Nearness to God

Sometimes God can seem very far away.

This is one of the most common “complaints” I hear from the people I work with as a pastoral counselor.  They aren’t estranged from God, they aren’t angry, or hurt, or afraid.  They just feel an absence, a vague detachment, they can’t quite put their finger on.  They want to feel close to that “everlasting love” the Scriptures talk about and they want to feel more supported by those “everlasting arms” that are mentioned.

Maybe that is why one thing that is so compelling about the stories of the patriarchs and matriarchs in the Bible is their “connection” to the Divine.  Sometimes it comes dramatically – some angelic appearance – a burning bush that won’t be consumed.  Sometimes it comes much more subtly – that “still small voice” of a whispering God.  Either way, it comes.  God comes.  Then something powerful takes place.

We long for that connection.  Don’t we?

Well, here are a few ideas about how to help that process along.

It’s not that we can control it.  After all, God is not a big vending machine in the sky – put your coins in and get the number you punch.

No, it is more about making ourselves available, willing, able, in listening and learning mode.

The Psalmist put it this way: “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”

Jesus said this: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”

What both those passages say to me is that being connected to God is closely related to being honest with God and with doing what we can to align ourselves to His purposes for our lives.  We need not be perfect, or holy, or “worthy” but we need to be honest – about who we are, what we need, and how we want to live as God wants us to live.

In other words, we are not to try and fit God into our agenda – but ourselves into God’s.

Here’s one way a number of saints did that.  Their prayer was a simple one: “Here I am God, send me.”

Can you pray that?  Can you allow yourself to be used for great and good purposes?  Can you put your needs and desires second to God’s – whatever they might be?

If so, I imagine God will be more than happy to open up that line of communication.

Then, it’s just a matter of listening – and doing – what you hear.

Who knows – you might even hear God say something like “Follow Me.”



By Paul Simrell

The Reverend Paul W. Simrell has served for over thirty years in a variety of congregational and institutional settings. He is a recognized minister with standing in the Virginia region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and is nationally endorsed by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for specialized ministry in both pastoral counseling and chaplaincy. Ordained in 1982, he has served congregations in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and Virginia. He currently serves as the pastor of Elpis Christian Church, a small, historic congregation located just a few miles west of Richmond, Virginia. Elpis is the Greek word meaning “expectant hope.” He also serves on the associate clinical staff of the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care, Richmond, Virginia, both as a pastoral counselor and a ministerial assessment specialist, specializing in executive, clergy and relationship coaching. He is a graduate of the University of Florida and Lexington Theological Seminary and has done advanced clinical training in chaplaincy and pastoral counseling at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, Children’s Medical Center and Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas and the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care in Richmond, Virginia. He is a Certified Pastoral Counselor, an ACPE Practitioner, and a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. He is a Certified Facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich relationship assessment and skills-building program and served as a volunteer chaplain for over twenty years with the CJW Medical Center campuses in Richmond, Virginia. His avocational interests include playing the piano and drawing. He is very happily married to his wife Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell, a free-lance writer, who is also a Certified Facilitator for the Prepare-Enrich program. Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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