“I am so blessed with my life right now! I have excellent grades, a steady job and a boyfriend who loves me dearly!” Many of us probably do not feel this way. We might have the worst grades, no job, and no boyfriend or girlfriend.
There is a common reason for these perceptions of life, and it is simply this: “If God is near me and blesses me, I am fine. But if He is not, I am not fine.”
Many of us look for experience, and not necessarily God. We try to find an emotion that will fulfill our human cravings. For example, when we worship God, we want to feel him completely, but when we do not feel him, we are disappointed. We, as Christians, want to cling onto feeling God’s presence, but what if one day we do not feel his presence anymore and all we have to cling onto are his promises?
First of all, God never promised that we would always feel his presence. He did, in fact, say “I will never leave you nor forsake you”(Hebrews 13:5B). Because we are extremely busy with college or work, that can be hard to believe. We are consumed by lack of sleep, piles and piles of homework or maybe that special someone who we love to spend time with. But let’s concentrate on God for a few seconds.
I believe Floyd McClung explains it better than I do: “You wake up one morning and all your spiritual feelings are gone. You pray, but nothing happens. You rebuke the devil, but it doesn’t change anything. You go through spiritual exercises…you have your friends pray for you…you confess every sin you can imagine, then go around asking forgiveness of everyone you know. You fast…still nothing. You begin to wonder how long this spiritual gloom might last. Days? Weeks? Months? Will it ever end?….it feels as if your prayers simply bounce off the ceiling. In utter depression, you cry out, “What’s the matter with me?”
If God is far away from us, we instantly feel that it is because we have sinned, but that might not be the case. Yes, God wants us to feel his presence, but he prefers that we trust in him and not our emotions. God wants faith from us, and not our feelings.
In college, I found myself seeing God as a Magic 8 Ball. I was trying to seek his purpose and only his purpose. And the only way that I felt close to him was by singing, reading the Bible, and praying. I did these things constantly, but then what McClung said struck me. I was at an utter loss. I wanted to feel God and I was disappointed in myself because I simply could not seek him. I blamed it on college assignments and how stressed I was in the midst of juggling everything in my life. As college students or staff members, it is hard to juggle life. As Christians, we are called to do many things, but how do we do that if we do not feel God in the midst of struggles? The answer to that question is simply to have faith. If we look at David’s life in the Bible or his Psalms, we see how his affliction and trust in God was possible. If we look at Job, we see how his life was flipped upside down, and yet he still glorified God. As Christians, having faith and trusting in God is all we need.
I’ve been reading a book recently called, “A Life With Purpose” by Rick Warren (I highly recommend it if someone is having a hard time seeing God’s purpose in their life) and he gives the solution to feeling God in four easy steps.
Step one is “Tell God exactly how you feel.” Yes, God sees and knows what you do, but when you go to his throne and pour your heart out, he sees that. When a friend tells you how she feels about a class she is taking, does that not give you clarity towards wanting to take that class? It is the same with God. When we speak to him, we gain clarity and understanding because he is our friend. He is not the enemy. He wants the best for us.
Step two is “Concentrate on who is God, in His immutable nature.” Remember all the promises that he has given us, how good he is and how much he loves us. He is the most important being who is interested in us and has a plan for each of us. V. Raymond Edman said: “Never doubt in the dark what God has said in the light.”
Is that not comforting? Whenever we hit rock bottom and all we see around us is darkness, God is the light and we should always grasp onto his promises.
Step three is “Trust in God that He will meet His promises.” We should not fixate our own promises through emotions to glorify him, but instead glorify him so he can work through us in the struggle of life. We should not look towards other worldly things to feel better about ourselves or fix our wellbeing. God is always the answer, even if we do not feel him.
The final step “Remember what God has done for you.” God sent his only son to die on the cross for you. God loved us all that much to do that simple act. We know that Jesus could have easily gotten down from that cross, but instead he said “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus did this first to demonstrate how he was the Son of God, but also to save each of us from our sins.
When I read these four steps, I realized what God had been doing to my life by not being present. He was testing me. He was testing my faith. You see, God talks to you in different ways. Maybe through people, a Bible verse, a simple act of kindness staring at his outstanding artwork in nature. God is present in everything we do, and we are never alone. Once we learn that, we will have the greatest friend we ever asked for.
Cerda is a sophomore majoring in art and illustration. She can be reached at CerdaL@jbu.edu.