I was scheduled to go on a camping trip with my son.
However, the previous several months had been filled with frustrations concerning the ministry. I had asked God to do several things like; cause my church to grow, provide more resources, bring us the right people to perform certain ministries, and so forth. But He just wasn’t answering my prayers the way I thought He should.
By the time my trip with my son was to take place I was thoroughly frustrated with God and His lack of response to what I perceived to be selfless and God-honoring requests. After all, I was His child and a minister. Shouldn’t I get preferential treatment? Weren’t the things I was asking for all for His kingdom’s benefit and His glory? I determined that God needed to be taught a lesson.
So, as I drove away from my house, with my twenty year old son in the front passenger seat, in my mind I walked away from God.
Now, to clarify, I didn’t walk all the way away from Him. I actually only walked about thirty feet away from God. And it seemed that God decided to humor me in all of it. But He had his own lessons to impart.
So in my mind I moved thirty feet to the right of God. But when I did, it seemed, He moved an additional thirty feet away from me. It is one of the most peculiar things that has ever happened to me, and one of the most unusual experiences I have ever had in my ministry or my Christian life. I’m not even sure in writing about it I can help you grasp the conceivability of the experience. But I’ll try.
When I was by the campfire with my son, God was sixty feet away from me. When we were hiking, God was sixty feet to my left. When we were collecting wood, God was keeping His distance. When my son and I were talking, God was a distinct twenty yards removed.
It wasn’t that during that time I started to cuss. I didn’t get drunk or tell dirty stories. I didn’t steal things or do drugs, or talk negatively to my son about God. I didn’t badmouth God for His inattentiveness to my prayers. Nor did I tell my son about the distance I had determined to put between myself and God that week. I did none of that. I was just over here; and He was over there.
But I was making my point, so I thought.
By the time of this event I had been a Christian for fifteen years and in the ministry for more than ten. I had come to know what God’s peace and presence were like. Before I was a Christian it was the emptiness and purposelessness I felt that caused me to seek Him. The reward was peace and the calm assurance I received in knowing I was now a child of God and was heaven-bound. But I had never anticipated what it would feel like to experience the loss of His peace.
I found that while I was throwing my little hissy-fit with God, I had also forfeited the peace I enjoyed with Him in my life. I can’t explain how this happened. It just did. By the time the week was over, I felt so empty and distant from God, I was asking myself, “What were you thinking?”
I returned to Him saying, “Lord, I don’t ever want to be away from you again.”
I wouldn’t advise experimenting with anything like this. Don’t try this at home. I’ve heard of horror stories where people who walked away from God were never able to return to the Lord again, and weren’t able to feel His presence as they had before (Hebrews 6:4-6).
I’m not quite sure why God allowed me to go through this bizarre and yet very real experience, except that He may have anticipated that it would result in teaching moments for those I would lead—say nothing of me appreciating Him more.
There is no peace like God’s peace (John 14:27). Christians should never take it for granted by playing Russian roulette with their walks with God; allowing doubt, or distractions, or anger with Him to bring on the threat of departure from the faith. And unbelievers should run to God to acquire it. You will never know how precious it is until you have experienced it.