This week I went on a mini holiday with some family friends. We were a few hours drive away from home and living in a little village, small enough to be excited about seeing a Tesco Express on the “High Street” and big enough to see fellow shoppers at the checkout that weren’t our neighbours. Aside from Britain’s usual performance of really bad weather, there was just one issue that affected us all, and made us feel like our drive to the coast was really a twenty-hour plane ride that had deposited us half way around the world.
Issue and first world problem: we had no phone signal.
I know what you’re thinking:
There are bigger problems, at least you were on holiday.
The whole point of being on holiday is that you get away from your normal life and that includes your friends.
All of the above are true, but it didn’t stop me from spending hours trying new positions to place my phone by the window, and spending every moment in the world outside the house having conversations with the people that I missed. No, this whole post isn’t about my need to be in constant communication with my friends, what this week taught me is that if maintaining a long distance relationship with a loved one is hard, maintaining one with God is near on impossible, here’s why:
1. Feeling far away stops you from searching for ways to be close.
When I first arrived I thought the signal difficulties might be temporary. Is it just me or does your phone struggle to find signal when it’s in a new environment? Sometimes I go somewhere new (which is in all honesty very rarely since I’ve adopted this old age lifestyle that consists of never stepping outside my flat) and just when I want to call my network provider at the annoying lack of signal, my phone jumps back into life and gives me a strong enough phone connection to send SnapChats. Unfortunately this wasn’t going to be the case this week. As I walked around the holiday home, wondering why my phone wasn’t responding it soon set in, how far away I was from being able to contact anyone and after a while I stopped looking for possible pockets of phone connection with the same enthusiasm. Calling people had become a myth and after successfully letting my family know I was alive and well, conversations had to be high on the importance scale for me to attempt dialling. This may have worked for the week but this is an unacceptable attitude for us to have with God. We can’t allow ourselves to stop seeking him after we’ve searched for a while and still don’t ‘feel’ him.
When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me available to you. If you seek me with all your heart and soul, I will make myself available to you,’ says The Lord. Jeremiah 29:13-14.
The bible says that when we seek God, we will find him, and we have to hold onto that when we feel like we’ve been looking for a while. Unlike phone signal that might never reveal itself, God is more reliable than any network provider and if you feel distance don’t stop seeking to be close. All God wants from us is a relationship like no other in which love for him and devotion to serve him fills every crevice of our hearts. That kind of love is going to take pursuit so don’t give up when you don’t feel like God is near.
2. You won’t ever find a replacement for God on the holidays you take from him.
In life we’re used to having options. You can go on holiday and replace your entire friendship group with the friends you’ve made abroad. In fact, long distance relationships are a good get-out clause for those looking to escape the relationships they’re in as they play the long-game which eventually results in growing apart from the people they are in relationships with. We, however, are in no position to do the same with God. We can decide to distance ourselves and only communicate with God when we need something from him, but when we come to the realisation that we need God in our lives, it’s the same God that we ran away from, that we’ll be running back to. The mere thought of running back in that prodigal son fashion can deter us from taking the first steps so why make things difficult for ourselves in the first place? In the presence of God is where we ultimately want to be, so if we stay close, the less time we spend umming and ahhing about how we’re going to reduce the distance that we’ve created.
3. God wants to be close to you
This is what Christ says to us:
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me – and I in him – bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing. -John 15:4-5
We don’t like to feel like we need anybody but having God in our lives is a need we can’t flee from. Whenever I get depressed and start questioning life and my purpose of waking up that day it’s because I’ve decided to walk a few paces from the presence of God. I can hold my hands up to saying I need Christ to function, and if you know you do too, then remaining in him seems like the best thing to do.
Remaining in God makes sense. I used to be a yo-yo kind of Christian. I was with God part-time but always slipped in and out of living for him because I still wanted to satisfy all the sinful desires I had. The turning point for me was when I got tired of making that journey to return. I knew I could stop feeling conflicted if I simply served God full time and stopped trying to maintain a long-distance relationship. To everyone who feels how I felt last week, sitting by the window trying to figure out which way I could place my phone in order to make contact with the people I felt far away from, know that God will always welcome you with open arms. Fortunately with him you don’t have to wait for signal to come through, a simple ‘sorry Jesus’ and turning your heart back to him brings you right back to your Heavenly Father. Don’t um and ah, return today, because long distance relationships with God are doomed to fail.