God can sometimes feel distant. We feel desperate to know Him more but we aren’t sure how to reconnect. But that doesn’t mean we should stop pursuing, or that He has stopped pursuing us. In this article, originally published in the Canadian Catholic, Josh Canning gives some points to reflect on.
1. Remind yourself God doesn’t measure faith by your good behaviour
It’s so easy to get disoriented in reference to God. We might feel like we got into his good graces through our good behaviour, or good choices.
But it’s good to go back to this: we know that God loves us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (cf. Rom 5:8)
This is what scripture says about it:
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Cor 6:19-20)
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke 17:7)
He doesn’t say to us, “Here is how to earn my love. Go.” His gift of salvation and invitation to relationship came first. God won us and He wants us to live in the victory He won.
He offers His love without conditions and says “Go, and sin no more.”
His love is primary.
When we realize that God’s love is first, preeminent, and superabundant, we can see and remember that it is not a love that only sees the good things we do. It is a love that encompasses and enfolds us in our weakness as well.
2. Am I allowing myself to be fed with good food?
I remember once a young man telling me he was going through a dry period in his faith. I asked him to tell me more about it and he relayed that he wasn’t going to Sunday Mass because he wasn’t “getting a lot out of it.”
It’s important to make a distinction between dryness, which God permits to allow us to grow in faith, and lukewarmness, which a lack of spiritual fervour on our part. The latter is on us.
One thing I look at when I am feeling a little less fervour in my faith is, what am I doing to foster my faith? Am I allowing myself to be fed, or am I starving myself spiritually?
Some examples of food for your spiritual life:
Prayer (Especially daily meditative and conversational time with God, which can be assisted with a devotional like Magnificat)
Scripture (eg. Make a habit of reading psalms of thanksgiving like Psalm 34 or 118, no matter what you feel towards God; or read a specific book of the bible like Jonah who thought avoiding what God asked of him would be fine)
Sacraments (A good Confession feels like a recalibration of everything, and frequent Communion literally fills us with Chirst’s presence! “Give us this day, our daily bread…”)
Good media (eg. Catholic media, praise and worship music [see above], and art that draws us to the good, true and beautiful; and conversely, filtering out things that might distract you, tempt to you sin and bring you down)
Speaking to two of these points, starting with the Sacraments, it is sad that my friend I mentioned, by skipping Sunday Mass, was refusing to take the most obvious medicine for his “dryness”, our Lord’s very presence!
For Jesus says, “My flesh is food indeed. My blood is drink indeed.” (cf. John 6:55)
Worse, by skipping Sunday Mass altogether he was putting himself into serious sin! No matter how dry you are feeling, you never want to place yourself in mortal danger like that. (Hate to remind but Hell is a VERY dry place…)
Speaking to prayer, scripture reading, praying the Rosary, I am reminded by Pope Francis that:
"At its core, holiness is experiencing, in union with Christ, the mysteries of his life. It consists in uniting ourselves to the Lord’s death and resurrection in a unique and personal way, constantly dying and rising anew with him." (GE, 20)
We can choose to feed our souls by praying and meditating on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. This really can strengthen our faith.
3. Am I putting up barriers without knowing it?
Walls between us and God can get built up without us even knowing. But anytime we make peace with sin we are allowing a barrier in our relationship with God. The example above about deliberately missing Mass places a significant barrier between us and God.
Have you surrendered any parts of your life to sin? Have you given up the fight in some areas? Have you decided internally that God can’t deliver you from the weight of your sin?
God desires sin to be eradicated from our lives with his grace and help. Let us look deeply within ourselves and seek his mercy frequently. Let not sin or pride be a barrier to receiving the mercy of God again and again.
4. Am I being open with myself with faith community?
Who do I speak about my faith with? When it’s strong, or not as strong, God places people in our lives who we can draw wisdom and counsel from. Vulnerability is important in this, too. To feel distant from God is not a sin but a reality of relationship. Opening up to your community can help break down those walls and find some internal clarity.
Who do you look up to as an authentic disciple of Christ? Draw near to them and your faith will be strengthened.
5. Have I created opportunity for God to show up?
Sitting in a season of feeling weak can be discouraging. If God is not moving in our life, is He moving at all?
But there’s something beautiful in engaging in evangelization, whether that’s hosting a study or just bringing coffee to your neighbour. It creates an opportunity to see God move.
When we witnessing the power of God right before our eyes it can wake something up inside us and remind us just how real He is. The evangelist is the first beneficiary of evangelization.
Wherever you are, Proclaim is a community here to support you. If you are looking for input or encouragement, we want to invite you to Proclaim’s private Facebook group to join in on the conversation with other disciples.