As a spiritual formation director, I get questions from church members frequently. They usually want to know how to understand the Bible or how to establish a rhythm of prayer. One of the questions I hear most often, especially from young people, is how to grow closer to God.
“I feel so far from God.”
“How can I get closer to God?”
“God feels so far away. What am I doing wrong?”
I appreciate the heart behind the questions. When young people have this concern it’s because they are considering how to live out their faith. They feel a disconnect between what they believe and how they feel or how they’re behaving. They are looking for a spiritual realignment. As mentors, student pastors, and youth workers we can help them get back into alignment by pointing them to the truth that God is always near.
I remember being a teenager and struggling with feelings of disconnect. I remember thinking that I must not be living out my faith to the fullest if I couldn’t feel God near to me. I remember feeling defeated and worn out.
As an adult with some life experience behind me I’ve realized what young people really need to hear when they ask these questions is that God is always near. The more I speak with teens (and Gen Z in particular), the more I realize that encouragement is what they really need. There are many voices trying to speak into their lives—trying to tell them who they are and who they should be. As ministry leaders and parents, let’s be safe places of rest and truth—people they can count on to remind them of how loved they are.
When young people come to us asking, “Why does God feel so far away?”, let’s offer them these four answers:
- The truth is not defined by your feelings. When teens come to me with their concerns, the words that jump out at me are, “I feel far from God.” But just because you feel that God is far away doesn’t make it true. We all need to be reminded of the truth that God is always near. That Jesus is “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). That the Holy Spirit resides within us (1 Corinthians 6:19). God is not far. God is very much present in our lives.
- You are loved despite how you feel. Again, just because God “feels” far away, doesn’t mean that God has rejected you in some way. Silence can feel like rejection, but we can have confidence that God is always at work even when we can’t detect spiritual activity in our lives. Remind the young people in your life that they are loved.
- You don’t have to do more to feel more of God’s presence. Instead, you can rest. Settle into your being. Turn down the volume of the noise around you and spend regular time in silence—even if only for a few minutes. Encourage your teen with the story of Elijah hearing from God in 1 Kings 19:11-13: God’s voice wasn’t in the mighty earthquake or the forceful winds. God’s voice was a soft whisper.
- Growing “closer” to God and growing in your faith are not the same. Again, we don’t need to “grow closer” to God because God is always near. But we can grow in our faith—this is called discipleship. We grow in our faith by practicing spiritual rhythms such as reading the Bible, praying, serving, and worshiping in community. As we grow in our faith, we will begin to notice God’s presence more and more.
Tweet this: Teens feel a disconnect between what they believe and how they feel or how they’re behaving. They are looking for a spiritual realignment. When teens in your ministry are wondering how to grow closer to God, here are 4 answers you can give them.
When life gives your teens more questions than answers
Life’s full of so many questions. But good answers can be hard to come by, especially when you’re a teenager. This book will help teens embrace the 3 big questions underneath the rest, then take next steps in their journey toward faith-filled answers.
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