A friend emailed me recently sharing some thoughts and struggles; here was a brief reply on continuing to grow in grace:
"Yes, the pain of sanctification is always worth going through whatever our Heavenly Father deems to be necessary;
It is right to pray always for an increased sense of God's presence; David surely did pray that way, and yet we also are not to trust our feelings and emotions, which come and go often like the weather;
Yes, I do feel emotionally at times that the Lord is not near; but there is NEVER a great gulf between He and us; IN CHRIST, we are always accepted, always near, and always the delight of His heart; we cannot be closer that we are in reality as to our position and standing before Him; but the sense of His presence and of His near presence does vary; the reality is that only sin can break our fellowship and when we sin, all we need do is confess (agree with God about it) and thank the Lord Jesus that it was already paid for at the cross and come to Him freely and genuinely; we must remember that sin is never, ever credited to our life or account even once; this is the glory of our justification.
When I feel the way you have mentioned, what do I do? I walk by faith alone, trusting in His wonderful promises; and I plead those promises in prayer and believe them; I feed on the Word daily and believe what God has said in it, whether I see or feel the promises to be true; I cry out in my weakness and neediness for grace to help me through; He is faithful and cannot fail His weakest children; faithful is He who called you.
We do not see first in order for the promises to become real; we believe what God has said and then we trust Him to perform it in our experience; the more we feed on the Word- really feed on it as our daily nourishment-- the more our hearts will know Him and the more we will have a heart that beats for His majesty.
As we long for Him and His purposes, He will give us the desires of our heart-- desires for Him more and more; We must ever be brought back to the truth that it is His will to make us into the image of His Son and this purpose cannot be thwarted; it is predestined-- being confident, Paul said, that He who has begun a good work in you, will complete it until the very day of Jesus Christ; God is always at work in us to will AND to do of His good pleasure; faithful is He who called you, who also will do it. So our growth and our sanctification are the work of God the Holy Spirit; it is always a matter of trusting Him for it all;
You might want also to get a couple of good books; Sinclair Ferguson's The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction by Banner of Truth Trust and then Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the Sermon on the Mount; these are wonderful books for growth;
Also be always reading such men as John Piper, R. C. Sproul, A. W. Tozer, E. M. Bounds, Leonard Ravenhill, Lloyd-Jones, Spurgeon, John Bunyan, J. C. Ryle, Ferguson, Iain Murray; they are among some of the best authors ever;
Your attempts to draw near are never futile; He always sees and responds to a hungry and humble heart that feels needy; don't trust your feelings- trust Christ alone-- he is unchanging toward us always- 1 Jn. 5- "And this is the confidence we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He is hearing us; and if we know that He is hearing us, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him."
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of reading several chapters daily- as many as you can do with your schedule-- and meditate upon them; pray first, then read for the purpose of feeding your soul on your Father's words; when something speaks to you, stop and pray it; write cross references in the margins and ask Him to make His word a delight to you; He will.
If you can discipline yourself to read at least 1- 1/2 hours per day just in the Word, it will make all the difference in your spiritual life; I read 6 chapters in the Old and 6 in the New Testament every day; divide it up and do it systematically; if you can't do that much, then do 4 & 4 or whatever you can consistently; the benefits, encouragement, strength, the knowledge of God, the timely truths, and help that will come cannot be exagerrated.
Dear brother, please stay in touch; I want to be any encouragement I possibly can.
Your brother and friend,