Have you ever felt like your prayers bounce off the ceiling? Maybe you struggle with this on a day to day basis, or maybe it is at random times when you are really struggling with something. First I want to encourage you, God is there even if it doesn’t feel like it. His promise to never leave us or forsake us is written out in numerous accounts all throughout the bible. But how do we get the knowledge of this truth from our heads down to our heart? To really feel God there, to let him comfort us?
If you haven’t read my story, feel free to read it here. When I was struggling with depression and anxiety, I struggled with this feeling everyday. I felt like there was a glass ceiling, like I could see God, but my prayers were not reaching him. In my head I knew God was there for me, but I felt like I couldn’t reach him. I read in my devotional this morning about how we need to give all our worries to God, and I just felt strongly that I needed to share how I was able to overcome that distant feeling.
“Be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” Deuteronomy 31:6
I think the first thing to realize is that God is always there. To also realize that it is ok to feel this way. Don’t give yourself so much of a break that you never pull yourself out of this feeling, but realize that we all feel distant from God at some point in our lives. David, a man after God’s own heart poured his heart out in his writings in Pslams. In Pslams chapter 22 David is crying out to God to help him, he asks why God has forsaken him, and why he is so far from helping him. But then right after that he acknowledges that God created him and gave him hope. He knows God is there for him, but he just doesn’t feel it. I think as christians it can be easy to feel guilty about feelings. “Well I am a christian, I shouldn’t feel that way.” When we acknowledge that we are human and make mistakes, we can give ourselves the grace to not be perfect. We can then acknowledge it as a problem and that we need to fix it. If we are constantly beating ourselves up about feeling a certain way, when will we have time to fix it if our mind is occupied with feeling guilty? When I was told it was ok to feel this way, I was shocked. What?? Did I hear that correctly? Right after that was said though, I was told, but we can’t stay there. Once I let go of that guilt, I was able to start working on it. I want to share with you what helped me overcome it.
1. Seek Counsel:
If this is a major struggle for you, I would encourage you to consider going to counseling. I did and it was close to one of the best choices I have made in my life. I highly recommend it. I think sometimes we can feel ashamed that we need it. I am so convinced that it helps, that I am likely to recommend it even if you don’t have a major struggle. It helps you be a better person. It impacted me so much that I just want to encourage you to feel comfortable with the idea. It is not something you should be ashamed of. Instead think of it as a tool that will help improve you, or your marriage.
If it is something small or passing, I would still encourage you to maybe talk to your minister or pastor. I know I have done this. When I feel like it is not big enough that it needs a few sessions of counseling, but I would like some Godly counsel, I call up one of our ministers. It has been a great tool for me. I leave feeling so refreshed and with a new outlook on the situation. I am so thankful for ministers that are willing to sit down and help me out. They are willing to help you too.
I have tried fasting with food once during a struggle, it didn’t go that great. I didn’t really feel that much better afterwords. I know it is biblical and has helped many people, and if it does help you please keep doing it! I just want to share a little different way to fast. I know for me I can get stuck in a little rut of “well if it works for other people it should work for me.” I think God uses different things for different people. This fasting is what works for me. F- Fellowship, A-Addiction, S-Supplication, T-Thanksgiving. I go through this list in prayer to God when I am feeling distant from him. It helps me acknowledge just what might be breaking that bond.
Fellowship: Restoring our fellowship with God. When we feel that the fellowship is broken, we need to restore it. I pray that God will help me to get back in fellowship with him.
Addiction: I think this is a major reason we may feel distanced from God. When we have an addiction to something we are sort of placing that as an idol in our life. When we have idols we do not have fellowship with God in the way he designed it to be. Addiction is not only big things like gambling, or alcohol. It is also small things, like worry, stress, work. Anything that takes our mind off of what is good, or takes time away from God. In Philippians 4:8 it talks about what we are to think about. I try to use this as a guideline when I start feeling distant. So in my prayer I try to acknowledge what I may be “addicted” to at that time. I know I was addicted to worry, I was stuck in depression, I would compare myself with others, on and on. Those things build that barrier between you and God. Ask God to help you break this addictions.
Supplication: Bring your problem before God. He wants to help you and comfort you. This is where you can pour your heart out to God and tell him all about your struggle. He is there and he is listening.
Thanksgiving: Give God praise and thanks. Look at your life and tell God what you are thankful for. Be grateful and thankful, God loves a grateful heart.
3. Find things that make God feel real and present in your life.
For me this started with the devotional Jesus Calling. I highly recommend it. It lists bible verses for you to look up, and then the devotional part is written as if Jesus is directly talking to you. It just made me feel like Jesus was right there talking to me. It made him so real and present.
Cling to a bible verse that makes Jesus feel present. I have a few favorites, but the one that I first latched on to was Isaiah 41:13. God says he will take our right hand and help us. So whenever I felt down and distant, I visualized Jesus taking my hand. In Hebrews 4:16 it tells us to come boldly unto the throne of grace. When you are praying, visual yourself coming before God. Picture him and his love for you. One of our ministers has said before that he clears off his passenger car seat, turns off the radio, and just talks to Jesus. He invites him to sit beside him, and you know Jesus is there. Just find ways that really work for you to make Jesus real in your life. Because he is.
4. Communication with God
Don’t just pray and then be done. God craves for us to communicate with him. I think God has his own way to communicate with you. For some people it may be opening up the bible randomly, or a conviction laid on your heart, or that still small voice. I always heard of people just opening up the bible and bam it was there, God told them what to do. So I tried and tried to open up the bible waiting for a great revealing from God. I do not think that is God’s way to communicate with me (It may be for you though!). I would get frustrated that I didn’t open up to anything and then just flip and flip. Finally I would just give up. I finally figured out that the way God communicates with me is that still small voice. It isn’t an audible voice for me, more like a thought, but I know it is from God. One example is when I was trying to decide whether to leave therapy or stay, I was praying and randomly I “hear” I will provide. I know it sounds crazy, but I know it is God speaking to me. If this is how God communicates with you, you will know. Just be still and let him communicate. If you constantly have your mind cluttered with worry, or whatever, you won’t hear from him. So I encourage you to find how God communicates with you. Here is a good way to distinguish between God’s voice and Satan’s:
5. Help Others
Find something you are good at that encourages others. Is it volunteering somewhere, writing a kind letter to someone, taking someone a meal, visiting someone in the nursing home? Whatever it is that you are good at that encourages someone else will help take your mind off your struggles. When you are doing a kind deed for someone you lose focus of yourself and leave feeling good that you brightened someones day!
I know these 5 things have greatly helped me in times of discouragement, or when I feel God is distant. I hope they encourage you also. I want you to know everything I write on here, I feel prompted by God to write. I want to encourage others and help others, so when I feel the nudge from God to write, I write. All the thoughts and ideas expressed, comes from him, all credit goes to him.