Have you ever experienced a season wherein you feel as if God is far away? Discouragement and feelings of spiritual isolation may be painful, but they are relatively common throughout this roller coaster of Christian life. It is not weird to lack assurance of salvation, or feel as if God is “not on your side,” for a time. After all, we live in a sinful world, and we ourselves continue to be tainted with a remaining sin nature. Our feelings are not always indicative of a problem.
However, below are three biblical responses to what may be a more substantial problem of spiritual depression occurring from a neglect of God’s means of grace. Apart from reading the Word, praying consistently along with the Word, and doing the Word, spiritual shipwreck is about the only direction in which our lives can travel. Bear in mind that we should not and cannot expect spiritual isolation to disappear if we are unwilling to conform to the will of God as it is revealed in His Word. The Father disciplines those whom He loves. We ought not complain of spiritual discipline when our lives clearly warrant divine chastisement.
Read the Word
I cannot tell you how many times I have inwardly complained about a lack of assurance or prayed for spiritual renewal when the instrument for repairing the problem sat closed right in front of me. We have busy lives and things we want to accomplish in our day-to-day routines. We also happen to use our schedule as an excuse to stay out of the Scriptures. We adopt the attitude of a perfectly, able-bodied, panhandler who wants the quick and easy results of a paying job without ever doing the job!
We want an income of grace without ever utilizing God’s appointed means of it. Sure, we pray, which itself is a means of God’s grace, but the means function together. Prayer without the Word is no more useful than talking to ourselves (Jas. 5:16). God often answers prayer through His Word. Do we pray for wisdom, but not read the Word? Then how do we expect God to answer our prayer? Is there some other, perhaps more mystical, way God is expected to deliver wisdom? Does it come to us in our sleep?
God’s Word is the means of attaining divine wisdom, and it is also a means by which God answers our prayers for things like knowledge , wisdom, etc.
Pray the Word
Lacking words? Pray the prayers in Scripture. What better words could we pray than those inspired by God Himself?
The Lord’s Prayer is a good place to start (Matt. 6:9-13). Consider, as another example, Paul’s prayer for the saints in Colossians 1. Most, if not all, of those words may be applied directly to the daily Christian life. There are several places in the Scriptures where we can be taught how to pray rightly by the Spirit Himself. But, again, this requires we crack open the Bible and read it.
Do the Word
God disciplines those He loves.
If we are walking out of step with God’s revealed will, then it is right that we should feel isolated. Isolation is often God’s means of driving wayward sheep back toward the fold. Spiritual isolation will abound if we remain in disobedience to the Word of God. Yet, doing the Word cannot happen apart from the preceding two solutions to spiritual isolation.
Reading the Word and praying the Word ought to be a means of doing the Word or, better still, of living like Christ. If we constantly try to discern God’s “will for our lives” through prayer without ever opening the Bible, or attempting to obey God’s law, we can only hope for spiritual shipwreck. If we remain blind to God’s Word, in our sin, we will remain disobedient. And, disobedience brings about isolation from God and His people, rightly so (Heb. 10:25; 1 Tim. 1:19).
Let’s grant, for a moment, that all the above characteristics of the Christian life are present in our lives, yet we still feel isolated. What then? First, we need to understand that there is no such thing as “Lordship of feelings.” While a feeling of isolation can be symptomatic of a more serious, spiritual problem, it’s not always the case that our feelings are accurate. Our feelings ought not reign as Lord in our lives.
There is only one Lord. If we trust in His blood and righteousness, if we bear the fruits of the Spirit, and if the Spirit witnesses with our Spirit that we are indeed children of God, we are at liberty to disregard feelings of insecurity in pursuit of the true Lord who has made a most certain declaration (Heb. 6:11, 19; 6:17, 18; 2 Pet. 1:4, 5, 10, 11; Rom. 8:15, 16). His people are righteous, not on the basis of their own works, but on the basis of His work; they stand justified before a just and holy God.