When God Feels Far Off
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.” (Ps. 22:1–3)
In times of deep prolonged suffering, God can seem far away. He might even seem indifferent to your pain and situation. You are right to ask him, “Why haven’t you answered my prayers?”, “Did you even hear my hundreds of cries for help?”. Living with a spouse who emotionally or physically attacks you, means living under constant threat. Any interaction leads to unbearable pain and wounding. Any moment you find yourself facing unsolvable conflict. In fear, you cry out to God to make it stop, for this nightmare to end. But the cycle of abuse persists and you find yourself in the same mess yet again. You expect abuse, as fear encamps around you. Eventually, fear gets a strangle hold of your heart, when it feels like God has left you. You might wonder “Why isn’t God helping me?”
These thoughts of abandonment can quickly take over, leading to desperation. If God is not helping who will? Turmoil and terror fill your days and nights- your heart can find no rest. Leaving you frightened, believing you are alone. In desperation it is tempting to stop speaking to God. Why pray if you don’t feel heard? How can you pray when you feel abandoned by God? What can you say to him, when your heart is questioning him? Where to even start? Will your exasperation offend him?
David was certainly desperate when he penned Psalm 22. He was not timid in asking, or should I say telling God he felt abandoned and rejected. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from me?” He did not understand why his pain and pleas did not move God to act. And he was quite bold in saying so. “O my God, I cry by day, but you did not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” But in addressing God David was acknowledging something vital. He begins his complaint with the simple but profound pronoun, my. In uttering that single syllable he is in effect declaring that he is God’s. It acknowledges that his heart belongs to God- ‘my God’. It is the tiniest and weakest of confessions of faith, yet it is the truest and it is marvelous. That my, changes everything. Uttering it means proclaiming you are his.
Often when we feel abandoned, the last thing we want to do is talk to the one who we feel has left us. Sometimes that is the best place to start, the place where your heart is. David unburdened his heart to his God, telling him the depths of his anguish and that meant telling God he felt abandoned by him.
Where do you feel God has abandoned you? Be as specific as possible.
Pray for the courage to share your heart with your father. Be honest with God about your fears, pain, and confusion.