In his book Invitation to a Journey, Robert Mulholland writes, “God must be in our life who God is, unrestricted by the narrow limits of our thoughts and feelings.”
In the faith spaces I grew up in, emotion was a great measure of closeness to God. Now, I’m a naturally emotional person. I feel things deeply and I operate with my heart ready and available to anyone who wants to see it. I relate to God in this way, with my imagination and with great emotion. What took me well into my adult years to understand was that feelings of closeness to God are not the requirement nor the prerequisite for loving and being loved by Him.
I believed a lie that if I didn’t feel Him, He wasn’t there. I believed it was my job to manufacture and produce positive feelings about God. And I believed if I had to tell myself something was true but I didn’t feel it to be true, then that belief wasn’t authentic enough and God would be disappointed in my lack of faith.
I had fashioned a golden calf of what God could do for me, how He could bless me with feelings of closeness. This idolatry created places of control and anxiety in me. I depended more on how I felt about God than I depended on God Himself. I trusted my ability to maintain a sense of closeness to Him (my definition of it) instead of trusting Him alone.
As we all know, emotions come and go like waves rushing in and receding on the shore. A sense of the presence of God is a gift He gives. It isn’t something I’m responsible to conjure or produce. And it isn’t the basis on which our relationship lives. Our relationship is grounded in an unchanging Person (Jesus) and reality (eternal salvation). Faith is a choice, and it isn’t one I make once at conversion. It’s a choice I make constantly. Faith is an opening up of my hands to receive what He has for me. It’s a recognizing of my limits and rejoicing that God has none (and loves me unconditionally).
I don’t always feel Him with me, but I trust He is here. I don’t always feel like He’s listening, but I choose to believe Him when He says He does. I don’t always feel forgiven, but I believe Him when He says He has. I don’t always feel peace, but I trust that He is offering it to me. I don’t always understand, but I trust He is giving mercy, not shame, for my lack.
David wrote, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water” (Psalm 63). I have been thirsty for a long time, because the well I was drawing from was one of my own making, a.k.a myself. To use Jeremiah’s phrase, it’s a broken cistern titled “Self-Sufficiency.” The joy, peace, courage and contentment we need for this life are not produced or maintained by us. It flows from Christ, the Source.
God must be in our life who God is, unrestricted by the narrow limits of our thoughts and feelings. May we love, trust, obey and worship God for being God, not for what He can give or do for us. May we release control of our lives, even control of what our relationship with God looks like, and entrust ourselves to Him.
Can you relate? I’d love to talk about it with you. Leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.