How to keep going when you can’t feel God

The disciples were in a boat.  They had been rowing for hours.

Then somebody shows up – out for a Sunday afternoon stroll (at 3am) – on a sea of raging water.  Freaky!

They were so scared.

When we are exhausted, God does show up – sometimes His presence doesn’t look right.  Sometimes it scares us.  Always it challenges us and shows us what can be.

Peter, an obvious early adapter, grasped the concept of walking on the water quickly.  “Hey Jesus, if that is you, ask me to join you!” For all his bravado, Peter realized the most important point – if you are going to get out of the boat, don’t go because you think it would be cool.  Don’t go because you hope God will call you.  Don’t get out of the boat until you have heard God’s voice.  On the flip side, when you hear God’s voice, JUMP.  Don’t think, don’t speculate, ACT.

Peter got out of the boat.  He was walking on the water.  He was following Jesus in the wild, wild world.

Now, some have a code, “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” This sometimes sneaks into our theology.  It sounds something like this: “If I follow God, He will make sure I am comfortable.”  Surely Peter had the right for some expectation.  After all, Jesus had called him.  He hadn’t jumped out of the boat, he waited until he heard God’s voice, and then, as soon as he heard, he followed.

Yet, a few steps into his stroll, wave swells grew.   Pretty soon, he could no longer even see Jesus walking on the other side of the waves. (My supposition.)  Sometimes, when you follow God, as soon as you say ‘yes’, the terrain seems to morph.  Nothing looks the same.  Where is God?

Peter, full of faith, was distracted by the waves.   When you walk on a balance beam, it is important to focus.  If you loose focus, even for a millisecond, a flip can become very dangerous.  Walking in faith is equally demanding.  When you choose to follow Jesus, you have to discipline your mind, focus your thinking, feed your faith.  You have to keep your mind’s eye focused on where God called you to.  Otherwise, like Peter, you will find yourself sinking below rush of life.

If you are human, you will occasionally reach that point of overwhelm.  Peter had Jesus, in the flesh, out there on the sea with him.  Those waves seemed so high that he lost his concentration.  Then, he did what you and I need to do – he asked for help.

Jesus, help me!

When you can’t feel God, you cry out.   A good friend of mine calls this “carpet eating prayer.”

Faith is that point of concentration and focus.  You keep your mind focused on God, and continue to walk where He told you, even when the waves are so large you can’t see two feet ahead.  If you lose that point of concentration, you do whatever it takes to get it back.  You dig deep into spiritual disciplines, and wait.  God will show up.

Saints throughout the years have taught us spiritual disciplines. The whole point is to help us walk straight – not by our power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. Are you feeling swept away? Let me know – leave a comment or email me – I’d love to be in prayer with you.

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21 Responses to “How to keep going when you can’t feel God”

  1. clare Says:

    Everything I read on your website is meaningful and understanding to me, I find it easy to relate when I understand it. I am so far from god that it seems impossible to get where I want to be. I am so easily distracted and so easily drift way, how do I focus my mind on getting closer to god, how do I become stronger, I don’t know if god has given me to many chances and I’ve lost all of them and now I don’t stand a chance. What can I do.. Clare

  2. Kim Martinez Says:

    Clare, I will be praying for you. I want to encourage you – God knows just where you are at, and you cannot have too many chances. I was thinking of the Apostle Paul the other day – he killed people, hunted down Christians. Then there is the woman at the well – Jesus reached out to her – and she had messed up so many relationships. God sent his Son to die on the cross so that you could get to know Him. He didn’t send Jesus so you would be perfect – He sent Jesus so that He could walk with you and help you learn about Him one step at a time. Here is what I suggest:
    1. admit you are powerless – you can’t manage to get yourself ‘where you want to be’.
    2. Know that God is powerful. He can change you from the inside out. He can give you the knowledge and wisdom you need to make choices that will help you get closer to Him. He can also give you the ability to forgive yourself.
    3. Ask Him to make the difference. Knowing God can do it isn’t the same as asking Him to do it. Ask God to help you get to know Him.

    God loves you Claire, and you aren’t too far from Him – logically, you wouldn’t be asking that question if you were. The Deceiver would like you to feel defeated. Instead, know that God loves you just as you are, and you are special to Him.

    Once you have asked God to draw you to Him, spend time in the bible, and in worship. Practice thankfulness – God is working in your every day – look for what He is doing and thank Him for it.

    I will be praying. Feel free to contact me and let me know how you are.

  3. jestoppel Says:

    i feel quite lost too. i know He’s watching out for me, but my head’s so full of clutter, it’s difficult to focus. and i can’t really read the bible, or pray or worship.. it’s too difficult. i have the most important exam i’ve ever written, a month away, and i can’t focus at all. i feel like the devil’s plan to destabilize me are succeeding, and i want god to step in, because no matter how hard i try, i can’t defeat this thing. i just really want to feel God. but sometimes i wonder if i should stop wasting time on these things, and just study. but i also know i’m highly unlikely to clear this exam without a miracle. (clearing means making the top 100, of 13,000 candidates)

  4. Kim Martinez Says:

    Dear jestoppel – I am praying for you. I know what it feels like to not quite connect – to have so much static in your head that you might just be hearing radio waves instead of God’s still small voice. I have a weird suggestion – take the day off. Take a day. Don’t study, have fun. Watch the sun rise, and the sun set. Take time to enjoy the area you live in. Just turn off for the day. (You might consider going electronics free.) What this will do is help your brain reset. We hear God through our mental pathways, and when they are all uptight, it is hard to decipher one thing from the other.

    When I was in seminary, I learned the discipline of Sabbath. I had 4 kids, worked part time, home schooled one child, and was going to seminary 3/4 time. Crazy. I learned to turn off for at least 1/2 a day every week. God honored that, and at times did miracles so I could meet my study deadlines. I never missed an assignment or did lousy on a test because I took a Sabbath.

    Also, I would encourage you to contemplate this thought: God is in charge of you passing the test. With those odds, you really have to know that God will be the one to open the door for you. He can direct your studies, and He will help you in test taking skills. In the end, if you don’t pass, then He is still in charge, and He is directing your path. This doesn’t mean you don’t do your best – of course you do, but jestoppel, if you think it is all on you, you are missing a great opportunity for faith. Let God be God, even in this situation.

    I am praying for you. Please let me know how it goes.

    With blessings, Kim

  5. Casey Says:

    Broke up with a man after I found out he was still married. God spoke to my heart through His Word, my Pastor, friends and family and I listened… for a moment. I wanted more than anything to be obedient to God in this area of my life, but I didn’t want to be alone. I wish I could tell you that the break up was immediate. It was a very, very hard as I did fall in love with this man. He stated that if I really loved him, I would not break up the relationship, that it was too late to break up since we had invested so much into our feelings. The Holy Spirit spoke to my heart once again and said, “It is never too late to be obedient.” After my Pastor taught a very powerful message from the entire book of Amos, I ended the relationship immediately as I did not want my selfish desires and acts of disobedience to be visited upon his and my generations, understanding that God has so much more in store for my life. Now I feel I’ve lost focus as I constantly think about him, whether I made the right decision because of how lonely I feel. My Heavenly Father is so loving. He has confirmed to me on numerous occasions that being obedient to Him is more important than anything. He said, “Trust me.” I am asking God to keep me focused on the tasks ahead… raising my son, going back to school, starting my business, adopting a daughter, working hard on my new job. I am asking for strength because it is so hard doing this things by myself. I feel so distracted at times and it is a challenge at times to even get out of bed. But God! Please pray for me. God bless you!

    • Kim Martinez Says:

      Casey, I am praying for you. You have so much going for you! You are investing in the lives of your son and new daughter, working a job and starting a business. I can see why your mind might be looking for support, and you might miss adult companionship. Trusting God seems hard at time, but He always fulfills his promises. He will not leave you or forsake you, and He is helping you build a strong foundation for the future generations. It might help you to get to know yourself a bit more. Understanding how you give and receive love, and the giftings God has given you will help you focus on God’s daily provision. I now blog at Deep Imprints. The resource page has a lot of help in this area: http://deepimprints.com/resources/

      God is even more interested in making sure your kids have a strong foundation than you are. I will pray this week that He provide for ALL your needs so that you can walk forward in freedom, not looking back but facing forward. Let me know how it goes.

      • Casey Says:

        Thank you so much for responding to my email. Thank you for praying for me and my family. May God bless you exceedingly and abundantly for your good works. Casey

  6. Pohutukawa Says:

    How long does it take for Him to show up? God allowed me to become really sick, for over a decade. It destroyed my whole life. The suffering was so awful, and God shut me out. He ignored my prayers and let me suffer. I can’t figure out how to go on. And God still isn’t showing up. The Bible does not promise that good will always come in this life. If good things don’t come I don’t think I can manage this life. I was a Christian before this happened, and I haven’t been a horrible person. How long am I meant to just keep going? How can you be sure He’ll eventually show up

  7. Kim Martinez Says:

    Pohutukawa – thank you for your honesty – sometimes it feels like God abandoned us, huh? One time when I was in such a spot, I got mad at Him and told Him so. He showed me a beautiful picture – that I couldn’t see Him because He had pulled me into His lap.

    Lately I’ve been thinking about Joseph. Joseph was sure God gave him a dream – but when he found himself on a chain gang to Egypt, he had to let go of his interpretation of the dream and let God be in charge. We know he did this because he didn’t spend his energy trying to escape, but he worked on developing his strengths in the new place God had him. Eventually, as God used the adversity to mold his character, Joseph rose to a higher position than he had ever dreamed possible. I’m pretty sure that some of those devastations that hit Joseph made him feel much like you do.

    We know that David felt similarly. “God, why do the evil prosper?” (Kim’s paraphrase) Here are some things that might help:
    1. to see what God is doing (as it is sometimes easier to see what He is not doing) you might try my free four-week webinar at http://www.getunstuckbootcamp.com.
    2. Find prayer partners. If you aren’t already in a prayer group, find one – it make a huge difference to have people walking and praying with you.

    I will be praying Pohutukawa. God has not abandoned you, neither has He forgotten you. He is at work, even when it isn’t evident. I was just reading in both Hosea and Isaiah today, and God uses these times of isolation to deepen our reliance on Him. I will pray that this week God shows up to show you how He is at work.

    You are loved.

  8. jessica Says:

    I have an important task to complete its vital i preform it fast and effectiviely to be released from My present life i keep getting distracted when GOD has already instructed me please help me pray

  9. Kim Martinez Says:

    Jessica – I am praying for you. God will help you focus, and He will order your days. Let us know how it goes!

  10. nomzi Says:

    Thank you for your motivation.I need prayers to revive my spiritual life.I feel like I am facing a huge mountain that I cannot climb.For three years now, my two sons(24 years ) will go back to drinking, stop everything he started at the beginning of the year.

    I feel like…,I’ve lost something in my spiritual life.I’m asking myself so many questions.
    Nomzi

  11. TB Says:

    I have been looking/praying for a consistent job for about a year now… it has been really hard, and I just keep telling myself that God will get me through. But I really don’t understand because I read my Bible constantly, pray, listen/watch teachings…please just pray for me. I am 27 years old, back living with my parents, with an on-call job, so I rarely get hours. I just feel like I am in a rut, and I feel like I should be further along. Please pray for me!!

  12. Kim Martinez Says:

    TB – I am praying! Nomzi, praying for your sons. When we face mountains we can’t climb, it is amazing that God shows up and builds us from the inside out. He is at work! Keep me posted – I’ll be praying.

  13. Jest Says:

    Dear Kim,

    I left that post for you, a year ago. Reading through it now, makes me cry angry tears. He didn’t help me with anything. I failed that exam, which consisted of 11 papers, because I lost one, single paper). Two hellish months later, I took the exam again, and you know what? The second time, I didn’t even clear Phase I. So this year, I’m not even writing Phase II. I could take the exam again, next year. (I have 4 attempts). But my spirit is broken. As for God, I don’t believe he exists, at all. Every word I utter to God, is simply some horrible deja vu that ends with the same deafening silence. The universe feels so empty, Kim. It is. There are millions of galaxies, and just us, ephemeral, organic life-forms. I’ve called out to him for so, so long. And now I’m just tired of it, all. At times like this, the common Christian approach is to ask one to compare oneself with less fortunate individuals – like the terminally ill, or the starving masses of sub-Saharan Africa, or just the dead. But these comparisons are senseless. You cannot compare misfortunes. They’re far too subjective. I’m smart, Kim, and I like to work hard. I didn’t just sit back, and expect God to take me through. Getting through this exam – becoming a diplomat, or a bureaucrat, perhaps, for my country, had captured my imagination. Now I don’t know if i should sink this dream, or keep fighting for it. What value is there is either course of action? Should I cut my losses and quit? Should I put my family through this agony, for another year? I don’t know what to do. I’ve asked God, of course, but he won’t reply. How can he? I suppose we must find these answers ourselves, and muddle through on our own, evolving our own-short lived moralities, as we go.

  14. Kim Martinez Says:

    Jest, God put you on earth for a reason – I don’t have a clue what that might be, but your unique approach to life, your skills and strengths are necessary for the betterment of us all. As I started reading your post, I didn’t think about having you compare yourself to those less fortunate – instead, I wondered what your unique gifting might be (strengthsfinder 2.0 might help) – when you feed your strengths, you will find clarity and emotional energy where there wasn’t any before. The second thing that came to mind was Joseph. Life was not easy for him, and by all appearances, he kept falling backwards – first into slavery, then into prison. (Genesis 37-41). Yet, God was using all those negative experiences to build him into the person he needed to be. I suspect that if we face no obstacles, we are probably not going in the direction of our giftings. If we are going to make a real difference, we need to face obstacles and let them shape us. I recently read a children’s book on the five smooth stones of David – they didn’t start out smooth stones. Rough times made them smooth and usable. Don’t despair! You are in process, and you aren’t done yet. I’m looking forward to see what God has up His sleeve as you are definitely being developed for something!

  15. Serena Says:

    I read your post and it is so meaningful and inspiring. A part of me feels uplifted but another part of me is asking the question, how can I apply this to my life? In the beginning of this year, I was soaring spiritually. I did the Jentezen Franlin’s fast in January and I was at my peak. But after certain circumstances, my spiritual life started to deteriorate until it is non existent now. I heard God crying out to me but I just didn’t know how to answer. I am currently fasting now to see if I can get back to where I was, but it seems as if I am only starving myself. I am not seeing the outcome that I once saw. I also possess a gift where I can look at someone and tell them everything from their birth but it has been dormant since I am not spiritual as I once was. I want to get it back because I helped alot of people with my gift and people need help again. Please help me!

  16. Barry Says:

    I am so exhausted. So tired. Questioning my salvation. trying to hang on but difficult.

  17. Kim Martinez Says:

    Barry, I will be praying. Here is the truth: there is nothing you can do to be pleasing to God. Jesus already did it. Relax, let God show up. He really is God, not just an idea. He will show up. I’ve been reading The Search for Significance by Robert McGee (cheap on kindle app) – this book might really help. Again, I’ll be praying for you this week. -Kim

  18. Meka Lewis Says:

    Hi. My name is Meka. I could really use some prayer. I love God with all my heart but lately ny actions nor thoughts show it. I am distracted by everything. I just recently ordered The Power of a Praying woman book and study guide &The Purpose Driven life. Every day I say today is tge day I will sit down, be still and read the word. But it has been so hard lately. Its just me and my 1 yr old (im 25) and I work full time just trying to make it to the next day. My mind tells me I’ll never be good enough, I’ll forever struggle, and live a lonely life. I have no friends and All I want is to hear God’s voice. I need him. He’s all I have. I feel lost and confused. What do I do to get back on track?? I just want to do his will, love and trust that things will change

  19. Kim Martinez Says:

    Meka, my heart goes out to you. I remember those days of young children and isolation. God is closer than you think. One day, I asked Him why he seemed so far away, and he gave me a picture – I was looking and couldn’t see Him – he said “turn around” and I discovered I was sitting in His lap. I will be praying for you. One thing I did during the busiest times was to sign up for a devotional to my inbox – I didn’t read the whole thing – just the verse. Day after day, God used that verse to speak to my heart. Meka, God loves you and has not forgotten you. He is holding you. As you let Him love on you, you will find your actions and thoughts will follow suit. I’ll be praying. Let me know how it is going.

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