When I was 18 years old, I moved from Alaska to Colorado on a whim. Within 12 hours of finding out, I embarked on the biggest detour in my life. I had just finished high school and Bible school, and signed up for a one-way missions trip to Ukraine. But God had bigger plans.
Long story short, I was ready to leave Alaska. I couldn’t wait to go on this missions trip, which was only a few months away. While I fundraised and worked to save money for Ukraine, I experienced an overwhelming distance with God, and on my way to work cried out, “If you don’t do something radical, I’m going back to my old ways.”
They say don’t pray these kinds of prayers, but I was desperate. My soul ached, my spirit felt empty, and my heart felt squeezed. I needed an intervention.
A few days later, I get home and my parents point out my recent behavior. During our conversation, they tell me I should leave Alaska.
“I will. To Ukraine,” I replied.
“We feel you should leave Alaska soon. Like tomorrow. God spoke to us (mom and dad) individually, and our friend from Colorado called and said she got a word for you, too. You need to leave. Maybe you can go to Colorado.”
Little did I know they had purchased the ticket and worked out the accommodations already. But I needed to hear God for myself.
I left to my room to pray about this crazy idea, and while praying, I got a plan to call my boyfriend to get a confirmation. I just KNEW he would say “no way.” After all, I was away for half a year. But if he said the opposite, I’d be convinced. I explained to him the situation and his response is that it had to be God.
I packed up and flew out with a million questions.
But I remembered my prayer for change and knew God was doing something radical. I pondered until I fell asleep, and then when the seat-belt sign came on, the pilot announced the arrival, and I looked out the window as the plane dipped its nose for landing. I heard God say this was home; my new mission ground.
After that intense distance, hearing His voice was like a breath of fresh air. And now, I look back and wonder, why DID I feel so distant?
The Cause of Distance
God works in mysterious ways, and His plan for each of us is interesting. And that’s the thing. He always has a plan. He’ll work it out for our good. Even when we don’t feel, hear, or see Him.
But when we experience overwhelming distance, it’s often because we get caught up with the mundane things of life. When we succumb to the same old, same old, and forget about the good things He’s done. This happened to me shortly after Bible school, which was a transformational time for me. Coming from that and going back to my hometown felt like a downgrade for me. I became unsatisfied.
Looking back now, I see how it could’ve been different, because:
- I wasn’t spending time with people who could help, mentor, and encourage me. I focused on work and fundraising to hurry and get out of Alaska. I didn’t make time for people but worried about saving enough money. I became disconnected.
- I didn’t spend time in the word for myself. I tricked myself into doing it by setting up Bible studies every morning with my little brothers before work. This forced me to study the Bible so that I could have something to review with them. Though it was beneficial and fruitful for them and their lives, it burned me out a little and became a task.
- I focused on what was going to happen instead of what was happening. My mind and heart were far in the future. All of my efforts, time, and attention went ahead of me. I got distracted by what was coming.
- And lastly, I saw what I didn’t have instead of what I already had. I counted the opposite of my blessings and pitied myself.
I don’t want to dismiss the fact that going through this resulted in a miracle. If I hadn’t experienced the overwhelm and instead followed what I’m about to share with you, I could’ve missed out on God’s radical move in my life. So, as you read on, keep in mind that everything happens for a reason. This season could be an important lesson! But also, be open to the possibility that this post can help you overcome feeling distant from God as well.
If You Don’t Hear God, Try To…
- Surround yourself with higher people.
- Spend time in the word.
- Be present.
- Encourage yourself.
We are creatures of habit and love to be comfortable. And when we get too comfortable, we’re prone to snuggling into our old habits or develop new ones that aren’t very helpful or beneficial. These 4 things will better prepare you for your dryer seasons in life.
I’ve had other seasons (now, in Colorado) where I didn’t hear the Lord, and assessing my current environment for these 4 components definitely helped me. One, for example, was from January to May 2019. I had just started working for a ministry and once again felt that distance. I looked at these 4 areas in my life and realized that the last 2 were missing. I made some adjustments (reminded myself to be more present and praised God for how far I’ve come) and BAM! His voice was like rushing waters.
In the rest of this post, I want to look at the 4 components more closely with you. Each point has a Bible verse and a nugget of encouragement. I pray it blesses your socks off and encourages you no matter what season you’re in.
Surround yourself with higher people.
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.Proverbs 27:17
One of the biggest aspects of Christianity is the body of Christ.
Epistle after epistle, Apostle Paul encourages each church to live in unity and encouragement of one another. In the Gospels, Jesus portrays close friendship with His disciples. And throughout the Old Testament, we see how relationships are pivotal for God to move on someone’s behalf.
God often uses the people in our life to be voices of encouragement, life, and iron. As the verses states, iron sharpens iron, it’s important to pursue relationships where you can have that and also be that. As I mentioned above, I didn’t spend time with people who could build me up. I went back and forth between home and work, falling into a very mundane routine. So much so that my inner thoughts became the primary voice in my life.
Along with speaking into our lives, they also challenge us to live up to our potential and pursue our God-given dreams, as well as when we step out of line and live apart from God’s word. They help sharpen our faith in God as we continue to build upon the foundation!
Spend time in the word.
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.Psalm 145:18-19
I recently saw this quote on Instagram: We hunt for verses to confirm our selfish desires, but we neglect to use the Bible as it was intended: to know God and follow His ways (@foreverloveneverfails).
You can’t alter the truth, only learn it to live by it.
Besides our relationships, we must spend time in the word to understand God for ourselves. So much of the Jewish culture revolves around the Shema, which is based on the verses in Deuteronomy 6. This prayer serves as a reminder to know, teach, and meditate on the word, no matter where you are in life. It’s like a seed, and the soil it lands on plays a big part.
Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.Proverbs 12:11
Setting goals, looking at the future, and imagining what life will be like later is great, but it doesn’t mean you’re there. If you’ve read my other posts, you know I love doing these things, but one part I’m conscious of is remaining present and working my hands in the meantime.
As I saved money for Ukraine, I couldn’t help but imagine myself already there. This distracted me from my present self, which (I believe) affected my relationships the most. Whenever we have goals and dreams “coming up” in life, it’s important to be present in our current season and relationships. If our mind, heart, and soul are far off in the future, we might miss out on God’s present voice.
God always speaks to us in various ways, we just don’t always hear Him.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.Romans 8:28
It’s easy to fall into the self-pity trap when you see what you don’t have. We don’t need to become victims of our past and present, because that will ultimately affect our future.
Whether it’s from your relationships, studying the word, or being present, look for the things you currently have. Praise God for where you are and where you’re going. Even if it means looking for the tangible things. Gratitude is the best way to encourage yourself in God when you feel the most distant from Him.
When we write daily gratitudes, we fix our eyes on what’s above (Colossians 3) and identify the blessings in our life. It puts us in a position to encourage ourselves and praise God for what He’s done.