When I Can’t See Him
“Sometimes I call out Your name,
But I cannot find You.
I look for Your face,
But You are not there.”
—from Fernando Ortega’s song, “Lord of Eternity”
Ever feel this way? I sure have. In the bleakness of loss, pain, silence or fear—whenever endurance begins to be challenging—these feelings readily surface.
Because I’ve been down this road more times than I wish, I’ve developed a check list I run through. I thought I’d share it with you, just in case you might find it helpful. I start with:
1. What is driving these feelings? What am I really unhappy about?
I set aside at least fifteen minutes to think about this; writing it out helps for me. Slowly, the real issues become clear as I think about specifics.
2. Is there anything I have control over?
If my feelings have been hurt or I’m in a difficult spot because of someone else’s actions, I know I have to address those involved. But I also know that, regardless of how it may turn out, that’s a separate issue. My feelings of being distant from God are still my main concern at this point. They’re my responsibility, and I need to address them now.
3. Do a heart check.
I filter my heart through these verses:
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8).
Are my actions really pleasing God? Am I doing what is important in His eyes? Am I saying I trust Him but running on my own fumes? Since I can’t find God’s face, or feel Him near me, am I really drawing near to Him? Is there something distracting me, like a busy schedule, my own plans, anger, pain, selfishness, or the pleasures of this world? True confession: I can get so focused on the wrong things. Being in this world but not of it, this is one of the most challenging aspects of my Christian walk. Also, I try to make things happen rather than letting God make them happen.
4. What step of action results from my heart check?
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). Immediately, I talk to God about how I’ve been focused on the wrong things. I get specific. I take time to feel the sadness that I’m feeling. I sit in that quiet place for a few moments, just me and God.
Sometimes I go and talk with a trusted friend about my struggle. My most intimate moments with friends are those when we’re transparent about our shortcomings. Praying for each other and sharing so honestly bonds us together in Christ in ways that just don’t happen otherwise.
Confession done, I then think of the truth that He knows my sin and has forgiven me for it. He loves me as the Father who truly loves His children. He is not going to shame me for it, no—I am free in Him. Then, I tell Him how I long for Him, how I want to just spend time with Him in a peaceful place. I think of these verses written by a shepherd boy who longed for the loving, older and wiser Shepherd:
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Reflecting on these verses brings a sense of peace, and I often begin to feel comforted. I know that someday I will be with Him in person. That peace will be incredible. That hope stirs my heart, and I often have enough strength to move forward, even just a little.
5. If at this point I’m still not feeling close to God, I pull out more truths.
First, my feelings are not an accurate reflection of God’s relationship with me. In fact, the Bible says, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'”
“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:15-18).
I’m not alone! I do love Him. I am intentional, though imperfect, about keeping His commands. There is no brokenness in my relationship with Him. I know He is with me, the Holy Spirit living with me, in me. I’m not an orphan or abandoned. I may feel that way, but it’s my feelings that are not reliable. God is reliable. His promises are true. I trust those promises.
6. Last, but not least, I physically do these things.
A) I get down on my knees and pray something like this: God, I know Your promises say that You’re with me. I’m not feeling You, but I’m drawing near to You in the only ways I know how. I love You and trust that You see me. I’m going to move forward in that truth.
B) I put on my favorite worship music and sing with all the strength I’ve got. Sometimes I can only manage a few words. On other days I belt it out and thank God my neighbors can’t hear me!
Then, I move forward, one foot in front of the other. That may be all I’ve got, but it’s something. I know I’ve communicated with my God. I believe in eternity I’ll be reassured that He saw it all and was with me all the time. Hopefully, you’ve found something helpful in these steps. If you have other steps that you find helpful, feel free to share them here. We all need encouragement at times, and your comments may encourage someone who is struggling today.
by Jill Cristao, Director of Connections Ministries