Nearness to God and Public Worship (Nye)

There are times in the Christian life when it seems like God is far away, when it doesn’t feel like the Lord is near. We know Jesus promised to be with us always, but sometimes it just doesn’t seem that way. To be sure, God’s people throughout history have experienced this. More than a few Psalms contain prayers of anguish like those in Psalm 13:1, “How long, LORD, will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (NIV).

Sometimes we don’t know why the Lord seems far away. Sometimes the Lord seems far away because we’ve wandered from him or sinned against him. Whatever the case, when God seems distant we certainly need to pray to him, read his Word, and keep doing our Christian best to trust and obey him through it. When God seems distant, we must also continue to regularly join the other people of God in public worship. We cannot expect to experience the presence and nearness of God if we forsake the assembly where he speaks to his people! Skipping out on worship during those times in life when God feels far away will only make things worse. Here’s how Chris Nye explained this:

“If we desire to live close to God, we cannot ignore His family…. ‘Going to church’ is not the best description of what we’re actually doing. We are joining with brothers and sisters from all walks of life to hear God’s word, worship His great name, and practice humility together. We may fancy ourselves a better person than the pastor, but hopefully in attending church regularly the Spirit would work that pride out. We may not love the music, but in time He will teach us what the American church must learn: worship, by its very nature, is not about us at all.”

“Church attendance grows us, humbles us, and shapes us because we hear God’s word, worship, and partake in His supper…. Missing church isn’t just missing a sermon, it is missing an opportunity to rehear the gospel in a variety of formats, whether it be through music, prayer, preaching, communion, or a neighbor.”

Chris Nye, Distant God, p 131-132.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54105

When God Seems Far Away (Nye)

Distant God: Why He Feels Far Away...And What We Can Do About It by [Chris Nye] 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.

Chris Nye, Distant God (Chicago: Moody, 2016).

(Note: I received this book for review purposes and was not compelled to write a positive review.)

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015