We’ve all been there—at that place where we feel like God is far away. For whatever reason, our relationship with the Lord seems strained, cold, even severed. We know we need spiritual refreshment, but we’re blocked by a wall that seems too high to cross and too wide to get around.
During a time when I was aware of my own distance from God, the Holy Spirit spoke to me through Hebrews 4:16: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
I realized that there are two main reasons why Christians don’t approach God: guilt and apathy. Ironically, these are the two reasons why God says we should approach Him. Hebrews 4:16 speaks directly to both our sinfulness and our shortcomings.
Problem #1: Guilt
Nothing deadens our affection for God like lingering guilt. Because we’re sinners, we do—and should—sense the reality that we have missed the mark and failed to glorify God as we ought. The problem comes when we respond to the guilt improperly.
Often, we think our sin is too great to be forgiven. Or maybe it’s a habitual sin that we feel guilty for having to confess for the umpteenth time. Whatever the case, it’s easy to think we can’t approach God because our performance isn’t up to par.
Suddenly, we’re doing what we tell unbelievers to not do: clean themselves up before getting right with God. Ignoring our own advice, we wait on the outskirts of God’s presence, wondering how we can make ourselves worthy to approach Him again.
Solution to Guilt: Mercy
We can approach God’s throne boldly, even in our sin, because it is there where we find forgiveness. The mercy of God speaks comfort to a soul burdened by the weight of its guilt. Though our sins have tarnished our reputation beyond human repair, God has cast our sins as far as East is from West (Ps. 103:12). We may obtain mercy, not by earning it, but by receiving it freely. If God did not spare His Son on our behalf, how could He not freely bestow the mercy Christ’s sacrifice secured (Rom. 8:32)?
Problem #2: Apathy
No one feels constantly on fire for God. We all experience spells of spiritual numbness. We lack an inclination to pursue God through prayer and Bible study. We know that God is great and glorious, but we just don’t desire to fellowship with Him.
Apathy toward God is concerning. Even when we’re strongly aware of our lack of desire for God, we often don’t care about our apathy. If anything, our awareness leads to a heightened sense Problem #1: guilt. It’s hard to seek God when you don’t even want to.
Solution to Apathy: Grace
We can approach God’s throne boldly because it is there where we find grace to help increase our affections for the Savior. God knows we can’t conjure up feelings for Him on our own. When we face a “time of need” for spiritual fervor, His grace is the very source of that fervor: “for it is God who works in you both to will [desire] and to do [ability] for His good pleasure” (Philip. 2:13). His grace gives us the power to desire and delight in Him.
So, let’s not let guilt or apathy keep us from the only one who can successfully deal with both. With mercy and grace flowing toward us from our Father’s throne, let us press in to know Him. He promises to pardon our sin and give us the help we need.