It is not always that we feel who God is, close to Him and inspired. Sometimes I feel a million miles away. Sometimes I am a star in His orbit, burning coldly in the dark, with light years in between.
I have noticed that this is a seasonal distance, something that drops on my soul without warning, and I find myself panicking, distrusting, reaching for relief, squirming, and full of dismay. Sometimes these seasons last for a day, sometimes for six months.
But the spiritual life is not all feeling.
For many years, as I grew up, I thought that a successful interaction with God was indicated by a constant feeling of supreme spiritual connection. I went to a church where this was the focus. It wasn’t bad, for I learned to feel Him, to hear Him when He speaks, to ask for miracles. Then, in college I had a crisis of faith. I started to question everything I believed. I lost my balance. And years later, mercifully, I found a church where I could quietly and deeply explore the answers to many of the doubting questions (leftover from college) in my heart.
So then, for a while, more years, I thought a successful interaction with God had nothing to do with feeling. Only muscling through, and trusting that His Word was true and He was faithful, and I should not expect to feel Him. I suppressed my emotions, standing in worship quite often, feeling Him arrive on the scene and ignoring it. Refusing to take strength and inspiration from supernatural experiences with Divinity. I stopped asking for miracles. I stopped hearing what He was saying to me personally, right now. I hardened my heart.
But our spiritual journey takes a lifetime. The seeds that have been planted in our hearts by that Gardener, well, some of them can only germinate in certain climates. How patient He is!
The seed is in the ground.
Now may we rest in hope.
While darkness does its work.
After all those years of solely hoping for an experience of God to show me He loved me, and then all those years of shutting down my emotions and deciding that He loved me no matter how I felt, and ignoring Him when He did try to encourage me, I realized it was both.
That He loves me. That I must know it. Beyond feeling, circumstance, opinion, trend, doubt. And that His presence will accompany me, a lot of the time. That I can ask for this. I am reminded that Moses asked, no, begged God to show him His glory. And He did.
I also know that Mother Theresa, who did God’s work, spent many years not feeling His presence, and longing for it, writing about it, and toughing it out.
A lot of times, reaching out for Him is an act of faith. We can do so many things to get our hearts in the game. Prayer, staying sensitive to His Spirit by avoiding opposite influences, sometimes fasting (which puts us in a humble place). I’m sure there are other things, but that’s all that comes to mind right now.
Other times, He does all the work. He literally fights for us, battling through whatever obstacles or weather or adversity we face. He parts seas. Heals blindness. Saves our lives.
We must discern the difference between these two. This is part of having a relationship. It’s not always the same conversation, across the board. Blanket statements will alienate us from truth. God has spoken through His word, and we trust it, but He also speaks, present tense, and we can feel that.
So, I notice today, in some scriptures that I’ve put below, that God’s help is the byproduct of our trust and action. Not always, because a couple of verses later it shows that His action is partner to our stillness in His presence. Also, that our safety and fulfillment can be conditional upon putting our faith in Him daily, and living out the good that we know to do.
So there is a time to act and a time to be still. Both times He responds. Sometimes we feel it. Other times we simply know.
“Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.” Ps 37:3-7