Steve Wright, M.A.
“I just don’t feel God anymore!” The woman sitting across from me spoke with intense angst and ache in her voice. “God is everything to me. Now I feel so distant from Him. But what’s worse is I can’t feel Him.”
This woman, who we’ll call Sarah for the sake of anonymity, explained that she had been so close to God and experienced so much acceptance and love from Him. Sarah believed as a young woman and spent much of her life reading scripture, participating in church and engaging in spiritual disciplines like prayer and bible study at her church.
Then, tragedy struck. Her husband was killed in an auto accident. There she was, in her early 30s, forced to cope with the pain and grief of her loss. After the first outpouring of compassion from the people in her life, including her church family, she slowly began to withdraw. The impact of her grief led her to isolate herself. It began by wanting to be alone because being around people who cared reminded her of her pain and loss, and she wanted to avoid those feelings at all cost.
One year went by, then two. She attended church less and less. She avoided talking to anyone who knew her and her husband. In fact, she avoided talking to just about everyone. Three years after the accident, almost utterly alone, she still refused to allow herself to feel the pain of that loss. She was doing everything she could to not feel the hurt at all.
Sarah’s only real human contact was her parents. They would check on her weekly. Their concern was deep, but they didn’t know what to do. They started bringing food to her and she grew more and more isolated. One night, Sarah had had enough of her miserable existence and, after her parents left for the evening, she took a handful of pills. What saved her that night was her father who had absent-mindedly left something at her house.
Now, after a short stay in the hospital, Sarah was sitting across from me telling me how empty she felt and how much she missed feeling God. What I told Sarah is something I have told others and even experienced myself.
“Sarah, you have spent so much time trying to avoid your painful feelings, your grief and your heartache that you have gotten really good at not feeling at all. But, in your avoidance of your pain, you have experienced the unfortunate result of being unable to feel any emotion. I would be surprised if you did feel God’s presence at this point. Having shut out all emotions, you would not be able to experience God’s love, peace, warmth, or His comfort. Your way back to enjoying the felt presence of God is to allow yourself to feel again.”
Perhaps you, too, are wondering why you don’t feel God’s presence in your life right now. Is it possible, like Sarah, you have shut yourself off from your emotions in order to not feel? The way back to the experience of God’s presence is to finally embrace the pain you have been avoiding. I know God has been waiting all along to walk with you through that valley. Because He is faithful and good, He will bring you through to the other side. You can feel Him again.
Steve Wright, M.A., is a therapist at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center located in the Chicago area. He served for more than 25 years as a minister working in churches with youth, families, and as a senior pastor. As a counselor, he worked in residential treatment as a therapist, supervisor, coordinator, and program director first in the substance abuse field and then in the eating disorder discipline. Steve holds a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies from Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, as well as a Master of Arts in Teaching from Olivet University and a Master of Arts in Community Counseling from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology in Chicago.