“I Don’t Feel God’s Love or Presence”

I don’t feel God’s presence or love. I know this sounds like a nonchristian “question,” but I know 100% I am a Christian! I’ve been through so many hard things in my life; for instance, my dad, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, died of brain cancer when I was a little kid. That’s just one thing. It feels like the more and more I live for God, the more my life falls apart. I feel like He has abandoned me. I know David wrote in the Psalms about feeling alone, but I’ve never heard about anyone not feeling God’s love. Please help! I feel completely alone!

I’m sorry for the loss of your father. I’m truly devastated to hear that you don’t feel God’s presence. If you think you’re the only one to feel that way, please don’t. I certainly have felt isolation and separation from God. Sometimes it was the result of my unrepentant sin. Other times, I felt that calamity had unfairly fallen on me and wondered if God cared about my situation. Despite it all, I’m still here. I’m still a Christian and a stronger believer because of the things I’ve suffered.

King David experienced much grief and despair during his reign over Israel. When he wrote much of the book of Psalms, he did not just include the happy times of life; he included the full range of negative emotions: bad, sad, melancholy, depression, hopelessness, fear, sorrow, hurt, anger—you name it. Psalm 88 is probably the epitome of the depths of human brokenness. He felt as if he were in the darkest depths, surrounded only by unrelenting grief. David felt the terrible sting of death—those who were closest to him were taken away and he himself felt abandoned and forgotten by God (which is like death itself). The king had no idea why terrible things were happening to him and his soul was in anguish because of it.

In the face of terrible suffering, there is one thing David never included in the Psalms—faithlessness. Even at the deepest valley of his misery, David gave God praise and appealed his case before the Lord. He understood that no matter what happens, it is the Savior-God to whom he could appeal and the Savior-God who brings peace.

But also know this. God did not create us to be alone and to suffer alone. God called us as believers to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). I would ask you to express your situation to someone you trust for spiritual support. I appreciate your email to us, but you would do yourself wonders if you could interact face-to-face with a trusted friend, church member, minister, or pastor. If your dad was a professor at DTS, then I’m certain the counseling services are open and available to you. I hope this helps. Remember, God is not far from each of us (Acts 17:27). God has said that He would never leave us, nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Be encouraged that you have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the guarantee that you are God’s cherished child (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). God is always there for you.

Nathan Townsie

P.S. My colleague at Probe, Sue Bohlin, also had some thoughts she wanted to share with you.

______, many, many people have trouble feeling God’s love, but they don’t feel free to talk about it. There are a number of reasons for the obstacles to experiencing His love, and while I can’t know the answer in your case, maybe one or more of these might resonate with you.

First, as I’m sure you know, we live in a fallen world. Nothing works right, including our “feelers.” Sometimes our perceptions malfunction. Sometimes we can sense that there are feelings deep in our souls but we can’t access them. Life can be like a radio with a broken antenna, unable to pick up the radio signals that are present in the room but we’re unable to receive them.

Sometimes we shut our feelers down after a painful experience or trauma, believing that it just hurts too much, and we make a private vow to not feel anything. The trauma of losing your father wounded you and shaped you forever, and I am so very sorry to learn of this. Do you think it’s possible you decided, years ago, to shut down your heart so you wouldn’t feel the pain of loss and grief from the father-shaped hole in your heart?

The good news is that God is able to heal broken receivers, broken feelers. We need to give ourselves permission to open ourselves up to both the negative and the positive emotions that are part of life, and ask Him to bring healing to our “feelers.” Many people report that when they renounced their inner vow to not feel anything, God gradually restored their ability to feel again.

Secondly, if we’re angry at God, it’s really hard to feel His love because the anger gets in the way. I get that—I spent the first twenty years of my life angry at God because He allowed a trauma to shape my life in painful ways. It took me some time to get to the point where I grasped the truth of His sovereignty, the fact that He is in total control, which is balanced by His goodness. If God allows something painful into our lives, it’s because He has a plan to redeem every bit of the pain. I’d love to share my story with you, “How to Handle the Things You Hate But Can’t Change” here: www.probe.org/how-to-handle-the-things-you-hate-but-cant-change/. You may also benefit from “The Value of Suffering” here: www.probe.org/the-value-of-suffering/)

Third, different people have different ways of experiencing God’s love. Recently, a friend was thinking about the fact that he has trouble feeling loved by his heavenly Father because of his relationship with his earthly father. While on vacation, he wondered what it would take for him to feel God’s love, and at that moment he heard the squawk of a flamingo. He turned toward the sound of the animal and smiled with pleasure, and was suddenly aware that he had been touched by an evidence of God’s love through His creation. Be on the lookout for unexpected ways that God says “I love you!” I send this with a prayer that God meets you in your feeling of aloneness and assures you of His love.

Sue Bohlin

© 2010 Probe Ministries