If you’ve been a Christian for more than a day, God has seemed distant. What I’ve learned over the years of walking with Jesus (and I’m still learning, of course) is that the the emotions we feel when God seems distant are signals that God wants to do something important in our lives. What in the world does God want to do when we think he’s so far away? Among other things, he’s training us to ask, “In these seasons, what kind of God do I want? A god I can control? Or a God who is in control?” Second, he’s training us to hunger for him. Just him. When God seems distant, we long for him more than ever. There’s probably a thousand other things. But those are two big things.
When God seems distant, he’s teaching us what we can only learn through experience. And, in that way, these times are a gift. Backwards as it seems.
Of course, what we come to see in the gospel is that Jesus is really the only one who has actually been abandoned by God. On the cross, what you and I sometimes feel, Jesus actually endured. God really left him alone. Why? So that you and I would never have to actually be alone.
The miracle of Christmas is “God with us.” The miracle of the Passion is that the One who is “God with Us” was abandoned by God so we would forever have God with us. You can’t make this up.
So what about the times we feel like God is incredibly distant, even when we know intellectually and theologically he is not distant? In those times, God is giving us a gift, backwards as it seems. We are being made more like Jesus. He’s saying to you and me in those moments, “I have been there. I’ve been to hell and back. When you feel God is distant, like he’s abandoned you, he’s not. My Father—your Father—is preparing you for resurrection.”