Most of us experience from time to time that God seems distant. Here we do not consider the distance that may come from mortal sin, but simply that distance of which the psalmist says, Why do you hide your face O Lord? (e.g. Ps 44:24, inter al).
Recently I came across a dialogue from an unknown source wherein a monk speaks to a saintly and wise abbot about his struggle to experience God, about the fact that God seems distant:
Speaking to the Master, the Monk said, “So what does one do about the distance?”
“Understand that it isn’t there.” Said the Master.
“Does that mean that God and I are one?” Asked the puzzled Monk.
“Not one. Not two.” Said Father Abbot.
“How is that possible?” Replied the disciple.
And looking at him, the master replied:
“The sun and its light,
the ocean and the wave,
the singer and his song -
–not one….Not two.”
One of the great balances to find in theology is the balance between the transcendence of God and the immanence of God. For God is utterly above and beyond what he has created and this is His transcendence. And yet, at the same time He is profoundly, immediately and intimately present to all he has made. He is not just the author and foundation of all things, he is being itself, and nothing has being apart from him. And this we call his immanence.
And thus, when we speak of God being “distant” we can speak only in a metaphorical or psychological sense. But the fact is, God is NOT distant. He is more present to us than we are to ourselves. And thus, distance is a human problem, not a divine one.
True spirituality and true healing come from being increasingly in touch with reality. And the reality is that the distance we experience isn’t really there. The reality is that God is profoundly, absolutely, and powerfully present to all that has being. And if He ever were to become “distant,” that from which he became distant, would cease to be at all. God is being itself, and to have being is ipso facto to be profoundly present to God.
So when God “seems distant” realize that the distance isn’t really there. Stay in touch with reality and remember that every fiber of your being is present to God, held and sustained by Him and that your being is caught up in Him who is being itself.
Scripture says of Jesus He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Col 1:17).
St Augustine also says, You (O Lord) were with me, but I was not with You. [Created] things kept me far from You, which, unless they were in You, were not. You called, and cried aloud, and forced open my deafness. You gleam and shine, and chase away my blindness. You exhaled fragrance, and I drew in my breath and do long after You. I tasted, and do hunger and thirst. You touched me, and I burned for Your peace. (Confessions, 10.27)
The distance isn’t there.