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Day 14 – When God Seems Distant

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

If, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence … and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear and help. … Hearken ye … Thus saith the Lord unto you, be not afraid nor dismayed … for the battle is not yours, but God’s.
~ 2 Chronicles 20:3-19 ~

The pavilion that seems to intercept divine aid does not cover God but occasionally covers us. God is never hidden, yet sometimes we are, covered by a pavilion of motivations that draw us away from God and make Him seem distant and inaccessible. Our own desires, rather than a feeling of “Thy will be done,” create the feeling of a pavilion blocking God. God is not unable to see us or communicate with us, but we may be unwilling to listen or submit to His will and His time.
~ Henry B. Eyring – Where is Thy Pavillion – General Conference October 2012 ~

The second chapter of Exodus ends with this teaching: And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. The Children of Israel were living in bondage to Egypt, serving with rigour and their lives bitter with hard bondage (Exodus 1:13-14). Today, all of us experience a life where we taste bitterness and experience some form of hard bondage. And we ask ourselves – where is God?

How do we go forward with faith and purpose if one feels that God is distant? That our Heavenly Father is not hearing us no matter how we engage in worship? Despite keeping the commandments, praying regularly, studying the scriptures, there seems to be no answer from Him. It always seems that God may be withholding any wisdom, counsel, or guidance from us. After all, if our Heavenly Father truly desires an intimate relationship with us, that he truly cares and loves us – does he not want to help us?

We do not stop to consider that it is not God who is in hiding – it may be the very fact that we are hiding ourselves from God. And this may be something we inadvertently do. Other times it is because we have not humbled ourselves and sought forgiveness through repentance. Maybe there is some doubt within our hearts and minds where we question whether or not our Heavenly Father is close.

The scriptures constantly teach us that we are to do two things. They also teach us two fundamental truths. First, we are to seek him continually. Despite what is going on, no matter the situation, the fears, the worries, the doubts, and the anxieties, we are to seek him. Second, we are to wait patiently. Listen attentively, tune in, and continue to walk in those truths and commandments we are to keep. And the first truth is that our answers come in the Lord’s due time and not ours. The second fundamental truth is that this is where our faith in God rests.

Seek God Continually for He Hears Us

King David is speaking to his son Solomon and says this: Is not the Lord your God with you? and hath he not given you rest on every side? … Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God (1 Chronicles 22:17-19). Prior to this, King David delivered a psalm to thank the Lord into the hand of Asaph and his brethren (1 Chronicles 16:7-36). Not only does King David show gratitude in praising God, but he also admonishes the need to seek the Lord and his strength and to seek his face continually.

In Acts 17:27, we are taught that we should seek the Lord, if haply [we] might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us. And Hebrews tells us that without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6). And in the Doctrine and Covenants, we are admonished with the following truth: Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive, knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Doctrine and Covenants 88:63).

We only keep ourselves hidden from the Lord if we are not doing all that we are capable of doing to diligently seek after him

Since we may already draw near unto God through scripture study and applying those scriptures to our lives, engaged in mindful prayer, meditation, fasting, and putting ourselves in service toward others: what more are we able to do to seek him diligently?

When we are diligent in seeking God, we are showing care and conscientiousness in our work and duties. It is this constant effort where we are attentive and persistent (Google Dictionary and Sometimes, we may couple prayer and fasting as part of our diligence in seeking after our Heavenly Father. Other times we may need to call on others to stand with us in prayer, and even in fasting, concerning those things that we are faced with. Pertaining to the latter, a person may even call upon the elders of the Church to seek out priesthood blessings for guidance and direction.

Another instance is speaking with others regarding our present situation. Many times, I have found the answers I needed merely when I called upon people and shared with them what is going on. Words of encouragement, questions about my own attitude and discipline toward praying, receiving advise and direction, and even comfort. We only keep ourselves hidden from the Lord if we are not doing all that we are capable of doing to diligently seek after him.

As for whether or not our Heavenly Father hears us – of course he does. The issue is that we sometimes may not recognize the answers he gives to our prayers (Matthew 7:7; James 1:5-6; Alma 33:4-11; Doctrine and Covenants 8:1-2). And since we know scripture teaches that he does hear us – we ought to figure out how to really commune with Him in prayer, recognize answers, and faithfully move forward (How can I know God is listening to me?).

Consider the following questions:

  • Am I doing all I am capable of doing to live according to the commandments and teachings of the Gospel of Christ?
  • Are my motives pure, worthy, and with purpose and meaning?
  • Am I willing and ready to do what He asks?

If one were to answer yes – then of course one is capable of trusting that God not only hears – but he will also answer. However, if we answer no to any one or all of these questions – then yes, our Heavenly Father hears us – however, is waiting for us to be ready and receptive to receive those answers. Meaning, we may need to commit ourselves over to living the principle truths of the Gospel. Or check our motivation, thoughts, and personal agenda. Maybe we are not ready to commit ourselves over to do that which our Heavenly Father wants us to do.

For instance, maybe you are struggling with finances. You’ve studied the scriptures, prayed, meditated, and fasted. However, you have not gone to your Bishop, or sought out someone within the ward to discuss such issues with. So, you make an appointment. Talk with a friend who has struggled with finances in the past. Or you are sitting in counsel with the bishop. Perchance the conversation comes up on the nature of tithing and you have not paid an honest tithe. Along with that, you had a change of income and no longer are able to afford the type of things you were accustomed too and are unwilling to let go of some of those expenses because you feel they are necessities and do not see them as luxuries now. Instead of walking away encouraged, convicted, and committed to following through – you walk away all that much more discouraged and continue to diligently seek the Lord and become frustrated when the answers are not coming.

Sometimes, we are so closed off that how we expect our Heavenly Father to respond and answer our prayers is what distance us from Him. Notice that the answers were already given in counsel. Start paying an honest tithe, attend a providential living class or prepare to attend one that will be coming up. Go over your budget with someone else and be willing to be held accountable for living within one’s own means. And then as you strive to do those things – our Heavenly Father not only responds, but he also blesses you.

According to Gods Time, Will and Because of Our Strong Faith in Him

So, we know that our Heavenly Father hears us. We also know that it is up to us to diligently seek after him. Being prepared to be accountable for how we are living and working to grow in our faith and striving to live the principle truths of the Gospel. Ready to receive the answers to go forward with faith and purpose. In doing so, we receive answers and blessings.

Yet there are times in our lives where our Heavenly Father may appear to be distant because we are impatient. We lack faith. And we are prone to receive guidance, counsel, and answers according to our will and desire and within our own time frame. We fail to accept the truth that our Heavenly Father operates according to His own will and desire and in His own time.

When it comes to our strong faith in Jesus Christ and submitting ourselves over to Him – it includes submitting ourselves in accepting His will and timing in our lives – even if the outcome is not what we hoped for or wanted (David A. Bednar – Accepting the Lords Will and Timing).

It is our faith in God’s divine and Sovereign grace and mercy that gives us the ability to be patient.

The Savior taught a simple truth when he revealed the way to true prayer. He first stated that we are not to pray as the religious leaders or hypocrites for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward (Matthew 6:5). Instead, the Savior taught that we are to pray in secret. We are to pray without the use of vain repetitions. And even affirmed that when we pray, our Heavenly Father already knows what we need before we even ask. What comes next is the simple truth: Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:5-15).

When we are accepting of the Lords will and timing – we are submitting over to his divine providence and grace. And that means we sometimes are called to endure those challenges, endure those adversities so that our faith is made whole and complete (James 2:22). It also means that we are willing to undergo those things in life that will try our patience and faith in Christ – as long as we are humble and willing to submit to his will (Mosiah 3:19).

The Apostle Paul wrote his second epistle to the Christians at Corinth. In that epistle, he shared with them something of significance:

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

What is revealing of this is that Paul had received personal revelations pertaining to the Kingdom of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, he is describing something that is keeping him humble so as to preventing him from exalting himself due to those visionary experiences. For us, today, we face seasons of suffering. Albeit, an illness, significant loss of employment, present social conditions, or the significant loss of a loved one. Our own sufferings we endure appears to keep us humble and focused on our reliance to our Heavenly Father. Through our own weaknesses, God works his wonders in our own lives. Sometimes, not for our own benefit and blessing – but so that we are able to be a benefit and be a blessing toward others.

God’s Grace is Sufficient and Complete in Our Weaknesses

Consider Alma and his brethren. Sometimes we may perceive God being distant because we feel overwhelmed, burdened, and are weary. In Mosiah 24:15, we read the following:

And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.

This is consistent with what the Savior taught:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my youke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-29

Notice that the Savior did not say he will take away our burdens. He only stated that our burdens will be light and that we will find rest in Him.

Trial of Faith Worketh Patience

One important spiritual truth regarding faith and patience I have learned is that – if our faith is not challenged, if it is not stretched, and not put to use – it is weak and a mere profession. There is a strong difference between someone who says, “I believe Christ will strengthen me” compared to someone who says, “I know Christ has strengthen me”. One professes without conviction and the other confesses with great conviction. James tells us that we are to count it all joy when we fall into various trials and temptations. Because, when we exercise genuine faith in Christ, it works through patience. Here is what I wrote on the nature of how faith works through patience:

One thing I have learned is that when faced with difficult circumstances – there is a needed response. From the Christian perspective, our response is to be patient and rely on God’s divine and providential will. This is expressed numerous times throughout scripture. This does not mean we sit down and do nothing. It means we stand with a resolved intent and purpose in seeking God’s divine direction and counsel. Placing our concerns, worries, and anxieties on the alter. Consistently, and with contrition and humility, pray and meditate on what course of action we may need to take. Sometimes it calls for our faith to be tried when people mock us. Speak in vain toward us. Discourage us. Sometimes, it is dealing with the loss of employment, loved one, family pet, freedom, or even housing. Sometimes, it is dealing with getting older and health related issues that may come our way.

Whatever the circumstances are – we face trials every day. Our faith in God gives us the strength we need to withstand the storm. It is our faith in God’s divine and Sovereign grace and mercy that gives us the ability to be patient.

James 1:1-4 | Genuine Faith and Trials

This is consistent with spiritual truths when it comes to our faith, enduring trials patiently, and seeking our Heavenly Father Diligently. It is also a two-edged sword because those fiery trials that may increase our faith in Christ and our Heavenly Father may also cause us to distance ourselves from the Gospel, from spiritual truths, from growing, and prevent us from seeking God’s will in our lives:

Our faith is centered in God, our Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. It is bolstered by our knowledge that the fulness of the gospel has been restored to the earth, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and that prophets and apostles today hold the keys of the priesthood. We treasure our faith, work to strengthen our faith, pray for increased faith, and do all within our power to protect and defend our faith.

The Apostle Peter identified something he called a “trial of your faith.”3 He had experienced it. Remember Jesus’s words: “Simon, … Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.”

Peter later encouraged others: “Think it not strange,” he said, “concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.”

These fiery trials are designed to make you stronger, but they have the potential to diminish or even destroy your trust in the Son of God and to weaken your resolve to keep your promises to Him. These trials are often camouflaged, making them difficult to identify. They take root in our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities, our sensitivities, or in those things that matter most to us. A real but manageable test for one can be a fiery trial for another.

How do you remain “steadfast and immovable” during a trial of faith? You immerse yourself in the very things that helped build your core of faith: you exercise faith in Christ, you pray, you ponder the scriptures, you repent, you keep the commandments, and you serve others.

When faced with a trial of faith—whatever you do, you don’t step away from the Church! Distancing yourself from the kingdom of God during a trial of faith is like leaving the safety of a secure storm cellar just as the tornado comes into view.

Elder Neil L. Anderson – Trial of Your Faith – General Conference October 2012

As long as we keep our centered focus on Christ, on the teachings and principle truths of the Gospel of Christ, seek out personal revelation, and willingly submit ourselves and our will over to Heavenly Father – we are strengthened and encouraged to endure any suffering, affliction, and trial. For such – our faith is strengthened as we endure with longsuffering and patience.

Going forward with faith and purpose teaches us that virtue of patience and reliance upon God. Seeking him diligently and know of a surety he will answer and respond.

Key Point

When we feel that our Heavenly Father is distant it is because we may have hidden ourselves from him. Either we have become discouraged and disappointed in the face of our trials, we fail to place our confidence and trust in Christ so that our burdens are lighten and we have a peace of mind. Or we have ceased in diligently seeking after Him and His will through those spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, meditating, scripture study and reading, and serving others. Perchance we approach our Heavenly Father with our own personal agenda that he responds to our requests according to our own timeline and according to our own will instead of humbling ourselves and submit over to His will and His timing.

Meditate and Ponder

Are you doing all you are capable of doing to diligently seek after him? Is there some difficulty, circumstance, or trial you are facing where your faith requires enduring patience? Have you come to a place of doubt and lack confidence and trust in God? What is your present attitude and spiritual condition? How willing, and committed, are you in humbling yourself and seeking after Christ with diligence and confidence?