I met with my friend Mele today (I’ve mentioned her on here before) and we discussed some stuff going on in our individual walks with Christ. We both agreed that we struggle with the whole “mountains and valleys” of our spirituality. For example, we both went to different church camps where we felt so in tune with God and on fire for Him, when gradually we notice that the fire has gone out. During my mission trip to El Salvador, I felt so alive as I shared the gospel with the kids. The gospel became fresh again, and I was reminded of how powerful and beautiful it is. But there are days when the gospel seems like just another Sunday school story, something I’ve heard over and over again. The passion isn’t what it was. The determination to dive into God’s Word more has dwindled. We become distracted in our prayers to God, as upcoming events or tasks we have to accomplish fill our minds. Our quiet times have become a duty rather than a delight. We know we need to spend time with God, so we do…but the yearning has gone and God suddenly seems so distant.
This is something I’ve been struggling with for awhile. Mind you, it’s improved drastically over the past couple of years as the Lord has been teaching me what I’m about to describe, but it’s still something I face. I think this is something that my generation has been struggling with, also. Society puts a huge emphasis on our feelings and experience and emotion. I think that’s one of the reasons why society has perverted the importance of marriage and sex – because they have no concept of what real love is (don’t even get me started on that topic! Maybe I’ll get on that soapbox another time.) So when kids go to a church camp/retreat/whatever and they have this emotional mountaintop experience, they feel awesome! At that moment, they feel closer to God than ever before…almost unstoppable! But emotions are fleeting, so the passion and fire are only temporary. We let this doubt creep in, saying that because we don’t feel that emotional connection to God now, it means we are distant from Him. That He loves us less.
Obviously, this isn’t true. God’s love for us is so much stronger than this “love” that our society has redefined. If someone is without God, then they are without love, because God is love (1 John 4:8). Not only is God’s love a part of who He is, but it is an action. His pursuit of us, His faithfulness towards us, His ultimate sacrifice of sending His Son to die on the cross for our sins so that we might have a personal relationship with Him are actions of His love. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8) – which means that His love for us never wavers. Even when we are inconsistent with Jesus, He is always consistent with us.
Now, don’t get me wrong – experiences and emotions are important. When God does radical things in your heart, there are going to be emotions! God doesn’t want our relationship with Him to be dry and dull! But “feeling” is not what God’s love for us is based on, and it shouldn’t be the basis of our love for Him. Our love for God should be based off of who He is.
So all this to say, when you are not doing so great being consistent with your quiet time, or your prayers aren’t as “deep” or “meaningful” as they used to be, or you’re unsure of where to go in your Bible so you go through the flip-to-a-random-passage scenario, or you don’t feel quite as enthusiastic to spend time with God, or you feel like your faith isn’t as strong as it once was…quit looking at yourself! If you look to yourself and your efforts, you will never be content. You will never have peace. We are to look to Jesus for answers, guidance, and hope – not ourselves. Quit looking down at your hands and your heart which have failed you and turn your gaze upward toward God who will give you rest and assurance.
The Spurgeon quote on my previous post keeps coming to mind…it’s one of the most convicting messages I have read in awhile. Here’s an excerpt of the wise man’s words:
Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee-it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee-it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument-it is Christ's blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith. We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.
Here are a few things I would say if you are struggling with this (I’m not trying to pretend I know all the answers – these are all things the Lord is still teaching me and I will continue to learn until the day I die):
Keep praying. Ask the Lord to help you fall in love with Him more. Ask that the Lord would make your desires His desires. Before you dig into the Word, prepare your heart. Here are some psalms I find helpful to pray in order to focus my attention on Him: Ps. 63:1-3, Ps. 119:18, Ps. 86:11, Ps. 119:36, Ps. 90:14. Keep asking the Lord to fill your heart and your mind with the Holy Spirit so that His thoughts can become your thoughts. Be honest with God when you pray – don’t put on a fancy façade and pray all these lofty prayers when the only thing you really should say may be “Help.” Come into His presence with reverence, brokenness, and humility. Come ready to be fulfilled at His banquet table, but also come ready to lift up your praises to Him in worship. Continue to repent of your sins so that God may do a cleansing work in your heart. Don’t just be a man/woman of emotion but of action – be a doer of the Word (James 1:22). Just as God is a God of action, so we are to become people of action.
Here are just a couple of other encouraging words:
“You can have an hour with Him one day and then five minutes the next; He is the same God regardless. Don’t feel guilty for doing ‘less’, that’s pride getting in the way. That’s human nature saying ‘it is because of the effort I put in that this good thing is happening’, when rather it is entirely by His power alone.”
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful -Hebrews 10:23
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. -1 John 1:9
“If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” -2 Tim. 2:13