Monday, July 5, 2010

When God Feels Far

by Nicole Unice

God disappeared last week. After months of new transitions, at last I had opportunities to do what I thought God wanted. And in the busyness, I paused long enough to take stock—and he was gone.

Of course, my mind retorted, God is not missing. God is the Great I AM; he is always personal, always present. One morning – far from home at a conference in Colorado - I stood and gazed at the Rocky Mountains on the horizon. They were about twenty miles away, but visible from every vantage point. But the reality of the mountain—the feeling of a climb beneath my feet, an opportunity to summit and take in the view, even one tree or blade of grass—was so distant, I couldn’t see it or feel it. Like the mountain, God was present, but felt distant.

As leaders in ministry, the feeling of God’s distance can be so unnerving – Bible studies go on, groups must be led, people need to be encouraged – and we wonder if we should even be doing ministry. So in that silence last week I grabbed my Bible and flopped under a tree. I flipped open to the gospels to ask: “What if I was an average girl, living in first century Judea? What would Jesus tell me to do when God feels far and I feel alone?”

I scanned the first two chapters in Matthew while plucking grass…hmm, baby Jesus won’t do. Average Judean girl wouldn’t know about his birth. Chapters three and four-- I couldn’t help think about how I would teach about Jesus’ temptation, rather than what is there for me. My eyes scanned and stuck on Matthew 4:17: “Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’”

Repent. I rolled over to stare at the sky and wonder. Who am I, really? Am I the composite of what others see – busy, bright, “gifted?” Am I the me I know—prideful, petulant, selfish? The truth probably lies in the middle, I thought, but either way, just one sentence from the mouth of Jesus reminded me how desperately I need God – Father, Lover, Healer, Savior.

I read on, into Matthew five and six, and I am that Judean girl on the mountainside, watching this wild and wonderful man tell me how to find God. I began to think about the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness. I realize that God feels far when I feel strong, because I don’t meet any of that criteria. And I begin to realize that to find God, I need to be where he hangs out. He’s with the downcast and the low. He’s present to the pure of heart.

As the sunlight flickered through the trees, I sensed his whisper again. I’ve been God’s fair-weather friend, available when I have time and it’s convenient. But that isn’t God. And he doesn’t wait on me. I wait on him. I hear him again in the pages of his Word and I feel peace. Perhaps I needed him to be distant, so that I am reminded how much I need him. Perhaps he “hid” so I could seek.

Nicole Unice is a counselor, women's ministry director and writer living in Richmond, VA.


  1. Thank you, Nicole, for this wonderful reminder - God does not wait on me, I wait on him. Your article was timely and I truly appreciate your transparency of heart. Thank you!

  2. Nicole, it's so nice when I get the chance to read something written just for me, right where I am today! Thanks for sharing this message. It has given me inspiration to continue in my own women's ministry this week.

  3. Thanks to both of you. The Spirit is good to remind us of his presence through scripture. Even after writing this, I still needed the reminder today, and I'm glad it's been encouraging for you too!

  4. Thanks for your comment I'm starting my day with it.It made me think that no matter where I've walked to without seeing where the Lord is, I must find/seek him out again again & He will always be found. THankfully the Lord never changes.I must find him with a humble heart.

  5. This is a beautiful post! Great advice about turning to the Bible for answers and seeking God.

  6. "Perhaps he “hid” so I could seek." That is beautiful, and sounds so true. It is so easy to forget that we can bring nothing to the table.