Many things befall us as Christians: losing jobs, being tempted, being hurt and abandoned by friends and family, spiritual difficulties, emotional difficulties, persecution by non believers, and so much more. It seems at times that we are crazy to follow a God that would allow us to undergo such much torment in life, so much pain, so many tears. People look at us when such things happen to us and wonder, “Where is their God now?” I almost laugh out loud when I hear preachers and teacher proclaiming that the Christian life is easy and always joyful and full of peace and prosperity (in a physical sense). They claim, what I would say is for marketing purposes, that God is an “it” or “thing” to add to your life, like a hobby, to improve it and make you happier. They equate this Almighty God with Prozac or a new car or something. The reason, I think, is to make Him seem more appealing. But as anyone who has been following Him for any amount of time will tell you, these claims aren’t necessarily so.
The life of a true follower of Jesus Christ is marked with pain and suffering. Just look at our favorite Christian of all time—the one we quote and read about the most—Paul of Tarsus, the Apostle. This guy was beaten, put in jail, poor, homeless, persecuted, rejected, and despised. Jews hated him, Gentiles hated him, the Roman officials hated him—sort of sounds like another Person in the Bible…hmmm.
The beginning of my walk with God was absolutely beautiful and ecstatic. For the first time since I was a child, I felt alive and needed and loved. I had this overwhelming sense that God was with me and for me and that my life no longer belonged to me, it belonged to Him. This was a very enjoyable time for a season. I still like to recollect on it from time to time when life gets difficult. It serves as a reminder of His all-consuming love and power over my life—and other’s lives as well. But it was only a season. Shortly after being converted and having this amazing sense of God’s presence and love, that feeling soon disappeared and God began to deal with my heart. He began to go deeper than my emotions and my feelings and touch places that were of utmost importance to Him. The emotions and feelings were a gift for me, for coming to Him like the prodigal son. But what happened shortly after was for Him—the touching and moving upon my heart.
While He was doing this the feelings went away. That newly found life I had discovered seemingly went away and I was left with emotional pain and anguish instead—at least this is how it felt. You see, He had begun to really work on me. He was doing something that I was still too immature and young to understand or see.
I did everything I could think of to get this sense of His presence back. I prayed more, I read my bible more, I talked to others about Him more. All in an effort to earn His love back, to earn that feeling of belonging back. But that struggle was completely futile and got me nowhere. In fact, I almost lost my faith because of it.
All that to say this:
Many times when God is working on something in our hearts (the place that we really can’t see or even feel a lot of the time), it will appear as though He has left, or that He is punishing us for something. But this simply isn’t the case. However, please note that there are times when He may be convicting us of something that He’s wanting us to repent of. But that’s a different point for another day. I’m speaking of when we can no longer sense Him or His presence.
I am slowly—oh so very slowly!–learning that all things, even those that are seemingly dark and painful, are directly from His hand. He brings such things into our lives, whether it be something physical like the loss of a job, or something spiritual or emotional, like the lack of sensing His presence, to test, to build, to humble, to draw out, to draw near. He never uses those things to hurt us or make us feel bad. He only does it because He knows that it will bring us closer to Him. That it will refine us and make us stronger (that being said, He doesn’t refine our flesh, but instead burns the “me” out of it and replaces it with Christ). If there is something rough or hard you are currently going through, take refuge in the thought that it is directly from His hand, and that you will reap the reward of righteousness through it and come closer to Him.
So take heart. As my best friend, Nathan, always says, “He’s after our hearts, nothing else.”