Thursday, September 25, 2008
There are times when I struggle to feel the presence of God…
Before I get too much further let me clarify some things. My faith is intact, my salvation is assured, I love God more now than ever before and I am more certain of His love for me now more than ever. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, there are no other gods and there is only one way to the Father and that is through Jesus. I think my desire to know God in my life is greater than it has ever been. Still… there are times when I struggle to feel God’s presence. What is even more astounding is that I can see God’s fingerprint on so many things in my life, my marriage, my finances, my un-employment, my family, my conversations, my friends, my church, etc… So with the fingerprint of God all over my life why do I sometimes struggle to feel his presence? I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because many times you will hear about “Christians” losing their fire. The last thing I want to do is “lose my fire” for God because this is essentially saying that I don’t love or desire God as much as I once did. That is just not true, I still love God, even more now than ever, still… sometimes I struggle to feel his presence. I thought that maybe it’s because I’m not in “His Word” as much as I used to be. Well, I’ve examined my study time and while it is lacking and could definitely use some improvement, I actually think it’s better than it’s ever been. I’m in constant meditation on the scriptures, even walking around at times giving sermons or writing about God in my mind. Still… sometimes I struggle to feel his presence.
I think about Moses coming down from the mountain after basking in the presence of God, having to place a veil over his face. Then there is the transfiguration where Peter, James and John were in the unveiled presence of Christ in all His glory. I reflect on Paul and Silas sitting in a jail cell, praying and singing hymns until the jailer comes in and begs to be saved and then takes them to his home to be baptized with his family. What a great moment that must have been, how they must have been filled with the presence of God! I wonder what it was like for them the next day, the next week, the next month. I realize that life or more accurately that this world is filled with many ups and downs. We make visits to the mountain top and journeys through the valleys. Thus is the pattern of the world. Is it the same with being in the presence of my Savior? I don’t think so…
Romans 12:2 says to no longer conform to the pattern of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. 2 Corinthians 5:17 states if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come. There are too many scriptures that speak about what happens when we become followers of Christ to make a single moment outside of the presence of God acceptable to me. If I am to believe that Galations 2:20 is true, that I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me, then I have to believe that I am only alive in the presence of Christ. So… why do I still struggle to feel the presence of God in my life? I believe it has to do with patterns of the world and the fact that sometimes I just don’t get it.
Romans 12:2 talks about these patterns that we can sometimes fall into. Let’s look at this scripture a little differently for a moment “if we conform to the patterns of this world, then we will not be transformed and therefore we will not be able to determine the will of God in our lives. We read this scripture and determine not to fall into this worldly pattern so we begin to emulate what we think a Christian life should look like. The problem is that the example that we look to emulate is other Christians. We see those who we judge to be more spiritually mature than ourselves and began to act like them. We see those we judge to be less spiritually mature than us and make sure we don’t act like them. Then we get to the point where we think/look like those who are more spiritually mature than we once were and we begin to expect those that are less spiritually mature than us to act more like us! We see others stand and raise their hands during praise and worship and we think how godly they must be so we stand and raise our hands. Once we are standing and raising our hands, we look around and down at those who aren’t standing and feel sorry that their personal relationship with Christ isn’t what ours (those who are collectively standing with arms raised) is. We fall into a pattern of how we seat ourselves during the service. We like to sit near those who are more spiritually mature. If we sit towards the front then we must be more spiritually mature than those sitting in the rear. We like to do things the way they’ve always been done. We expect a certain order to our worship. We continue to usher because it’s what we’ve always done. We serve because it’s what others expect of us. We bow our heads in prayer because it’s what everyone else does. We go to church every Sunday, Wednesday and any other day the church is open because if we don’t, then we may be thought less spiritually mature than we think we are. Our prayer life becomes stale when we fall into a pattern of continually asking for God to bless us as we go through these repetitive motions. Our emotions take on the appearance of what others expect them to be as Christians. We meet tragedy in people’s lives with a fake smile and a word about God’s plan or God’s will. We’ve forgotten that to love means to be broken when others are broken, to hurt when they hurt, to laugh when they laugh. We think that living a Christ like life means to be blessed financially and to never struggle with sin, persecution or the darkness that sometimes exist in this world. We think that struggling with money or being tempted by sin means something must be wrong with our relationship with Christ. We fall into patterns because of the way that we think others judge us or the way that we judge those around us. I believe these patterns separate us from the presence of God because we act based on expectations rather than being led by the Holy Spirit. We raise our hands in worship because of how it makes us look instead of how it makes us feel. We don’t realize that by sitting somewhere else, we might meet someone whom is seeking a friend or better yet, that God is sending someone to be our friend. We forget that a simple prayer for life change opened the door to a relationship that allows us to have a conversation which includes listening as well as speaking. We don’t realize that rather than quoting Christian clichés for life, maybe someone who is hurting, just needs to hear the words “I love you”. Our lives begin to look like the lives of the other Christians that we surround ourselves with. We long to fit in and be accepted and praised for who we show others we are. Somewhere in all of this seeking to be like those we revere, we lose ourselves and forget to be who God created us to be. We become creatures of habit instead of children of discovery. We forget that a relationship with Christ is a journey of discovery and growth towards who God created us to be. We are children of God and it is his praise that we should seek and sometimes we are going to look different, not only from the world but from each other.
Shortly after warning us about the patterns of the world (Rom 12:2), scripture tells us about the uniqueness with which each one of us were created. If we are all so unique, why do we try so hard to look like one another or worse yet, expect others to look like us? I struggle sometimes feeling the presence of God… but I am never more alive in His presence than when I am being who God created me to be.