acts 17:27: God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.
- 1 Chronicles 16:11: Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually.
- Psalm 63:1: O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
These are just a few of the verses that outline God’s expectation for complete surrender. When we let go of ourselves, our agendas, our plans, our will – that is when we can find the Lord. Jesus told us to seek His kingdom and His righteousness first. That being said, where do they rank for you? Put Him first and you will experience His presence like never before. This is what Jehovah Shammah is all about! He is truly our companion.
I do hope you’re enjoying the Names of God series as much as I am. This Sunday we continue by studying Jehovah Tsidkenu – the Lord Our Righteousness. I hope to see you all there this week.
In His Service,