I have been working my way through the book Gods at War by Kyle Idleman with some dear friends the past couple of months. The basic idea of the book is that the first commandment – you shall have no other gods before me – is front and center when it comes to our relationship with God. Idolatry is not AN issue – it is THE issue. There are so many people and things (including myself) trying to take the rightful place of God in my life. One of the idols Idleman mentions is the “god of romance” and how that is so prevalent in our culture. We have made the feeling of romantic love the end all and be all.
As I reflect on that, I think part of the problem is not just our desire for romance, but our dependence on and obsession with our feelings. We move in and out of relationships based on our feelings. We make important decisions based on our feelings. And sometimes, our relationship with God is based on our feelings.
Please hear me say that emotions and feelings are real and that life would be very dull without them. You can’t read the scriptures and come away with a theology that says feelings are bad. They are not. The Psalms are packed to the gills with expressions of emotion – joy, sorrow, anger, frustration, despair, excitement. You name it and you will most likely find it in the Psalms.
But emotions can’t be trusted to tell the TRUTH.
Sometimes I get “hung up” on a particular thought and just can’t shake it. In his message this past weekend, Pastor Bryan talked about how Samuel hearing God’s voice was NOT a frequent occurrence in that day. God had, in fact, been “silent” for hundreds of years. I had a hard time hearing the rest of the sermon because of the gravity of that thought. If you were a follower of God in those days, you could only base that on what your parents or grandparents had told you. You would have had no Bible in your hands and no spirit of God dwelling within you even if you believed in him.
Ladies! How beyond blessed are we that we have the whole word of God AND the very spirit of Jesus in our lives if we have decided to follow him. If nothing else EVER goes right in our life beyond that, how amazing our lives still have been!
Listen to these words of Jesus from the book of John:
“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.”
“All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them and we will come and make our home with each of them.”
“But when the Father sends…the Holy Spirit – he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.”
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.”
Do not be deceived. We are influenced by our culture way more than we even know. And when we have days when we don’t “feel” the Spirit within us, when we don’t experience the presence of God, it is easy to believe he is not really there – that he has left us on our own.
C.S. Lewis says it this way:
“…the presence of God is NOT the same as the sense of the presence of God. The latter may be due to imagination; the former may be attended with no ‘sensible consolation.’ The Father was not really absent from the Son when He said ‘Why hast thou forsaken me?’ You see God Himself, as man, submitted to man’s sense of being abandoned. The sense of the presence is a super-added gift for which we give thanks when it comes, and that’s all about it.”
When I lost my dad to cancer last year, I have to tell you that I did not sense the presence of God. There is a reason why the Psalmist says that when he walks through the shadow of death, he will not fear evil. It’s because death IS evil. Some people have a beautiful experience of seeing their loved ones ushered into the presence of God. I have no doubt that happens. But that was not my story. There was nothing beautiful about it. But I KNOW God was there in the midst of it and that my Dad is in the Lord’s sweet presence now. I did not FEEL it, but I KNEW it.
Be courageous my friends! Believe that God is who is says he is and that he is there for you – always – no matter what. And you can KNOW it’s true because he says it’s true – no matter how you feel today.
“Never once did we ever walk alone. Never once did you leave us on our own. You are faithful, God…”