Summary: Why is that so many people feel like they can't get close to God? And how can I deal with the feeling that God doesn't understand or care about me?
When Elvis Presley died, there were a lot of people who were shocked. In fact, following Elvis’ death, there were a number of young men who idolized him so much that they sought to be like him and to imitate him. One young man, named Dennis Wise, actually had his face surgically altered and had his hair shaped so that he could look exactly like his idol. He learned to play the guitar and even made money appearing onstage as a Presley look-alike. He was interviewed by a newspaper about his desire to be like Elvis, and said this:
“Yes, sir, Presley has been an idol of mine ever since I was five years old. I have every record he ever made -- twice over. I have pictures in the thousands. I have books, magazines, pillows – I even have a couple of books in German and Japanese about him. I even have tree leaves from the front of his house. It was embarrassing to me when I was in school, the kids were always teasing me. When Elvis was wearing white boots, I went out and bought white boots. The kids called them “fruit boots.” Teachers would always send me to the office because my two top buttons (of my shirt) were unbuttoned. I’d button them and then… when no one was looking, I’d UNbutton them again.”
Elvis was his hero. But he says: “I never got to meet Elvis Presley. I saw him on the stage four times. Once I tried to run up to the stage and once I stood on the wall of [the Presley mansion] and tried to see him. For 12 hours I stood there trying to get a glimpse of him. But he had so many people around him that I could never get close to him.” (from a sermon by Ray Stedman April 7, 1985)
The tragic element of Dennis Wise’s story were those words: “I could never get close to him.”
There are people who say the same thing about God. They don’t feel they can get close to Him. God seems distant and uncaring. They feel like He doesn’t care… that He doesn’t understand them. And because of that, there are times when people just want to cry out like David did: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” Psalm 22:1-2
In that Psalm you can almost hear David saying: “Don’t You care? Don’t I matter to You? Why aren’t You listening to me?”
Almost every Christian has experienced times when they don’t feel like they just can’t get close to God. Times when God seems distant and almost… uncaring. Times when it doesn’t seem we matter to Him.
And the Bible is filled with stories of people who struggled with feelings just like those. People who faced overwhelming odds… or impossible circumstances, and it seemed that God wasn’t there for them. People like David, Moses, Jeremiah, Job, Elijah… and others. They all had times when God seemed distant. They all struggled with feelings that God wasn’t there, or even care. That God didn’t understand them.
And it seems that many Christians face those emotions. It’s at times like that … that we sense our weaknesses and shortcomings. Our need for God. We wish God would… just do something! But when we can’t see Him do that something, many people struggle in their faith.
One of the most intriguing parts of the Bible to me is the story of Joseph. Joseph was one of 12 sons of the Jacob. But his brothers were jealous of Joseph because their dad loved him best and even gave him a beautiful coat as a gift. Not only that, God seemed to love Joseph more as well - and gave Joseph 2 dreams that essentially said that Joseph’s brothers would (one day) all bow down to him.
That didn’t go over real well.
So, when the day came that the brothers could get Joseph off by himself they beat him up, threw him in a pit and intended to murder him. But then some slave traders came by… and so they sold him for 20 shekels silver.
Then we read these words: Joseph ended up as a slave in a land days away from his home, betrayed by his brothers, and being unable to see his family again for the next 13 years. The Bible tells us:
“Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. THE LORD WAS WITH JOSEPH, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master.