I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened the book Distant God by Chris Nye. I was interested in the topic and the preview of the book made it sound worthwhile so I gave it a shot. I’m glad I did! Although I don’t agree with everything in it, overall it’s a pretty helpful book on the topic of God seeming to be far away. This is something Christians think about quite a bit: what it means to be near to God, to feel his presence, to enjoy his close fellowship. Nye does a pretty good job discussing this theme in Distant God.
One part of the book that I thought was helpful was where Nye discussed the reality that God is everywhere (omnipresent); we cannot escape his presence (Ps. 139). Sometimes God does manifest his presence in a more specific way, as in the burning bush and ultimately in his Son (Immanuel, God with us). But when we talk about God being far off, Nye argues, it has to do with our fellowship or relationship to God: “This aspect of being with God in relationship is really what most of us mean when we talk about God’s proximity” (p. 58; emphasis his). Therefore, although God is with us and will never leave us (facts!), sometimes it doesn’t feel like he’s with us because there’s something amiss in the relationship.
I don’t have time or space to discuss the rest of the book, but Nye does go on to mention how prayer and obedience are related to us sensing the nearness of God. When we don’t talk to our spouse for weeks, the relationship suffers. Similarly, if we don’t often talk to God in prayer, the relationship suffers and it’s difficult to feel his nearness because we’re not calling on him. Likewise, if we disobey God and ignore his word, it will negatively affect our relationship with him. We can’t expect to feel God’s loving presence if we’re not listening to him as he speaks to us in his word. “Our actions toward God are tied to our intimacy with God” (p. 67; emphasis his). Nye then takes time to explain how to strengthen our relationship with God through faith, prayer, and obedience (among other things).
Anyway, I could go on, but just let me say this book is worth reading if you want to wrestle more with the feeling or sense that God is distant. This book was quite helpful for me, even though I didn’t agree with everything in it. I appreciated how Nye kept pointing readers to Christ, to the Bible, to prayer, and to Christain obedience.
(Note: I received this book for review purposes and was not compelled to write a positive review.)
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