Persons who come to counseling, especially Christians, often present with concerns about their relationships with God. Many clinicians have noted that alienation or estrangement from God is a common concern even among persons with conservative theological beliefs. They may say things like “I know God loves me, but I don’t feel like it.” Little is currently known about factors which may cause or predict such feelings. The present study explored factors which predict estrangement from God. Results indicated that estrangement from God is more likely among clients than among students. Estrangement from God can be strongly predicted by the absence of a personal profession of Christian faith, self report of having been harmed by a church, low capacity for empathic concern for others, difficulty forgiving others, difficulty obtaining spiritual resources, and seldom engaging in prayer for others. Among Christians all but the first factor may be helpful in identifying those who experience estrangement from God. Therapists can encourage clients to pray for, forgive, and develop empathy for others, help clients to access spiritual resources, and help them to resolve issues of harm by a church. These strategies may enhance their closeness to God.
Bufford, Rodger K. and Wurtz, Kathryn, "Predicting Estrangement from God Among Christians: Preliminary Findings and Practice Implications" (1997). Faculty Publications - Grad School of Clinical Psychology. 48.