Since becoming a follower of Jesus Christ, my life has taken on many seasons of spirituality. At times I have felt as far away from God as one could be and at other times near. For a season, while in college, I felt an overwhelming sense of God’s presence in my life and it seemed natural to walk with him in communion and with the body of Christ. At various times since then, I have waxed and waned. For a long time my most consistent prayer was, “Lord, I want to feel your presence again.” Passages like Psalm 51 stood out to me as I could relate to the desire of being restored to the joy of salvation.
There was a longing for His presence.
I would say for maybe four or more years this was my prayer. I know now that I did not communicate this to enough close friends as the community of Christ is here to help encourage us in times like this. I also know that this was a healthy and unhealthy longing. It was healthy because it is always healthy to want more of God. To cry out like the Psalmist for restoration and renewed peace and security. But it was unhealthy because I allowed hopelessness and a lack of trust to permeate my thoughts more than I trusted in God’s promises. I moved away from healthy practices. Praying and reading scriptures took more effort with little “experienced” fruit and so they were neglected too much.
Coming to understand His presence.
Passages of scripture like Ps 46 just didn’t resonate. If anything they were discouraging. If God is a “very present help in times of trouble,” then why was I without his presence. Move in doubt and a lack of assurance of Christ’s forgiveness. Years of this produce within your heart various lies and feelings. But even through my isolating tendencies, my heart still cried out to the Lord for help. There was still a hope, a knowledge, an experience of something more that kept me from falling further away. Let me stop here and just say that this whole time in my life I was not walking in known sin or in rebellion. I was still working out my salvation and still desiring to walk with Christ. I was still fleeing sin. I was still working for the Lord. I was just struggling along the way.
Enter Isaiah 43. It wasn’t the first time that I had read Isaiah or even this passage. I used to sing this verse, but like our feeble minds and hearts do at times, I forgot. After many prayers, consistently but feebly prayed…God spoke. God spoke and said, “I am here. I have been here the entire time.” In the midst of my unbelief God spoke. Through various messages and various people in my life, the Lord spoke. And now, as I reflect, it is hard to imagine how I had gotten it so wrong for this season. He spoke through Isaiah the prophet once again to me like he still continues to speak through his prophets every day through the centuries. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”
“But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you.” (Isaiah 43:1-3 ESV)
Similar to going to Christ with our anxieties and burdens vs trying to fix them ourselves or go around our stresses in life (As I have wrote on before) I found that I wasn’t actually walking with Christ. Or I wasn’t trusting or remembering or feeling his presence. Though, the entire time he was always there. I felt alone and believed that I was. Though in truth I was always near, just unaware. Like a dad holding the back of the bike seat while their son learns to ride a bike for the first time. There is that time when they think they are peddling all on their own, but really they are not. The balance of the seat from the fathers hand is guiding them and protecting them. It was this truth that set me free once again, from the lie that God is not near.
There is a subtle march that we must do as followers of Christ. We must slowly and deliberately seek the things of God and set our minds on Jesus. This is not a once a week endeavor, but a whole life shift. Somehow I moved away from this and slowly I am moving back. This subtle march may seem too slow and producing no fruit, but even in those years where I longed for more, I see now God’s working within it. Calling me back. Patiently working with my insecurities and stupidity. Working through me despite my lack of deep joy. There is a pain that comes with the wait, but God is also there too. I missed that for too long. Many of the Psalmists have cried, “how long?” How long oh Lord, will you be far away from me. But they continue and speak the Gospel message that he is near. That he is near in the waiting. He is near in our faithlessness. This is the Gospel message applied to us. We are forgiven, redeemed and restored by the work of Christ in his life and death in order that we might be called a child of God. And even our wavering faith does not make God unfaithful to his promise of keeping us. Our wavering faith does not make God unfaithful to his promise of keeping us. #whereisthegospel Click To TweetHe has redeemed us to be near him, to walk with him. But at the same time He knows that we will never do this perfectly. He never expects us to. Part of the gospel is recognizing this truth about ourselves and about God’s never changing faithfulness to us. His promise to us is that in Christ, He is always near. We must believe this. We must remember this. We must walk with him through our trials and anxieties in life.
Have you experienced a season like this? How did God reveal himself through it in your life?