What To Do When God Feels Far Away

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When you feel far away from God, it can feel like forever until you find your way back. You don’t feel like you’re home.

It’s an uncomfortable feeling, darker than loneliness for its emptiness. For you feel hollow, forgotten even. Your head knows you are not forgotten by God, but the ache of your heart tells you something different.

Your heart tells you it is what you can trust, not your head. You are not free to be rational. You are not free to remember who you are–a beloved daughter who is delighted in. You want only to heed your heart, a heart that, actually, feels so untrustworthy now. A heart that may lie and a mind that wants your heart to listen to what must be true–despite it not making logical sense.

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For it tells you, once more: Dear one, you don’t have to keep chasing God. You need only know Him. Walk with Him. Listen for Him.

And you quiet, wanting to believe this could be true: God is close; God is here, despite the state of your heart and its untrustworthy whispers. For God gives away clean hearts. And it’s not because you deserve it, but, rather, because you totally don’t.

So you let your mind relax and your heart open up now–for you are unwilling to stay in the dark, where emptiness feels like death and God is life and hope. It is true: it is God you want, more than anything.

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So, these lies about not being okay have to go. There’s no room for them in a heart washed out bright and new and clean.

No more battle then, please. Instead, let’s choose God’s rescue and our obedience. Let this be a rebel’s determination to choose life rather than death, to choose God and fullness, not hollow, empty space.

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Come now, Father, mend these broken hearts. We are the rescued now, the fearless. We do not dread the quiet with you; we dread life without you, and our full hearts are what inform our minds now: stay here, where there is beauty, where it is safe.

 

Don’t Keep That Secret. It Might Be Time to Confess

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It was when I confessed what I had done–and what I do–that I began to know Jesus for the first time. Growing up learning about him was one thing. Seeing his face? Hearing his voice? Feeling the Spirit’s heat burning from my insides?

Confessing to Jesus what I was loving more than him–in this case, my pride–led me to experiencing God rather than looking at him from a distance. Confession was letting God create space in my heart so I could experience Jesus living in me.

When we stuff down our sin, refuse to confess our sin to God, we say yes to pride. We say yes to our desire for independence and self-sufficiency. We say yes to everything our culture tells us is perfectly good, an example of strength and success: work hard; keep your head down and try harder when you fail; don’t let on you’re weak and you can’t get the job done on you’re own; don’t let anyone see you when you’re down.

We shout to that distant God up there, somewhere in heaven,”I’m good! I’ve got this covered. No room for you!” And we remain feeling alone. And God keeps feeling distant. And we work harder to live our lives well, whatever that really means.

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You know who we’re listening to when we ignore God’s voice and respond to all the other voices that boom much louder, don’t you?

Oh, Jesus, I pray now that you silence the voice of the enemy right now. For everyone reading these words right now, silence his voice; make his whispers unable to be heard by our hearts. Let us hear just your voice. Let us recognize you and say yes to you, with wide-open hearts.

To do this, to say yes to the Holy Spirit filling us, to say yes to Jesus living in us, we must confess all the ways we are trying to live without God, all the things we’ve kept hidden, all the things we’ve tried to fix in ourselves, on our own, all the things of which we are ashamed, all the things we’d much rather forget than ever, ever address.

Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help (Hebrews 4:16, MSG).

It was in college when I–a lonely, overwhelmed transfer student in a new, big school–that I first confessed my sins to Jesus. I was tired of keeping secrets, tired of pretending to have it all together; tired of praying to a God that felt so very far away and not at all like a God who was with me, in me, wanting to whisper love to my heart.

For me, there was a particular secret that I was working hard to hide from everyone. And Jesus was asking me to give it up.

And some of you here, reading? I know you have secrets too. You have things to confess, ways that you’ve been trying to fix yourself, things that happened in the past (whether the past could have been years ago or just a few minutes ago) of which you are ashamed.

 If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God (1 John 1:9).

Can you give it up now? Whether this is the first time you’ve confessed your heart to God, or if this is your thousandth, can we do this together, kneeling together before our God and asking him to show us what it is that we’ve been keeping from him?

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Go to a quiet place and close your eyes. Ask him to search your heart, to put his hand on the one place in your heart right now he would like to claim. What moment still feels heavy? What situation have you been trying to fix? What memory still haunts you? What burden are you carrying, this moment, that brings you to tears? In what area are you trying to be strong, on your own? What relationship is causing you pain?

Now, here’s an extra challenge–and you don’t need to do this at all. But, if you feel your heart beating fast and your chest all hot and you are feeling like you want to step forward even more, trusting Jesus in community around you, would you be bold enough to type up the confession, on the blog’s comments page, right here?

Or, if that feels like just too much–and I love that a lot of you do this–would you feel like typing up the confession and sending it just to me? Because then we can pray for each other and for God’s continued protection of us and our hearts as we confess. It can be a beautiful yet vulnerable place when we confess to our God. We are letting go of the old self and asking him to bring more of his new life in us.

Now, if you do this, there will be opposition. Those other whispers we talked about earlier? Yes, well, satan is not going to want to have you confess a thing. And if you do, he isn’t going to want you to feel good about it. He is going to want you to feel alone and crummy and afraid and doubtful it was ever a good idea in the first place.

So, together, let’s do the opposite of what we’ve been doing before.

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Let’s not hide. Let’s speak aloud our confessions to our God and imagine we are here, in a circle together, doing it together before our God. I know I would be emboldened by your confession. I would be reassured. I would see Jesus in you when you went ahead, saying yes to Him and no to the whispers of the enemy who are telling you to do exactly the opposite.

So, how about it, sister?

Are you with me?

I’ll go first (and here is the confession from that day in college):

Father, I confess I am worried about doing a good job with what you’ve given me to do. And in the evenings, with my children, I often react out of fear of still, not being enough or doing enough,with my job, my work, and I have trouble slowing down and being present with them. I give you my time with them. I give you my work. I give you my relationships. I give you my marriage. Help me to love you and stay here, with you, no matter what I am doing. Help me keep my eyes on you, my heart open to you. Let me see you wherever I go, wherever I am. Silence all the lies about needing to work harder to be loved. I confess I need you. I confess I am desperate for you. Help me stay forever desperate for you. I lay these burdens down. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Time to confess YAMG pin (1)

 

trapped? how about living the life you’ve imagined?

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We can wake up, these days, and believe, with all our hearts, that this is the most ordinary day. The alarm goes off and everything looks just the same as it did before. Same bed, same room, same situation as the previous day. There can be comfort in the sameness. There be comfort in knowing the routine. It offers some feeling of control, which can feel safe. And safe can feel good.

I wonder if I think I desire safety and routine, but in reality I desire something I will never receive because I have so little faith. Doing the same thing, day after day, hoping that there will be more time to accomplish a certain task, or that my relationship with my family and friends–and my God–will be closer and more meaningful and awesome.

Or maybe I struggle with the hard work change requires. While Justin and I write how new life comes only after resurrection from death–how Jesus modeled new life only after agreeing to die, and with Him, setting us free from sin–I am convinced, again, something in me may just need to die. For I want to abandon, once more, the feeling of being trapped.

Feeling trapped in the life God has given me–in the life Jesus died for, in the life of freedom He offers–doesn’t make much sense. We’re not meant to feel trapped. We’re not meant to feel overwhelmed. But we can feel that way, nevertheless.  So I stand, in my need, with the Corinthians, as Paul speaks God’s words to my heart:

Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that (1 Corinthians 1: 5-9, MSG).

I have not a thing to lose now. My Father has given me everything I need. Trapped? I imagine this is not a favorite word in His vocabulary. He came to save us as we were enslaved in sin, trapped in greed and pride and lack of faith. Trapped.

I used to feel trapped by the guilt I’d feel by not feeling one hundred percent fulfilled by being a mom who stayed home full time with her kids. I believed there was something wrong with me. There was.

I used to feel trapped in relationships when I’ve felt disconnected from someone I cared about, or  misunderstood. I’ve felt trapped when my desires and passions were not claimed–when I ignored how God made me to love certain things, and I wasn’t doing them, or I wasn’t allowing myself time to believe they were real, or for me to do. Something was wrong in me then, too.

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There is a life Jesus has fought for me to live, a new life that is more than circumstantial. It is a heart change, this reality of freedom. It is a life that requires faith to realize. It is a life that I want to choose.

So, do I just trust you more God? Do I call out to you, pleading “I believe! Help me with my  unbelief!” ? Do I just refuse to believe in ordinary?

There’s a pillow sitting on the little couch in the front room we had made from the crib our babies’ slept in those first years. “Live the life you’ve imagined.” I like it–all the possibility it reminds me is real and true, and, well, possible to experience. This ordinary day.

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But I think it comes down to this for me: I need to believe the life I imagine is possible to live, with Christ, is for me–a life of freedom,where He is capable of taking from me every silly thought and every heavy burden.  A new life bought by His ransomed life. I live to die and be resurrected and live, again, with Him.

So, again, I pray God helps me die.

Die to anger and to self-obsession. Die to my plans and to the minutes that don’t go like I thought they should. Die to resentment and to my  critical spirit. Die to selfishness and to greed. Die to believing the lie I’m not good enough to do the things He’s made me to do, or that I shouldn’t even begin to imagine freedom from worry or fear or pride.

And live to imagine He is here. Live to imagine I am made by a God who loves me. Live to imagine I can handle anything, with Him by my side. Live to imagine, no matter what I face, it’s going to be okay.

Sisters, can you imagine being free?

sometimes you just can’t stay

Five of us on spring break in the big city closest to our home. It is the beginning of adventure now, reminding me how much I love a beginning—all possibility in a thing on the cusp of turning. We have no agenda, on purpose. We are curious what will happen if we let things unfold.

I grab hold of my husband’s hand, watching our two sons and daughter race each other up the steep paved walks, and I think about beginnings. I think about what is required for a beginning to be realized, and the relationship beginnings have with endings. For a beginning to occur, we need to welcome whatever, in relation to the beginning, is supposed to end.

There is such a push and pull in the usual, the trying to let things be what they are. But giving up control? To let things begin? Perhaps a certain amount of courage is required to jump into a beginning, a possibility, while trying to not be the one fully in charge.

Is that it? Is it courage? Maybe it feels a bit like that when, in the discomfort of a potential beginning we anticipate the ending that must precede it. This will be all new territory, and we’re not sure about that. In these cases, a part of us whispers it is safer, saner, better, to go back to the ending, the place where we were before the beginning, and stay.

We want to stay.

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Even though we know it is not for us to stay. Even though we know adventure—living in faith—only comes when we are willing to let the part of us afraid of new things, afraid of risk, afraid of not depending on our own strength . . . die. ‘Cause, as my 6th grader would put it (even though I hate it when he says this word)—that feeling of letting something go, something so familiar . . . well, it would kind of suck.

Yep, death hurts. It’s tough to look forward to the unavoidable uncomfortableness that comes with an ending.

Even if that’s the only way we can ever live the truth of beginning. And begin adventure. And begin to feel a little bit more free.

My children keep running, my husband and I following them just behind.

I have been dying a bit these past days, putting down something close to my heart for the purpose of something good and new around the corner I can almost—but not quite—feel and hear, taste and see. I friend was telling me the other day about how dying is the only thing that brings about life. And I remember the death of the seed in the ground bringing forth roots and green sprouts in moist soil, stretching tall toward blue, endless sky.

And I think about us here, we women who want to live out stories of beauty, where yes, the sky is blue, and yes, we are the young girl, heart beating fast, breathing free. We want to be stretching our arms out wide and we want to be laughing long through dancing sunlight underneath speckled boughs of green.

And to be that girl, the girl of freedom and beginning and life, we must let our selves die again, trusting our Jesus, trusting His way to life, trusting death and laying ourselves down. In doing so the relinquishing of all control is our choice, our path to life, our only way to live.

From behind them, I breath in my children’s laughter. I watch their arms pump fast and their strong legs charge resolutely. Their voices call loud as they urge each other on.

Yes, keep going. Even though it’s hard. Together, we’re making it to the top of the hill.

with abundance and laughter and joy, freedom is for you (what I learned at a women’s retreat)

We sit in clusters, sixty women tucked in a log house on a hill in the middle of a Colorado snow storm. Snow presses up to ceiling-tall windows, glistening. Everything outside–the mountains, the distant pine trees standing sentry–washed with sparkling, quiet white. Sunny, the golden retriever who lives here, flies by the window, a reddish blur of fur every few moments, doing laps in white spray. Bounding, bounding.

She makes me smile.

Yes, yes, this is for me; this is for you. We are made to leap and live free, washed with white, transformed, brand new. But how do we get there? How do we live uninhibited, joyful, carefree?
snow 1.jpg Linda, who drove hours to be with us and share what she hears when she pursues and listens to God’s heart, does not hold back when she talks. She knows what it means to live trapped. She knows what is means to believe she is doing all the right things while nothing feels or turns out right. She knows what it means to be hungry, desire newness, crave redemption, risk falling so she can live in fullness that can’t be compared to any one thing.

That’s you, too, right? Are you hungry? Are you tired? Are you craving a new life?

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I watch the snow through the window behind her when she speaks: it’s beauty, how it’s so clean. But Linda’s voice captivates me, and I turn. She smiles and reaches her arms far, her square glasses framing eyes sparkling blue, brighter than the sky, brighter than the twinkle of ice crusted on each window sill. She knows who she is. She knows the sound of her Father’s voice. And she has come to tell us about Him, and how we miss connection with Him–and walk on too dangerous ground–when we align ourselves with things far, far away, from Him. These are things that can seem so good but might actually open up entry points to the enemy getting in.

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Ang, leading the four day retreat, demonstrates, with her hands spread out, head thrown back, fingers wide, eyes up, back arched, what it looks like to live fully abandoned, fully present, fully awake and on.

Yes.

And what it looks like to live life filled with striving, fear, shame: head bent low, arms hugging torso, back curled forward, eyes down. Oh, no. No. Let’s not do this.

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We have a choice. Stay here, in shame, in darkness, in self-pity, in self-protection and false safety and hiding. Or here, risking community, seeking His voice, asking Him in to heal, going for help, laying down the idols we believe in more than our God.

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Stand up now. Lift your feet. Straighten your back, lift up your head and then raise your eyes. Look up. Look up, into the eyes of your Savior. Yes, open your eyes; keep your chin raised to heaven; spread your arms. Spread them wide, fingers outstretched. Is this you? Can we do this? Can I do this with you?

I know this feels so . . . exposed. I know being so vulnerable and open is difficult, uncomfortable. It’s hard to not want to protect ourselves from this world. We have been wounded so much. Life has been hard.

Yes, He knows. He knows. And, I promise, He promises, He is not going to leave you here, here where the pain overwhelms, here where the memories are pressed down deep, in a place that feels safer than the thought of dealing with them, bringing them to the light. That would be dangerous. That would be painful. That would take a lot of work.

Yes. Yes, it will hurt. But . . . it will be good. I promise.

I watched Ang,the beautiful organizer of this whole retreat, spread her arms out like this, head back, a dozen times this last weekend. And what it represented–the freedom and complete joy and abandonment of self and focus on Jesus and fullness of heaven in me–is what I want. Everything in me screams yes, yes, yes!

Yes, I want this. I want to live a life holding nothing back.
snow collage.jpgDuring the break I listen, desperate for His voice, the only navigation for my life that is true and sound and good. And I hear Him. I ask Him, what do you have to say to us, Father? What do you have for your girls? And the tears pour fast (as usual) and I scrawl this down:

My daughter, I am holy. I make everything holy. You have nothing to fear. I am bigger than every thought, every ache, every fear. I stand before you in the gap, between your belief and unbelief. I stand before you—your God, your rescuer, your redeemer. I stand before you and you are not forgotten. You are held. Always.

If you want Me, if you want more of Me in your life, I will come. I will not hold back. If you want my love, if you desire more freedom and joy in your life, ask Me to come. Let Me come to the deep places, the dark places, the unknown places.

I know you. I know where in you I need to go. So trust Me. Trust Me. Let Me come. With Me I bring no fear. With Me I bring no sorrow. With Me I bring only hope and newness and life. I am life, for you, my love. With my love for you I bring life. I pursue you, and I will never let you go.

So, come. Come. Ask Me to come. Ask Me to enter in. You hear Me. I am close. So close. And I love you. You are the one I love.

And I believe Him. I believe Him. So I will go. And He will heal me. And He will make me new. And I will live fully awake and filled with His joy.

This white snow falling soft and quiet is beautiful. And I want to run through it. I want to bound through white and spin ’round and laugh, snowflakes dancing in my hair.

 How does it feel to stand up straight, head back, arms out, eyes turned up to God? How can I encourage you and pray for you? 

Also, if you want to get hugs of encouragement twice a week, just like His words above, make sure you check out Loop, by clicking this link right here.

This post is linked up with Jennifer Lee, #tellHisstory.

 

to believe in

My mom laid out the wrapped gifts under the tree while I sat frozen to the couch. My boyfriend was still there and wouldn’t leave. He didn’t have a place to go home to, and I didn’t know how to ask him to go.  It was 11 pm, too late for him to still be here, and now my mom was bringing out gifts from the bedroom, one by one, laying them out.

I  had been to the counselor already, just the day before. The plan was set to return after Christmas and get the thing done. But I was sixteen, and more of a child than I knew then. And while I knew there wasn’t a Santa at this point, or anything else left to believe in, after lying to my parents and the whole world already about who I was, I still wanted to believe in things I didn’t have a right to believe in. Magic and surprises and presents under the tree that weren’t there the night before.

I had been keeping a secret from my parents and my friends about who I was and the price, only now, seemed too great. My mom bending down to place presents underneath the tree when I should have been in bed. I couldn’t bear to ask her if I could help her. I wasn’t supposed to be there. I wasn’t supposed to be pregnant at sixteen and awake when I watched my mom play Santa Claus and she didn’t know who I really was.

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It feels so much easier sometimes to believe in a God who is distant. Believing we are loved based on our behavior, our merits, leaves us with a feeling of control, of self-righteousness. I was used to earning, working hard for attention and love. Somewhere early on, I had decided the praise I received from doing the right thing meant who I was was good, too. I wasn’t yet ready to believe I was loved without deserving it. I knew I wasn’t really good, wasn’t really pure and noble and kind. Sixteen years old and I was finally getting glimpses of the death that comes in trying to earn love, a gift that can never be earned.

A baby boy was born to save my life and the baby growing inside of me died because I thought that was the only way I might live.

There is no way to breath now. There is no way to live with excitement and hope, a grown woman now, excited for magic and beauty and the wonder of opening presents under the tree. . . without letting in love I don’t deserve, without realizing I am incapable of loving unless I know I am unworthy of it and my Savior died for me because He loved me anyway. Knowing we are loved, still, despite our sin, frees us to love and not strive towards anything not ours to give.

My two oldest children just woke up, and then the third, stumbling cheerfully into the family room where I am under the white fluffy blanket by our heater. They don’t know yet what they are capable of–all the beauty God sees in them, how they are built to love and be desperate in their surrender to a King who arrived the most beautiful in His humbleness, in His knowing He was chosen, He was free, He was loved. We are asked to love like a child, with eyes open to wonder, full of faith and acceptance for things we don’t yet understand. When childhood is stolen, through sin, the Father who loves to be with us, sing to us love songs throughout our day, asks us if we’d like the innocence back.

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Shall we stay here together, a little longer? Shall we wait together, your shoulder folded into my chest. Shall we rest? May I give you rest? It is time to slow now. It is time to stay close to Me. There is so much to do, I know. But is there? Do you trust your list of what needs to get done more than Me? It will not all get done. There will never be that perfect day to spend with Me. But this moment, this moment right here.

When I tell my children what I know about the God who sits under trees next to daughters who strive and strive to be loved, I don’t have to tell them the details of why I know what I know. I can show them in stories of trying to be loved when I was loved already, and in stories of love with arms wrapped around weary shoulders and whispers of love to rest tired heads.

Come close, my daughter. I miss the slowing. I miss the gentle rhythm of moving, my step, then yours, my leaning, then yours. Let this be the season of slowing, of sitting with me. Come, with anticipation. Come, with expectation. Come, with excitement. Come, with time to spend with Me. Come, with desire. Come, with surrender. Come, with longing. Come, with a seeking heart.

Come to Me, and I will sit down too. And we will sit together, side by side, and we will enjoy this day together. You will be so close you will hear the sound of my breathing. You will watch the movement of my lips when I speak. You will know the color of my eyes. And you will know the feel of my skin as I hold your hand in my own.

Can we sit together now, my dear?

I’m not going to miss my King this Christmas, this baby who lived looking to the One who knew who held him. There is too much life, this day, to stay the sad girl, up too late at night, in front of the Christmas tree, wishing she were someone different than who she is.

Does Christmas feel heavy for you this year? How are you doing at slowing and letting Him care for you? How can I pray?

Also, Kay B. won the Sarah Ha pendant giveaway! So happy to get that shipped off to you yesterday, Kay! Merry Christmas!

{The words in italics, above, were excerpted from Loop, “I’ve Written You a Love Song”. Have you subscribed yet? You can, here.}