When God feels far away

I know, I’ve been there. I get it. God doesn’t always “feel” close or like He’s doing anything at all in your life except ruining good hair days with humidity and not opening the door to your dream job. Ugh, it feels like a punch in the gut or just a slow slide down Hopeless Mountain. I had a conversation recently with a friend from high school who had given up all hope that the Lord truly loved her and it all ended up boiling down to the shame she felt when she left her faith behind. Shame is a sticky, dirty word. By definition, it’s a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior. Woof. I’ve felt shame before, I know the sticky residue it leaves. I think that’s what is so unbelievable about God’s love. It just doesn’t make sense. HOW CAN YOU LOVE ME EVEN THOUGH I’VE LEFT YOU!?! We can’t comprehend this because it’s not in our capacity as humans. We just can’t love as unconditional as Christ.

I personally would find it pretty hard to love someone if I asked them to do something and they did the exact opposite right in front of my face. It would strike up anger in me something awful!

Have you ever wrestled with God about your shame? Have you ever cursed Him or cried out to Him as you sat on Hopeless Mountain with make up running down your cheeks, leaving tear streaks. You aren’t the only one. I often identify with the story of Jacob because I think, “Yeah he sounds like an unhealthy enneagram 2 with all of that manipulating he’s doing.” His story is in Genesis and when I read about the fact that he was born holding his twin brother’s heel and grew up manipulating his Father, I cringe. How many times have I not trusted God and felt like I needed to manipulate a situation so I would win in the end? A lot. A lot is the answer to that question. But I’m not ashamed of that because now, I walk in faith, with a limp.

With a limp? Yeah, if you continue to read Jacob’s story you see him encounter God in the midst of his running away from his family. I have it below but if you prefer cliff notes, here ya go. He has been through the ringer for these two wives he has and over 14 years later he is fleeing, yet again. I wonder if he’s tired. Anyway, he was alone and encountered God where they wrestled. I mean, not just a quick pin and tap out. This lasted all night and eventually the “man” said, “let me go, bro.” Ok, I added the bro. Jacob, in the midst of his running, asked for a blessing. HA! WHAT! THIS DUDE RAN AWAY FROM HIS OWN FAMILY THEN HIS WIVES’ FAMILY AND THEN HE HAS THE NERVE TO ASK FOR A BLESSING!?! That’s crazy, but isn’t it was we do when we run from God? We get into a situation we feel stuck in (or pinned, if you will) and we ask God for a way out. “God, I know I got myself into this mess but please, get me out painless.” Jacob receives a new name and a blessing but not without a constant reminder of that night. He walks away with a shameless limp and miraculous encounter with God. There is no shame allowed after an encounter with the Father.

There hasn’t been a single time I’ve returned to God after fleeing and not felt a little limp in my step and yet, a chin held high. You can’t wrestle with God and not feel His nearness. When you wrestle with someone, your foreheads exchange sweat drops and your arms intertwine. It’s uncomfortable but it’ll never leave you without impact. In case you have been fleeing from God lately, I just want you to know that you can walk into an encounter with God with shame, but when you walk out, it’s not allowed in your limp.

Genesis 32:22-31 New International Version (NIV)

Jacob Wrestles With God

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel,  and he was limping because of his hip.