When You Feel Far From God
This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.—Ephesians 3:6
Son, at some point, we are all going to feel a little far from God. We will. This will happen in some season of your spiritual life, and these moments we will feel alone, lonely, and uncertain.
This year has been one of those years for me. I, like many men, have felt this increasing distance with God. Covid has created so much separation and division that I feel lonely somedays. I used to travel, hang with men, visit groups, speak at events, and now most days, my days are just like yours. I get up, shower, walk to the office, do some administrative work, write, have online meetings all day, and then walk back down the hall to bed. I have tried to keep the spirits high by sheer positive talk, but I feel like a huge part of my work, and recreational life is missing.
And what I am experiencing is nothing compared to what some men have experienced.
Some have lost jobs, careers, and income. Some have gone through marital challenges, failure, and divorce. Some have been deathly ill or have loved ones who died. We have also been exposed to a world that is divided and polarized by news, politics, economics, and health issues. And places we used to go to get away from this all, like the church, are now just reminders of our world's division.
For some men, this is driving them to God, and still, for others, this is causing them to feel far from God.
Yet this is why chapter three of Ephesians is so critical. In this chapter, and actually in this entire book, Paul is fighting for those who feel far. He is presenting a compelling case for why God loves those who are far off. Specifically, he addresses non-Jewish believers that some Jewish believers would not legitimize, thus who were made to feel far off. So if you have ever felt far from God, this chapter is the chapter for you.
Here are two things Paul communicates to these people made to feel far off.
First | You Are an Heir
Recently I was reading a story about a wealthy entrepreneur that died. After his death, he invited his entire family to a reading of his last will. As the lawyer was reading, they came to discover that he changed his will and left his entire inheritance and estate to a young girl that attended to him in the last years of his life. When no one else was there for him, this young girl cared for and attended to him, and thus he left her everything. Can you imagine that? A windfall for a young lady who was not expecting it, and she was treated as a close child.
Well, that's what Paul is suggesting in this chapter. He is clarifying that we are that heir: us, the people who were once far off. But in the book of Ephesians, he's explicitly referencing a group of people called Gentiles. Now this designation was a general term used to define any one of a non-Jewish heritage. And in this letter, Paul is presenting the case that every one of non-Jewish origin that at one time was not a rightful heir to God is now an heir. They are heirs of the inheritance and riches of God.
Listen to what he says in verses 6-8:
This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. — Ephesians 3:6-8
When I read this, I feel like Paul is defending me that he is defending the simple fact that someone is trying to disqualify me from receiving my inheritance. That there are opponents excluding me from knowing or experiencing the inheritance that God has for me.
But here's the deal. The riches of God's inheritance have already been given. That's a fact. The reason we often feel far from God is not that God is far from us. Nothing is further from the truth. God has already come close in his Son and lives within us in the Spirit. What convinces us today that we are far from God is ourselves and the voice of self-disqualification. We are our own worst enemy and believe the lie—that God is far from us.
I have seen evidence of this in every Christian man. We can even know this truth, but when we encounter challenges, obstacles, or even our failings, we will convince ourselves that we are no longer heirs of the inheritance because of these events. That God has somehow taken them away, and thus removed us as heirs. But it's here that Paul accents something so important when we feel far.
Paul shows us how to rediscover the closeness we long for.
Second | Come Close by Knowing His Riches
Listen to this statement from Paul:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.—Ephesians 3:14-19
When I feel far from God, I have discovered that what I long for more than anything is to be loved. And God's love is limitless to those of us who are heirs. While we try to talk ourselves out of this, Paul here is literally on his knees, praying for our strength and that we may comprehend and know his love surpasses our voice of self-disqualification. That we would know God's love and be filled with this love.
When you were very young, I remember putting you to bed at night. And you were insistent that I lie with you till you were entirely asleep. While I tried to be sneaky about my departure, you could sense when I was about to slip out, and you would grab for me. I can remember, on many occasions, unsuccessfully trying to slip out from under the covers. And all you wanted from me at that moment was closeness. To fall to sleep next to a loving and protecting father (that's me by the way).
And that's our God. But for some reason, the voice of self-disqualification wants to convince us he's going to slip out of the room. And this is not the case at all.
These verses here are the truth. They are the fact. God has come close. God remains close. God's love has a grip on you. And your untrue and disqualifying thoughts do not have an impact on this inheritance.
Here's your challenge.
Stop disputing God's, indisputable love.
Just stop it. Let God love you. Let him snuggle up right next to you. As Paul said, "know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."
So today, maybe say this out loud:
"God, you said you love me. You showed me you love me. You have come close to love me. Help me to stop disputing your indisputable love."
I love you, son—it's indisputable.
Vince Miller is an author and speaker to men around the world on topics that include manhood, masculinity, fatherhood, mentorship, and leadership. He has authored 18 different books for men and is hosted on major video platforms like RightNow Media and Faithlife TV. He hosts a weekly podcast, writes weekly articles, and provides daily thoughts from God's Word all just for men. He is a 27-year ministry veteran and the founder of Resolute a Men's Ministry Platform that provides bible studies aimed at building better men found at www.beresolute.org. See his latest book and small group study Called to Act: 5 Uncomplicated Disciplines for Men.