AMH Series // His Word is Written Across My Heart
I’m back! I spent a lot of time this past week reflecting over my summer here at camp, and I’ve found a common theme that I can turn into a blog. So here we are – I hope you enjoy.
Something I’ve noticed recently is that our culture tends to hold extreme views. People are either in love with something, or they hate it. People are either 100% supportive or 100% opposed. People feel very strongly about one side or the other side. People fully believe in something, or negate its existence. We have become a culture of extremes.
Extremes and Our Faith
I am starting to see this brought into our faith. We either feel the presence of God, or we don’t. And from what I’m told, out of this feeling of God’s presence comes the strength of my faith – either I feel the presence of God (and my relationship with God is great), or I don’t feel the presence of God (and my faith is in a terrible spot).
Let’s reflect on the “spiritual high.” Way back when I was a camper, I knew the spiritual rollercoaster of feeling really strong in my faith (when I’m at camp, singing worship songs twice a day, surrounded by people who love the Lord, reading my Bible alone AND in the context of Bible study), and then losing motivation when I got home.
As I progressed through high school, I noticed this trend in other students as well. People would go on retreats, service projects, and mission trips, (where we did things like singing worship songs twice a day, spending time with people who love the Lord, read our Bibles, etc.). And then on the last night when we talked about how we had seen God throughout the weekend, student after student after student would get up and say, “I was really struggling in my faith for the last three months and now that I’m here I know that God loves me, and I feel so great about my relationship with Him.” And by my senior year of high school, this began to really upset me.
The Lie of the Spiritual High
Of course you would feel really great to be surrounded by people who have the same morals as you. Who all love the Lord and are pursuing life with Him. Who love you for who you are because you are all living into that calling from God. Of course your relationship with God grows when you sing 4-8 songs a day recognizing His work in your life, crying out for help, or simply being in His presence. Of course you will grow spiritually when you spend an hour or more every day for 3 days in the Bible reading about Him and what He has done and promises to do.
I struggle to call out this flaw because the community that results from the things I listed above is not at all a bad thing. I believe that God created us for intentional community. The problem comes when we judge the strength of our faith based on how much we feel God’s presence.
How many times have I wrestled with God in the belief that my faith wasn’t strong enough because I doubted His presence, His existence, His hand in my life, His sovereignty?
A friend of mine recently reminded me that we can’t base what we know on what we feel. Our feelings are inconsistent and dependent on our surroundings – and God knows that. God’s love and presence are independent of our feelings. Faith is what we have in spite of our feelings.
Do we not know the Bible well enough? I wonder how much Job felt the presence of God when he had his entire life ripped out from under him – yet we talk about his story to recognize the strength of his faith. I wonder how Moses would articulate the way he FELT the presence of God while he was wandering with the Israelites in the desert. Or when Jonah was inside of a fish. Or when Noah was stuck on a boat in the middle of endless waters with his family and two of every kind of animal (just take a second to think about how badly it probably smelled).
One of the hardest things about our faith is trusting God in the trials. Seeking a relationship with God when you don’t feel pursued. Fighting when you’re so weak you can barely stand.
Confident Faith Comes from Knowing God’s Love and His Word
I think it is okay to wrestle with God. I think it is okay to be angry with God. To question Him, to doubt things about Him. To lament and mourn and sit at His feet, broken as we are and admit that we are struggling. But what causes problems for me is when we start to believe that God’s presence and love for us are dependent on the feelings we have towards Him. We forget what makes Christianity so inviting: God’s love towards us.
Please do not think for one minute that I am speaking of this as someone who has never struggled with doubt. I have spent the last 6 weeks working at camp telling kids about Jesus, 3 of those weeks wondering why I couldn’t see Him working. (That story is a whole different blog).
Here’s some advice from someone who has seen people go through the numbing pain of not being able to feel and has been through it herself.
- Cling to the Word. Christians do not read the Bible for fun. We don’t read it just because people tell us to. We read it because it is our way of deepening our relationship with God. When I don’t feel God and can’t see Him move, I cling to the knowledge and the stories of men and women before me. The people who have walked with Jesus and still felt pain. The stories of nations waiting and waiting and waiting on God with seemingly no end in sight. I cling to the memories of God working in my life previously and the Hope he gives me that He will do it again.
- Find strong community. We need people in our lives to hold us up at our lowest points. Find those people who support you even when you’re in tears, when you’re falling apart, when you’re internally screaming, when you’re so numb you can’t fake it anymore. Cling to those people and the love they give you. THAT is the way we see God when we just can’t seem to see it any other way. Let these people hold you up. Lean into them. Let them speak TRUTH from God’s word into your heart. And accept it.
Something I always tell my campers about identity is that you don’t have to have zero doubts about God’s presence for Him to be with you. Just because you go through a period of doubt doesn’t mean that God fails to exist. And don’t think for one minute just because you believe you are unloveable that God stops loving you. Cling to His word, find a good friend, and hold the hope that God is good.
“For we walk by faith, not by sight [living our lives in a manner consistent with our confident belief in God’s promises]. We are of good courage and confident hope” (2 Corinthians 5:7-8a AMP)