For those of us who have grown up in Christian circles, we have been hearing about the characteristics of God our entire lives. From basic Sunday school lessons to pieces of sermons, we know about God’s love, control, peace, and trustworthiness…in our heads.
The day I realized I did not feel the reality of those truths in my heart kickstarted a rough season of mental battles. I knew God never changes, but I wanted to feel His immutability and rest in assurance of it. I wanted nothing more but to trust Him, but I wouldn’t.
I remember sitting on the floor straining, trying to move a list of God’s promises deeper into my psyche. I have never wished more that humans were merely buttons and wires so I could simply reach into myself and make the transfer manually, but I couldn’t. So I prayed.
Months later, one of my best friends reminded me of that struggle and I realized that God had answered my prayer. The truths about who God says He is that seemed so far away are now deeply ingrained in my identity.
How did that happen? And how can the same happen for you?
#1 — Spend time with Him
Even when trying to advance beyond the basics you must start at the very beginning. Want to feel closer to God? You’re going to have to be close to God. Spend time with Him. In prayer, in His word, in meaningful conversation, in His house with His children.
Christianity is more of a relationship than religion and, just like any other relationship, you must spend time in it for it to be valuable. Like a best friend, anticipate the next time you get to be one-on-one with God and have a hard time leaving once you’re there.
Yes, such times may be more renditions of head knowledge you already possess, but the habits will begin to plant seeds in your heart. In time and with the proper cultivation, joy and peace will sprout and turn rote habits into thriving a relationship.
“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”-Hosea 6:6
God is after our hearts, so even if you are struggling to feel love or trust, you can choose them by saying, “Okay God, I know in my head I trust you, so I’m gonna do everything that I know to do to trust you.” Do that and He will lead that head knowledge to become heart knowledge.
#2 — Lose control
Once you know the foundational facts about who God is, the only way to feel their strength is to be wholly dependent on them. As pastor Steven Furtick once said, “The only way God can show us He’s in control is to put us in situations we can’t control.”
You have to go through something you would not ask for so the truths you know about God become a reality. God has to bring you to a place where you have no choice but to trust Him. A place that is dark and lonely but oh so beautiful because God is there to share your tears.
“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders / Let me walk upon the waters / Wherever You would call me / Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander / And my faith will be made stronger / In the presence of my Saviour.”-Hillsong UNITED, “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”
Going through high school, I knew that God is constant and never changes. Sunday school head knowledge. I knew them as facts but had no emotion-invoking experience to know them to be true. I was simply making connections about the course’s curriculum.
My transition into college felt like being caught in a sandstorm. Everything around me was swirling and hazy yet, under my feet, I felt the sure foundation of a Rock that was not moving. I didn’t ask for the experience, but I needed it to feel the truths I knew about God in my head.
#3 — Don’t get the answers you expect
I mentioned that I was asking God to make the transfer I could not manage on my own, and that He answered my prayer, but it came through a heartbreaking situation I did not have in mind. God does not always answer prayers how we expect, and that’s good.
He orchestrates our lives, weaving everything we know into the legacy of the world. He sees the biggest picture, so the storyline we envision for ourselves lacks the depth and misses the connections He knew at the beginning of time and we sometimes get to see in hindsight.
“God’s story for our lives is the only story worth living, a story that is harder than we imagined but better than we dreamed.”-Unknown
It’s like the book of Habakkuk where the people were praying for God to deliver them. God heard their prayer and promised deliverance, but He first led them through multiple situations that not only seemed bad but seemed to be making things worse.
God uses those really rough situations to shape us and grow us into something even greater. Ultimately, He made it better by giving His Son as the ultimate sacrifice, but the precursory Bible stories that entail much trial and tribulation had to happen first.
#4 — You have to know darkness
Imagine a world if everything was perfect. No sin, no crime, no pain, no heartbreak. Sounds pretty great but, if everything was great, we wouldn’t be able to see how great God is. It would all be like, “Oh yeah, He’s good. My life is good.” But how would we know that?
Try to describe light without talking about darkness, and vice versa. You need darkness to know light. If you don’t have sad days, you can’t have happy days. If you don’t have bad days, you can’t have good days, because where would the comparison be?
We don’t want pain, but in part, we need it. We need darkness in order to see the light. You need to realize how broken and depraved and sinful you are in order to see the goodness and pureness and holiness of God.
Trials are not necessarily bad. They’re hard, but they’re not bad because God uses them for His good. God takes us through heartwrenching times to bring us to that greater light and bring even more glory to Himself.