Jerry Duncan

Jerry N. Duncan, Ph.D., ABPP

If you have ever been presented with a clear explanation of how God pursues us, you were introduced to the concept of how our resistance to trusting God creates a distance between Him and us.

You were probably then told that God’s solution to that distance was His son’s death in our place. Someone had to die for our disobedience and distance. He did.

Hopefully, it was also explained to you that understanding these facts alone didn’t change much. You were given the opportunity to act on the facts by talking to God directly, inviting Him to come into your life and change you as you committed to follow Him.

The consequence of this act on your part was a promise from God that He would come into your life and start the change process. It is a process, by the way. It takes time.

In the midst of this change process, we will still make mistakes and wrong choices. How are we to think about these acts of selfishness or disobedience to God’s best intentions for us?

Some would say that these acts create a new distance between us and God that can only be rectified with acknowledging our wrong to God, turning away from it with His help, and thus regaining our closeness to Him. What do you think?

I am concerned about an interpretation of Scripture that suggests that we can lose our closeness to God. We can feel or perceive a distance from God that is not real distance at all.

The first certainty we must develop is the fact that He literally comes to live inside us when He is invited. He said so: “ Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in…” (Revelation 3:20).

Secondly, we must remember what He said about His commitment to stay: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

As we understand that He literally lives within us and has promised to never leave, what sense do we make of our feelings of distance?

Our feelings are primarily determined by our belief system and our self-talk. If we are not telling ourselves the truth about His permanent presence, we will find ourselves feeling distant.

Sometimes our feelings of distance come from not understanding the difference between guilt and conviction. Feelings of guilt and shame can make us feel unworthy of a close relationship with God. For believers, guilt never comes from God. Guilt implies a debt owed for wrong done. Those who have trusted God for their forgiveness have no more debt to pay — ever.

Conviction does come from God. Conviction is God’s loving prompting from within saying, “What you just did is wrong. It will, or has hurt you or someone else I love. Let me help you with that. I can meet the same need for you in a healthier way.” Conviction is designed to help us. Pay attention to it. and remember, guilt never comes from God.

Since God has said that when He is invited into our lives, He does come in and never leaves, we cannot be any more distant from Him than we are our own beating hearts. We have to know and practice the truth in our thinking. The feelings will follow.

 

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