This week we talked about where we find our worth and this idea that it is in Christ we find our ultimate value. We talked about David, and in the text we read (Psalm 16), we hear David gushing about God’s goodness—about his overflowing cup despite his circumstances—about the remarkable joy that he has because of God's presence.
I agree that our hope, trust, identity and worth should be fully rooted in His love for us. Often His presence doesn’t feel like enough though, does it? When we’re in the depths of grief and sorrow. When we’ve grown disenchanted with our circumstances. When we see other people blessed with what we’ve longed for. When our cries to God for help grow increasingly faint and we feel forgotten. When we’re lonely. When we’re misunderstood. When we’re burned out. When we feel raw, exposed and soaked through with fear. Maybe we don’t feel Him at all…
The things of God are just so different than the way of the world. We’re so used to worldly labels and definitions and categorizations. In our social constructs, our value isn’t automatic. We must constantly prove to the system that we are worthy. The world is constantly demanding us to declare our identities--to pick this side or that side and to be known by those things. There is sometimes even an air of casual karma—the subtly communicated belief that the things that we’re going through are a direct cause and effect of our failure. Sometimes these constructs spill over into our churches, and our place of worship starts to feel less like a holy, redemptive community, and more like everywhere else—void of rest, always demanding us to preform to get ahead, feeling like we might be rejected if our lives don’t seem perfect, or our circumstances don’t allow us to fit into pre-constructed, easy to identify boxes.
Sometimes these experiences hinder our ability to see ourselves the way Christ sees us, and to rest in the fullness of His love. We often project our insecurities, and the crude social currency system we experience here, onto a God who is far divorced from our worldly methods. We just accept that if we are dealing with painful life situations, that God must be far away. That we must not be in His presence. That our blessings, or seemingly lack thereof, is God punishing us from afar. That His affection for us is based on our performance, and our status with him is always in limbo.
My friends, that is just not true.
Because He created us, we were born with value, purpose and identity. He knows us to the depths of our hearts, every secret, every failure, and everything we hide, and still He loves us and considers us worthy of His love. He is with us in the shallows. He wants us to rest in knowing that He sees our pain and does not ignore our cries. He us sees beyond our messes. He meets us where we are. We can stop searching for significance—we already have it.
When we don’t “feel” His presence, it’s hard to believe He is actually here with us, and hard to feel joy. Thankfully not feeling Him doesn’t mean he is far away. It doesn’t mean you’re broken. Sometimes it just means we need a bit of a reboot. A few things that I’ve tried to do in my own “dry spells” is seek reminders of His promises. I have and old list from a Bible study I did in college that I keep in my nightstand, and pull out when I need to be reminded of His love. I also try to make prayer a habit. When I can’t find the words, I often pray Psalm 139:23-24
“Search me O God and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there is any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.”
I’d say the most helpful thing I’ve learned is not to isolate myself from community with other Christians. While the church isn’t a perfect place, you’d be hard pressed to find a person that says they’ve never felt far from God’s presence, have never been in a season of pain, or haven’t struggled with feeling valuable to Him. Don’t be afraid to be honest. God has given us the gift of community and often uses others to speak His love and truth to us, walk with us through hard stuff, and rejoice with us when the fog starts to lift.
May He lead us in everlasting ways--in ways different than what we've grown to know.
May we breathe Him in deeply. May we find rest in His love. May we too experience cups that run over with joy—regardless of our circumstances. He is God with us. You are not alone. You are His.
Jake McGregor, Pastor of Missional & Spiritual Formation