I get discouraged when I don’t feel like I’m being transformed, even though I’m trying to diligently study God’s word and desire fellowship with him. When I don’t feel different in the sense of experiencing this grand overarching mad-love for Jesus or when I don’t seem to feel him near, I slowly slide into the what-am-I-doing-wrong and why-do-I-feel-this-way mindset.
After some time feeling this way, I picked up my pen and wrote in my journal to process my thoughts:
I’ve been counting my experiences with God as successful and worth it when I get the supernatural feeling of closeness with him. I’ve been relying on a feeling to dictate whether or not my Bible study was a holy encounter or not. I’ve been relying on a feeling to prove I’m not just studying for the sake of pure knowledge, but to discover God’s heart.
I’ve been experiencing this “feeling” recently which has left me spinning on a wheel like a hamster running in circles yet get getting no where. But is a holy encounter with God less holy because I may not feel supernatural revelation or closeness with God? Is communion with him less powerful because I may feel just the same at the end.
No. Just the ability to come before God is mercy.
I think of Romans 4:19, where it says Abraham staggered not at the promises of God through unbelief. When I leave God’s presence discouraged, I am staggering with unbelief – I’m disqualifying and discounting the extreme grace of the miracle of obtaining friendship with God himself based off an elusive feeling.
To stagger is to withdraw and how like the enemy it is to convince me that just because I don’t feel close to God, that it must be because God is not close to me. How like him to convince me to withdraw further because I don’t feel like I am being transformed, which must equate that I’m not. I recognize this lie, because even though I don’t feel this big amazing supernatural and radical event every time I open my Bible, I see it. I see how I am more patient and loving to my son and husband when I’ve spent time in God’s presence, even though I may not always feel it.
I think of Hagar in the wilderness, how she calls God ‘El Roi’ – the God Who Sees – not just the God who sees all, but the God who sees me. “I have seen Him who looks after me” she says as she marks the moment with God. David echos these deeply intimate moments with God in Psalm 139:1 – “Thou hast searched me and known me.” The Hebrew for search is chaqar and it is searching the ground by digging – so as we search and dig into God’s word and into the depths of him, he is digging into the deepest depths of us. Digging deep into our hearts as we dig deep into his and as we come to know him we are also deeply and personally known by experience. We are seen. To be searched and known is to be naked before God – much like how he created us to be in Eden. This vulnerability, this innocence, this freedom is what we were created for – direct communion with God. And while we may be currently living between the Eden of old and the Eden to come, we must be willing to push deep into him as he digs deep into us – we must allow him unrestricted, full access.
Psalms 31:7 tells us that God knows our souls. To know is yada – to know intimately from experience. Our souls are the seat of our appetites, emotions, and passions. Psalm 32:2 says blessed are those in whose spirit is no deceit. Deceit has many meanings in the original Hebrew: no guile, slackness, deceitful bow, letting down or relaxing of hands.
God is all-loving because he is all-knowing – because who else would choose to send his son to die for us when he intimately knows the deception of our hearts? In fact, we can be convinced of his all-lovingness because of this.
Do I have a slackness of spirit? Have I deceitfully bowed before him even when my heart is truly worshiping something else? Have I let down my hands in worship? What is at the root of my appetite? Who sits on the seat of ruling my emotions and passions? What do I long for? Do I long for a feeling or do I long for God?
God asked Hagar the hard questions in the wilderness – where have you come from and where are you going? He knew both answers. She was fleeing Sarah’s wrath and that she was most likely headed back to her homeland, Egypt, the place of familiarity.
Just as he asked Hagar the hard questions, he asks us the hard questions. Where are you going? Where are your feet taking you? Where is the seat of your soul going? Is it moving towards God or is moving away from him? Because there are only two directions.
See, this is a mutual relationship- we dig into him and he digs into us. And the Holy-Spirit shovel is effective.
God saw Hagar in the wilderness. God saw Nathanael when he was still under a fig tree – may he say of us what he said of him Behold, here is one in whom there is no deceit.