Friday, July 25, 2014

6 Things To Remember When God Seems Distant

This post is also posted in the Gospel Blog by FEBC.

With my eyes half opened, I looked at the outline of my outstretched hands under the glaring spotlight above the stage. I took a quick glance around me, my eyes now fully opened, surrounded by hundreds of my peers  hands up high and fully abandoned in worship. I locked eyes with another wandering student across the sweaty room. Ashamed, I immediately looked away, shut my eyes, and bowed my head in prayer. But no matter how much I prayed that I would feel God’s presence that night, I felt limp and lifeless instead — a sharp contrast with the electric praise that filled the four walls of my Christian University’s gym.

For the majority of my Christian walk, I have learned to associate God’s presence – or lack thereof – with my feelings. I knew that God was with me in the moments that my heart felt warm and comforted. But when I felt nothing, which has happened a lot more than I’d like to admit, I wondered what I was doing wrong that kept me from feeling His love.

I’m not against emotion being a part of our Christian walk. Nor am I undermining the positive role that emotion can play in our relationships with God. But if our love for God is based on emotion alone, then I would venture to say that we have a distorted view of what it means to truly love God.

Here are a few things to remember on the days that you don’t necessarily “feel” God’s presence:

1. God is worthy of our love and affection.
He didn’t need to create us, but out of His deep love for us, He did. In reality, He doesn’t need us to accomplish His purposes, but He uses ordinary people like you and me to accomplish extraordinary things for the expansion of His Kingdom.

2. God's love is constant, even in difficult circumstances.
I don’t know where you find yourself today. You might not feel like seeking or loving God because your circumstances are causing you to question His very love for you. And while your feelings are completely valid, I want to remind you that He is with you. Even in the midst of unexplainable suffering, He is present.

3. There is no condemnation in Christ.
Satan often uses feelings of guilt to bring us to a place of condemnation. There have been countless of times in my life that I’ve blamed myself for not feeling God like I used to. And while the Bible clearly states that sin separates us from God, we don’t have to be perfect and put together in order for God to love us. However, a genuine love for God should result in a desire to obey His commandments.

This is where the beauty of grace makes its appearance. As a Christian, God’s grace covers even the most shameful of sins. He alone has the power to wash us white as snow and free us from the bondage of sin. 1 John 1:9 states that if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. While it is absolutely true that sin breaks the heart of a just and holy God, we have a Savior who defeated not only sin but death itself. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to live in holiness.

Our righteousness is rooted in Christ. It is not, and never will be, based on anything we do or do not do. The debt has been paid, and freedom is now attainable. We don’t have to live in shame and hiding anymore.

4. You need community.
One of the greatest gifts that God has given us is that of community. My natural tendency in seasons of dryness was to isolate myself from other Christians. I didn’t want to hear the same verses read from the pulpit again. I was tired of hearing Christian clich├ęs repeated to me over and over again. But the truth is, we don’t always see the bigger picture from where we’re at. We need other voices speaking God’s truth and life to us, especially in the seasons when it’s hard for us to believe it for ourselves. 

This is the beauty of community: God uses broken people to bring hope into the lives of other broken people. We have the privilege of walking alongside one another and reminding each other of the truth – that we are loved and redeemed – in a world that constantly tries to convince us otherwise.

5. Choose joy.
I’m learning that joy might not look like what we’ve been taught our whole lives. For most of my life, I thought that having joy meant plastering a fake smile onto my face and wearing it until I felt better. After a while, it got exhausting. Joy can take many forms. In my moments of deepest heartache and desert seasons, I had joy – not because it came in the form of happiness that was exuding from me, but because I had hope in Christ and who I knew Him to be.

6. Perhaps God is calling you deeper. 
When I first became a Christian five years ago, I remember how tangibly I felt the love of God. But as years passed, I didn’t always wake up desiring to seek God. The feelings of passion were not as intense as they used to be, but this did not change God’s character one bit. He was and still is on His throne. Looking back now, it was in the seasons that God felt most distant that I grew the most in my relationship with Him.

So fellow brothers and sisters, I encourage you to press in, even when every bone in your body would rather not. I invite you to pray, even when it feels like your prayers are bouncing off the walls right back at you. You have full permission to sing that corny worship song, even if the overly repetitive chorus irks you. I’m not asking you to be insincere in your pursuit of God. But I am charging you to seek Him, even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing.
“Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.” – C.S. Lewis
The unshakeable truth that God is good and worthy to be praised stands firm amidst our wavering emotions. God is good on the days that we feel His presence, and He is just as good when He feels far away.

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