I think many people in the Christian life find themselves at points feeling far away from God. They’ve trusted him at the outset of their Christian life. They profess faith in Christ. They are members of the church. And then one day they wake up and they realize how far away they have grown from the one who loved them from before the foundation of the world. And they ask themselves the question: “How did I get here, and how do I get back?”
And I think it always starts with going back to Jesus and his grace to us to begin with. There’s nothing better in this world than Jesus. And you can’t get far away from God without thinking there’s something better in this world than Jesus or that there’s something that you lack in this world that has robbed for you the joy that only Jesus can give. So going back to Jesus again and realizing again the fullness of him who fills all in all is at the heart of becoming close to the Lord again. And of course that means realizing his grace to you. And then recognizing afresh the enormity of Christ’s mercy to us.
It also involves getting back to the Word. There are not many people that can grow far from God while being in the Word daily. And it’s going to mean going back to the Word and getting back into the Word. By the way, I would suggest if you’ve been out of the Word, go back to the Psalms because the psalmist so often wrestles with this sense of being far from God. And he’ll give you the words that you need when you don’t have them in your own heart to express the yearnings and the unfulfilled longings of your heart to God.
The ordinary means of grace that are meant to bring us to faith and are meant to build us up in the Christian life are also there to bring us back to God again.And then it’ll remind you that God already knows this. God has dealt with those things in his people for thousands of years. You are not the only person to ever go through what you’re going through right now. Suddenly you’ll realize that in the psalmist you have a compatriot, someone who knows what it’s like to live in your shoes, and that God already knows how to deal with his heart and so he knows how to deal with yours. So I’d say get back into the Word and maybe start with the Psalms.
Then of course the other thing that you have to do along with this is prayer because again people don’t grow apart from God and then go a long time without realizing that they’re not walking closely with God while walking with God in prayer. Usually our prayer life is the first thing to go. I find that people will continue to read the Bible long after they’ve stopped praying. And then at some point they just stop reading the Bible.
I would say one more thing. The ordinary means of grace that are meant to bring us to faith and are meant to build us up in the Christian life are also there to bring us back to God again. So it’s in the context of the people of God where his Word is read and preached, where the sacraments are rightly and biblically administered, and where prayer is offered together congregationally that God intends to bring us back to him. So often God brings that realization to us again that we are he is and he is ours in the context of the people of God under the ordinary means of grace.
That’s what I would say to someone who feels as if you’re walking apart from God, and you want to go back but you don’t know how. Go back to Jesus in his grace. Go back to the Word, to the Bible, the Scriptures. Go back to prayer, and then gather with the people of God and just ask God to reveal himself to you again in his Word in the congregation.