Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Workin' My Way Back

What would you tell someone who feels far from God? How would you encourage a friend after they've confessed their cold and distant heart? Have you ever felt that way? Have you found yourself so far from God that the thought of picking up your Bible seems hypocritical, like just going through the motions? Is the distance so far that you can't trace your path back? Is the silence thick?

One writer encourages praise - even when you don't feel like it. The psalmist writes "Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens!" (Psalm 150:1) I often wonder what the psalmist experienced prior to writing this. We know that this is a congregational hymn that Israel sang in praise to God. But when the author sat down to write, what was going on personally? Had he come out of a great battle victory? A sweet time of prayer, or an answer to a desperate plea? Had he experienced a friend coming near in a time of great affliction, providing for him what he could not muster up for himself? Or, had he realized once more God's great love for him in the face of his great sin? Somehow I doubt he wrote this as a result of someone telling him to praise God, even if he didn't feel like it. 

A friend recently shared with me how after weeks, maybe months of going through the motions, he began reading the Bible again for the sheer pleasure of it. He said he's been devouring it. I listened, so grateful and happy for him, yet envious. I want that, don't you? The questions is, how? How do I get from here to there? Because quite honestly, the rift seems too wide - the way back seems out of reach. One thing is sure, though. I feel like I must do something...anything. I have this nagging sense that something I've done (or not done) has caused this apparent break with the God I profess to love. Therefore, I just need to start doing (or not doing) whatever it was I was doing (or not doing) before. I have believed what this songwriter confesses;

I'm workin' my way back to you babe
With a burnin' love inside
Yeah I'm workin' my way back to you babe
And the happiness that died
I let it get away
Paying every day
(The Four Seasons)

Although my theology assures me that in Christ, there is nothing I must do to earn God's love, nearness, or kindness, I quickly leave that behind during times like this when I feel empty. I know what you're thinking, I shouldn't rely on how I feel. Easy to say, harder to do. I have this overwhelming sense that surely, something I have done has caused this gap. And now, I'm paying for it.

During this season of spiritual emptiness and confusion, I am left with faith. And faith alone is enough. There are plenty of people ready to give advice on "what" to do, how to do "it", and when "it" should be done. However, I'm not convinced that working my way back to God is what's needed. The gospel assures me I don't have to fake it til I make it. Instead, I can rest, wait, and count on what God has done. To believe in what he has promised, and to trust in the truth of what he has said...

"The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing." Zephaniah 3:15-17

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