Spiritual Loneliness: When the Lord Seems Far Away

Brad Stenberg

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts, and have sorrow in my heart all day long?” – Psalms 13:1-2

Spiritual loneliness is an experience we’d like to avoid because we feel excluded, punished, and abandoned by God. Still, there are times when we all experience that strange inner gnawing or hunger, that unsettling unrest that makes us say, O God, where are you? Few struggles are as acute as our soul’s search for God. We so desperately want His attention as we grope for answers, support, and relief.

You might have felt it when your prayers went unanswered, making God seem remote and uncaring. You may have felt it when you heard a friend’s experience of God’s presence in ways you’ve longed for, but never had. You might have felt it when your attempt to hold on to a word or promise from the Lord was not enough to keep you from acting out. You likely felt it when your sin separated you from God and the experience of His grace.

So what can we do? Spiritual loneliness is maintained by passivity, so it’s important that you get up and do something about it. Here are some things to consider.

Connect with others. Spiritual loneliness is a problem of relationships. People who feel like God is distant usually disconnect with others because a part of their soul is hidden, isolated, and lost. So the commands to love God and others as ourselves are not being realized. 1 John 4:20 says we can’t love God whom we haven’t seen if we don’t love others whom we have seen. So begin with the deficiencies in your relationship with others. Find out where you’re hiding from relationships and seek to connect with others. In the process God will find you and restore the connections.

Draw near to God. Though God may at times remove His presence to develop our faith, it is usually us that has moved, not God. Richard Foster says that ‘God aches over our distance and mourns that we do not draw near to him. He grieves that we have forgotten him. He longs for our presence’ (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 1). So, draw near to God and he will draw near to you. (James 4:4)

Listen to what God is saying. Embrace this time as an opportunity for listening prayer. Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16) Be intentional. Like Jacob, seek the blessing that comes from a spiritual battle fought alone. (Gen. 32:26) Turn off the radio, TV, cell phone, pager, PDA, fax machine, computer, and take time to listen. Reflect on what is happening to you. God will meet you and speak to your heart.

Focus on who God is. He is with you. God has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5) He knows what you’re going through because He has been there too. Jesus experienced a painful spiritual loneliness at Calvary when God forsook him for a time. So, “we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathized with our weakness, but one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are ‘ yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15) God cares about you. Knowing would be empty if God did not also care with His concrete love. “He will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help.” (Ps. 72:12)Cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:7)

Tell God how you feel. Our honest, candid complaint to God leads to a more authentic relationship with Him. Prayer is not about “theological correctness,” but about a real relationship in real life with a real God who really wants to know the real you. Pious words will not fool the One who knows the attitude of our hearts. Thus, Job cried out: I can’t be quiet! I am angry and bitter: I have to speak!’ (Job 7:11)

Take control of your mind. It takes an inner determination and discipline of spirit to take the reins of your mind, speak to your situation, and choose to praise God. The psalmist repetitively did this: “Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God.” (Psalm 42:4, 11; 43:5)

Also See:
Transformation

Holy and Healthy Sex in Marriage: Part 4

David Wever

My guess is that many of you have heard this familiar phrase from your wives at some point in your relationship: ‘You just want sex!’ As men this is often times the main goal or mission we have on our minds even if it is with good intentions. The problem is that our lack of communication may leave our wives feeling that our sexual intimacy is more about getting to the goal rather than truly connecting.

One of the most essential, yet often times least developed facets of sexual intimacy, is communication. Romance and arousal are truly built on this necessary dynamic. Communication is the lubricant in a well oiled machine. Often times we learn as men by our culture or otherwise that talking may get us to sex. The problem though with our talking is that it may just be a vehicle to get our ‘goals’ met without truly connecting in the relationship. We may converse in order to get information or direction towards the goal we are trying to accomplish especially if we have hyper-stimulated ourselves to achieve certain goals in sexual intimacy.

I want to offer a different way of communicating for us as men. It is not the manliest way but it may help to establish connection rather than just completing a mission in sexual intimacy.

This proposed way of communicating is chatting. That’s right, I said it. You might be thinking, ‘But Dave, chatting is something guys just don’t do.’ You’re right! But when a person chats, there is often times not a goal or mission to get somewhere in mind. Instead when most people chat they are usually pretty relaxed and talking about their days or their hearts and thoughts. The main point I want you to catch here is that in your romance or arousal towards healthy, Godly sexual intimacy, sex is not the goal. It is truly connecting that needs to be at the forefront.

Sometimes a paradigm shift in the way we approach communication can help us move towards actually letting ourselves be there in heart and mind and then body. The Songs of Solomon are a beautiful picture of a couple moving toward God’s gift of sexual intimacy and then celebrating their oneness. The small but deeply explicit book on romance and intimacy is filled with conversations and chatting about how they feel about one another. Simply, it is filled with communication leading up to eventual physical intimacy.

One set of verses in particular can be found in Song of Songs 1:15-16, How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves. How handsome you are, my lover! Oh, how charming! And our bed is verdant.’ Here the Lover (the husband) and the Beloved (the wife) are exchanging not only feelings about one another but are expressing and conversing about the heart of their relationship that leads to a verdant or lush place of intimacy in their marriage bed. Their chatting, if you will, goes on throughout the entire book. An exchange of not only passion but of true hearts is shared in a back and forth dialogue.

Is the vibrancy or lushness of your marriage bed rooted routinely in how good the physical component of intimacy is? Or is it founded upon the communication leading to connectedness in the heart?

Communication leads to connection. Ultimately, connection allows communion with one another in celebrating God’s oneness in your hearts. Rebecca and I both do not commune in sexual intimacy unless we feel connected. And the way we feel connected is to talk, to chat, to dialogue and express our hearts not just to gear up our loins. You may be thinking, ‘Well what about spontaneous, ‘quickie’ sex? Is that ok even if we don’t communicate?’ Yes. But I would guess if you go back a day or two, you may find that even that spontaneity may be founded upon safe, understanding, heart felt communication. If not you may be cheating yourselves of the most important part of sex: true connectedness and intimacy from the heart.

Next time you and your wife are feeling aroused, give chatting a try as it leads to further physical intimacy. Ask yourself before the fires of desire are fanned, have I communicated or talked about my day with her? As you rebuild and restore your heart around sexual intimacy ask yourself: Am I communicating? Is the communication we are having leading to connection? And when we commune in physical sexual intimacy do I feel and stay connected emotionally and spiritually?

Remember, your communication is an essential building block to connection and safeness to allow desire to blossom. It is also a building block to physical foreplay in sexual intimacy. We will look further at Holy and Healthy physical foreplay next time in this series.

For more help, join one of our couples groups at our next New Life Weekend.

Grieving Personal Wounds

Bob Parkins

While recently at an Every Man’s Battle conference, the group I was facilitating had been processing the relationship between personal wounds and sexually acting-out. While it is often exciting to watch men reconnect with their hearts and risk vulnerability by sharing painful experiences, I encountered quite a bit of resistance from the group. Men often ask me the purpose of “rehashing” the past, “blaming” one’s parents, or they will give me a monologue on “choices” and “personal responsibility.” Their questions are fair and deserve answers, but to miss the issues behind them is to miss the heart of the man that asks.

Some wounds leave us so deeply injured that even looking at them can be terrifying. We are not only afraid of hurting again but we dread uncovering unknown fear. Sadly, we trade God’s healing touch for the certainty of the mundanely dulled and bruised heart. To us, this can feel better than the dread of having our hearts split open, spilling into our own consciousness or for others to see. But whether we acknowledge it or not, we still bleed from within. This is why our addictions have kept us in bondage for so many years. Willingly and sometimes happily, through acting-out, we turned our backs on our own hearts as they bleed from within. Acknowledging a wounded heart is not “rehashing,” “blaming,” or skirting “responsibility” for our own actions/transgressions. When we acknowledge our woundedness we are taking responsibility for our hearts, and that honors God.

Acknowledgement moves us closer to truly surrendering these wounds to God so He may begin to heal them. God patiently respects our unwillingness to acknowledge wounds, for a while. Fortunately he also loves us enough, that in our unwillingness, he allows crisis to bring us face-to-face with our wounds and our transgressions. For many men struggling with sexual addiction, a crisis of truth may take the form of having one’s transgressions exposed. While this is usually humiliating, I frequently remind couple’s of God’s graciousness and his heart for them. A loving father does not allow his son/daughter to continue in sin indefinitely without confrontation. Being brought to a crisis of truth is an opportunity and chance for redemption. For some, it may not be possible to reconcile a broken marriage, but for many others it is still possible. Regardless of what is lost, a chance is given to reconcile with God and with self. Reconciliation with self can never happen without an honest look at one’s wounds.

Healing wounds can start with resistance. Like any other feeling, resistance can tell you something about yourself. If you feel defensive or resistant about an issue, you may actually be afraid to address it. Your resistance may be telling you to dig deeper and deal with some specifics of an issue. It is not “rehashing,” but addressing the issue or wound. You may have a pattern of acting-out sexually to deal with the wound. If you are taking responsibility for your wound by addressing it honestly, you cannot be “blaming.” God will honor your efforts to take responsibility and will graciously see you through the process of healing your wounds, if you let him (Rom 8:28).

For more help in the battle for purity and integrity see Every Man’s Battle.
If you are married and have attended Every Man’s Battle, we encourage you and your wife to join us at our next New Life Weekend.