The #1 Reason Sincere Christians Have Trouble Connecting with God
And What to Do About It
I’ve been a sincere Christian for over 40 years and I still consider receiving Jesus as my Lord and Savior as the greatest day of my life. More than ever I am awed by His greatness and continue to learn about the greatness of the salvation He has given us. Every time I open the Bible I see either fresh truths about Him and life or known truths with a deeper understanding.
But even after all these years of growing in Him I still have days where God seems a million miles away. I know He isn’t, I know He’s closer than my breath, but I “feel” like He’s not there.
When I was a young Christian I understood when more mature believers told me developing a relationship with God would take time.
It made sense as they explained to me that learning to have a relationship with a Person I cannot physically see, hear, touch, feel, or smell would take practice. That’s one of the reasons why the first Christian book I ever read (after the Bible) was Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.
That classic little book was filled with powerful lessons and insights teaching things like
#1 Having a relationship with God was doable, no matter how busy or stressed our lives are.
#2 We really could practice God’s presence. We could learn, make mistakes, but still grow in living a life of interactive prayer with God.
#3. Knowing God would have to be a priority, because living in God’s presence, or abiding in Jesus does not happen automatically in the life of a believer. It really does, well, take Practicing the Presence of God.
Over the years I’ve studied and taught many messages on walking with Jesus, but the last few years I’ve been digging deeper into related subjects like: abiding in Christ, the greatness of Christ, barriers to knowing Him, and following Him in His purposes.
In my studies, personal practice, and coaching I’ve seen there are at least 20 barriers that have the potential to keep us from knowing God well. What makes it particularly challenging to recognize is that we deal with different blockages at different times.
For example, some very common connecting with God barriers are:
- Lack of discipline
We all deal with these types of things at some point in our spiritual growth journey. Thankfully, the Bible gives us guidance on how to get past every one of them.
But after all these years I’ve become convinced the biggest barrier, the #1 reason most believers have trouble experiencing God deeply is…..
THE SPIRIT-SIN NATURE CONFLICT
“The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.” (Galatians 5:17 NLT)
“For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the (Holy) Spirit, and the (desires of the) Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other (continually withstanding and in conflict with each other). So that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do.” (Galatians 5:17 AMP)
If you’re alive, you experience this on a regular basis.
On the one hand, you love God and sincerely desire to know Him, experience Him, and do His will. You want to spend time in prayer, you want to study His word and internalize it so you’re thinking, feeling, and acting more and more like Jesus.
On the other hand, we sometimes have little to no desire to do God’s will. We are tempted to do other things when we don’t feel like praying or digging into Scripture. We battle thoughts that “God isn’t going to come through”, “where is God, I don’t feel Him?” or “go ahead and give in to that sin, it will feel so good.”
Most likely you’ve had times where it was easy to pray and study, where you experienced powerful feelings of love or joy or peace in your devotional time. You were seeing powerful truths in the Bible and it seemed God was talking to you consistently, loud and clear. During those times it’s easy to connect with God.
But on other days, it may be a strong internal battle to even open your Bible, let alone receive what God is saying through His word. Worshiping, praising, and thanking God is the last thing you feel like doing sometimes.
If we don’t understand what is happening and learn how to deal with it, then at best, we will have a very inconsistent, roller coaster relationship with Jesus. We will doubt our own sincerity as Jesus followers, which opens the door for Satan, also known as “the Accuser of God’s People” (Revelation 12:10), to hammer us with feelings of guilt, shame, and hopelessness.
Some of his most used tactics are sending destructive thoughts into our minds, like:
“If you really loved God, you wouldn’t keep committing that sin.”
“If you really were a new creation in Christ, you would want to pray and read the Bible.”
“You’re not spending enough time with God; He isn’t pleased with you.”
“If God really loved you He wouldn’t let that happen to you.”
“God isn’t even real, you never experience Him. You’re just making this stuff up.”
“You’ve blown it so badly and so often, God has withdrawn His presence from you and you’ve thrown away His plans for you.”
There really is a conflict happening and, at least in this age, it’s on a regular basis.
I know that’s not great news. Who wants to spend their entire life fighting? Fighting all the time can be exhausting. That is, if we’re fighting in our strength, using our human weapons rather than fighting in God’s strength using His weapons.
The Bible tells us to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” and “put on the full armor of God.” (Ephesians 6:10–17) We are all in a fight, but we fight depending on God’s strength and using His armor. We don’t fight in our very limited and exhaustible strength.
When we learn how to live from God and for God, when we learn how to draw on His strength and use His armor, it changes the entire dynamic. You see God never gets tired, He never needs to sleep, and fighting in His power means we can win these battles without getting worn out.
Not Every Battle is a Big One
Plus, it’s encouraging to know that the intensity of the battles varies greatly. Every battle is not a hard one. Some are pretty easy to win and there are seasons where we are experiencing God in such a powerful way that we hardly even notice them.
Jesus did say that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Galatians 5:22–23 tells us that when we are yielding to the Holy Spirit we experience measures of the very love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control of God Himself.
Since what is born of God is greater and stronger that anything the world or Satan can throw at us, the more we are filled with the Spirit, the more His word becomes part of us, the easier time we will have in defeating the sin and Satan combo and live the abundant life God calls us to.
Reinhard Bonnke often said, “Flies don’t sit on a hot oven.” If we get filled with the life and fire of the Spirit, that in itself will help us defeat our spiritual enemies.
Feelings are BIG
Let me ask you a question:
If the presence of God came powerfully to you each time you prayed, would it be hard to get yourself to pray? If each time you closed the door and opened your heart to God you experienced incredible love, joy, peace, power, and direction, would you have to discipline yourself to spend time with Him?
Not most of the time or not at first. I do not have to discipline myself to eat lasagna. But if I had it every day, then even my beloved lasagna would become a chore to eat.
I actually enjoy some types of working out. I don’t have to discipline myself to do it 90% of the time. But every now and then, I just don’t feel like it, but when I do the workout, I’m glad I did because I feel so much better doing something physical.
Our experience with God can be similar. Often, at conversion or a short time after, we love spending time with God in His word, prayer, worship, or being out in nature with Him.. We feel His nearness, we feel His love, and it’s not much, if any, of a battle to spend time with Him.
But at some point, those overwhelming feelings weaken or stop. We don’t want our God lasagna meal anymore. We just don’t feel like doing that spiritual workout.
We don’t always have powerful feelings when we spend time with God, do we? Our devotions are not always filled with glory and power and insights.
Many times, we “feel” very little; sometimes nothing at all.
If God is the source of real life, if in His presence is the fullness of joy, if He loves us enough to die for us, then why doesn’t He show up “big” each time we make the effort to be alone with Him, to connect with Him?
There are actually several really good reasons, but I’m going to focus here on just a couple of big ones. It’s similar to the same reason He doesn’t just visibly show up and let every person on earth see Him.
We have all heard the famous Russian cosmonaut’s statement about not seeing God when he was in outer space. We’ve all heard atheists say, “If God is real, all He has to do is show Himself.” And as believers, one of greatest longings is to see our beyond imagination gloriously good God.
So why doesn’t God just show Himself? Why doesn’t God fill each of our prayer times with the glory of His amazing presence?
It’s because God wants to develop something incredibly valuable in us that cannot be developed if we have powerful emotional experiences each time we pray or if He lets us see Him.
God is developing the virtue in us that makes the impossible possible. He is building in us the trait by which just about everything in His kingdom operates. He is forming in us His kind of faith and faith is “the evidence of things hoped for, the conviction of things NOT SEEN.” Hebrews 11:1
To develop biblical faith in us we have to go through times where we don’t feel anything or see things changing (for a time). Biblical, God-pleasing, mountain moving faith LEARNS to believe, to receive BEFORE seeing or feeling. (Mark 11:24)
This type of faith does not come naturally to us.
The fallen nature doubts God and His word. How many times did Jesus refer to the people wanting His help, even the apostles, “you of little faith.” The sin nature doubts God, it doubts God’s faithfulness, and it doubts God’s words to us.
Faith in God is the pipeline that brings the resources of heaven to us. Ephesians 1:3 says that God has already given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. The greatest of all blessings is the gift of eternal life, salvation through faith in Jesus.
But that blessing, though freely given over 2,000 years ago, only becomes ours when we believe in Jesus. Faith in the Gospel is what releases the salvation of the Gospel into our lives. Galatians 3 tells us this is how much of God’s resources are released to us: “by hearing with faith.” (Galatians 3:2–5)
Romans 1:17 tells us it is God’s plan that “the righteous man shall live by faith.” God designed us so that we not only receive the gift of eternal life by faith alone, none of our works, but then that our very walk with Him be one of faith in Him. We can actually learn to live every aspect of our lives by faith in God.
The more we learn to live by faith in Him, the more we will experience the power and promises He wants to release in us and through us. This is one of the greatest life of God “releasers” found in Scripture.
This is one of the main reasons God Himself set it up that we don’t have spectacular or overwhelming encounters with Him every time we meet with Him. He wants us to learn the invaluable lessons of living by faith in Him and His words, even when strong feelings are not there..
The Deception We Need to Watch Out For
A few paragraphs after Galatians 5:17–24 teaching us about this Spirit and Sin-nature conflict, Paul writes,
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” (Galatians 6:7–9)
This is a law in God’s kingdom. If we keep sowing to the Spirit AND do not lose heart, then we will reap eternal life. From the context of this passage, we know “eternal life” here doesn’t only refer to the New Heaven and the New Earth. Eternal life starts the moment we receive Jesus, and God wants to impart more and more of His abundant, eternal life into us in this life, in these bodies.
This type of eternal life, those aspects of “the divine nature” 2 Peter 1:3 promises will in “due time” be reaped in this life, IF we do not grow weary. Those times you spend meditating on Scripture, those prayers you have prayed, the service you have provided in Jesus name, will at some point be manifested.
Paul writes, “do not be deceived.” It’s very possible to give in to deception because there is almost always a time gap between sowing and reaping. When a seed is sown, it takes time before we see the plant break through the unseen realm into the visible. When we sow to the Spirit, almost always it takes time before we see it in the visible realm.
The possible deception is, “what I am sowing isn’t doing anything. I will not reap what I sow because nothing changed right away. But that is simply not true, is it? God is not mocked, we will reap what we sow, “in due time.”
Our Inner Timer
We all have an unconscious inner timer as to how long it should take before we see the answer or we experience more of God’s presence. Most of us don’t consciously say, “I’ll believe God’s word for three weeks or three months or three years, but if it doesn’t happen by then, God’s word isn’t true.” We don’t say that, but we often respond that way. At least, I have.
Unfortunately, I have given up at times, when my prayers were not answered as quickly as I thought appropriate. I have stopped believing a specific Bible promise when it looked like things were getting worse, rather than better. Instead of living by faith, I was living by how things looked or how I felt.
But in Jesus, there is no condemnation. I slowly learn these lessons and recognize what is going on. Jesus is teaching me and though I’m not the sharpest guy in the world, my faith is growing and getting stronger.
How do we tell how long our inner timer is set for? Notice when you stop believing.
If we give up, if we stop believing God’s word, if we “lose heart.” If that time gap is longer than expected, it’s possible to give up, to “lose heart” and then not reap the desired result.
But if we understand what is going on. When we realize there is a spiritual battle taking place in our minds and emotions, when we realize that faith is built by learning to believe before feeling or seeing, and that in God’s time we will reap our reward, THEN we can take steps to keep coming to God.
That’s one of the big reasons the stories of persevering faith are in the Bible. Abraham waited over 20 years before God’s promise to him was manifested. Joseph spent over ten years in unjustified slavery and jail, then God fulfilled His promise to him. Moses spent 40 years living in the desert before God fulfilled His promise and plans in his life.
In Jesus Power, We Can Win
Yep, it is sometimes a real battle. We have an enemy who knows that if he can get us to give in to the sin nature and/or if he can get us to give up on God’s word, he can minimize the damage we do to his evil empire. He can side-line us so we don’t live the full plans of God for our lives.
But we can win these battles. Jesus is in us by the Holy Spirit and His word. We can fight the good fight of faith, we can take hold of the eternal life we are called to (1 Timothy 6). We can learn God’s truths and practice His presence.
We can learn to connect with Him, even when we don’t have powerful emotions in our time with Him. We realize what is going on and how God is using even the “dry” times; the times when it seems or feels like nothing is happening to grow His faith and perseverance in us.
We can win the battle as we learn to draw on His authority and power, instead of fighting in our very limited willpower.
Philippians 1:6 Paul wrote these God-given words, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” God is at work in you, He has made a holy commitment to perfect, complete the good work He began in you.
You just need to learn how to cooperate with Him and He will do His perfecting work in your life.
If you want some help in winning this battle, in experiencing God consistently and living out His purposes, please check out the FREE resources and especially the courses and books at www.TruVineMission.com. They are all focused on helping you experience significant growth and improvement in following Jesus and living His purposes for your life.