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When it Feels Like God Isn't There

Why does God seem hidden sometimes?

If you’ve been a spiritually oriented person for any length of time, you’ve experienced seasons when God seems absent, distant, or unavailable. You’re in good company. Every saint in history has gone through similar times. The psalms are filled with laments from godly people in similar states of mind.

The problem might be sin. Isaiah 59 says, your sins have hidden his face from you (vs. 2). God is not in the business of hiding sin from us. If we go to God asking to be searched and to have sin revealed to us, it will be. We need not fret for weeks over some hidden sin we cannot discern. If there’s a problem, confess it, make amends, and move on. God is not condemning. God reveals sin because it wounds us. God loves us and wants us to be whole.

Or, the problem might be due to circumstances. It’s hard, if not impossible, to feel the divine presence when we’re in the throes of grief, confusion, depression, or pain. In such cases, we need the help of a caring person to walk with us through the sorrow, to process it, feel it, and move into the new normal. In such times, God is with us, just as the sun is there behind the clouds.

Then there are times like those St. John of the Cross called “dark nights of the soul.” There is no discernable reason for them, but they happen to all who seek to live intimately with God. Mother Theresa went through extended times of not feeling the presence of God – so much so that she even occasionally questioned God’s existence. Sometimes we simply have to sit in the liminal space of not knowing. In those times, keep doing what God has called you to do. When you can’t pray, say your prayers. The Anglican/Episcopal Book of Common Prayer is a rich resource of prayers. Read them to God. Show up at the soup kitchen. Go about doing good. There’s no rushing it and no predicting how long it will last. The dark night will eventually give way to a new dawn.

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