I think one of the most frustrating experiences in a person’s pursuit of God would be never feeling His presence. I meet people often who are quite educated about the bible and theology. They verbally communicate a longing to feel His presence. They hear from others of God’s leading or the Holy Spirit’s tangible presence in people’s life. But they just don’t feel it.
How do you trust God? How do I really know He is there if I never feel, hear or see Him? I believe in God. I know who He is. I just never have an emotional connection. I never know what He wants me to do. He doesn’t talk to me. It doesn’t seem fair. I have prayed, begged, cried for Him to reveal Himself in a more personal way to me.
I wish this could be one of those “how to” posts that gave three easy steps to achieving a life changing personal exchange with the God of the Universe. Unfortunately, I don’t have the step by step process. But, I did have a thought or two about how I was able to break down the intellectual, protective walls that kept me from God for 36 years. I think for me, as most people, life was hard. I had many people who had let me down at impressionable moments in my life. It appeared that things became better when I “achieved”. And over time, my expectation of peace was more often realized when I was in control, independent, and constantly moving forward. That seemed to work for quite some time and was such a positive rebound from the dependent, disappointed adolescent years.
I think of life in our own strength as cumulative. We are not made new again each day when we are operating independently. After years of accumulating disappointment, hurt, and sometimes even betrayal, the wall built up around our hearts gets very high and extremely heavy. We are so habitual in our independence and personal control we don’t even remember what it would look or feel like to have someone else to lean on. Someone to love us unconditionally. We keep moving so we can shake off the feeling of heaviness and weariness from combating life alone.
If we are in this place when we seek God, I think this wall keeps us from completely turning our life over to Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Intellectually we know we need a Savior. We salivate for the promises of an intimate relationship with our Father in Heaven. Yet, we don’t feel it. It seems out of reach to us.
For me the burden of the “cumulative life” became too great and I crashed. I couldn’t maintain control. I couldn’t move fast enough to continue the façade. When I turned to God I was broken of the illusion that I could provide my own sense of peace by staying on top of things. I guess when I crashed, the wall of self-dependence crumbled too. In that broken state, God was able to reach my heart, not just my head. I don’t know if it was my daughter’s alopecia that I was powerless against, or realizing my career was not eternal, but I came to a halting conclusion that control was an illusion. And it seems like the stronghold that this world had on me was broken.
I turned to God, and as promised, He picked me up and put me on His path for my life. He healed my heart. He showed me in the most blatant ways that He could work in my life in ways that defied my understanding of who I was and what was important. If I hadn’t crashed, I believe I would have still found God. But I don’t know if that protective wall of independence would have kept me on my own path. If I would have missed out on God’s perfect plan. I don’t know if I would have allowed myself to feel His presence and succumbed to His control. Even now I sometime shift back to my own will and I try to make what I want happen in my life. And like clockwork at those moments I don’t feel God working through me. I don’t feel His peace. And although I still go through the motions of praying and telling Him I want to do His will, He can tell the difference. I may fool myself for a little while, but He seems to know I am not really His in my heart at that time. Fortunately, when I feel His absence, I snap to my senses and start to let go again. He is always standing by and waiting. He wants to be the Lord of my life and as soon as I remember the burden of life in my own strength, He moves right back in to place.
I don’t think everyone needs to crash in order to realize that their wall is still there. I just think there is a propensity of human arrogance or what we believe is self-protection for people to try to control their world. And I believe this “control” is what keeps our relationship with our Savior at arm’s length.