June 28, 2017

Disappointment and The Presence of God

     I’ll admit, I was disappointed. I mean, my Christian life wasn’t supposed to be this way, was it? Here I was, sixteen years old and I had been a Christian for almost a year. I didn’t feel that I had much to show for it. Yeah, I had a (mostly) regular Bible study time, and I prayed whenever I thought about it. But there was little vitality to my personal relationship with Christ. What was I missing? If this was all there was, I was utterly disappointed.

Christian bookstores today are full of books with depressing titles such as “Where is God?” “When God feels distant,” and “Deserted by God?” Modern writers and evangelists spend an inordinate amount of time helping young Christians to cope with the disappointment, disillusionment, and depression that seem to go hand in hand with following Christ these days. Songs such as “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” are sung more often in churches today because people just can’t relate to the joyful choruses of the old hymns.

I thought I might have found the solution to my problems. God spoke to my heart through several scripture passages. It seems God is interested in an intimate relationship with us as well.

“But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.”(Deuteronomy 4:29)
“I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.” (Proverbs 8:17)
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 19:13)
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

The answers lie in these passages. If we as His children desire His presence, His manifest mercies, His blessings on our lives, and true and lasting joy, this is how we receive them; if we search after Him with all our heart and soul, if we seek Him diligently, if we ask, seek, and knock. These passages are not just talking about salvation–they are promises for believers. If you desire more of God (and you should), this is how you get it.

“Alright,” I reasoned, “Now I know the solution to what has been plaguing me for months. I just have to seek Him.” So I tried to seek Him, without really knowing what “seeking” meant. I thought if I increased my prayer time and tried to behave more godly, that would do the trick. I knew I wanted more of God. My resolve would quickly fade within a week, and I would find myself frustrated and trying to live life on my own terms again. A few weeks later I would be sick of myself and my sin, and I would try and make new resolutions and promises. “THIS time,” I said, “I will search until I find Him.”

I had good intentions, but I was like an arrow fire in no particular direction. I would not hit the target because I wasn’t sure exactly what I was aiming for. God brought a particular message into my life about that time. I loved Paul Washer. I listened to him more than any other preacher or evangelist (and still do). I found his testimony on sermonaudio.com, A Liar and A Coward. I would encourage anyone to listen to it. The first half was very inspiring. It was about his own personal life in sin and then his conversion to Christ as a young man. But the second half of the message was about His journey in seeking the Lord, and it turned my life upside-down. Let me quote at length from his own words;

 

     “For some reason, a few years after my conversion, God began to work in me a prayer life that I have never been able to duplicate since. It started out an hour a day, then two, sometimes three hours a day…And I know this sounds almost crazy to you, but I decided I would either know God or die. Now I was a Christian. I knew God. I was born again. But there was this thing that I could know Him, and that His power could be a reality in my life. And I would go into my closet and say, “I’m not going to come out until God meets with me”–and I didn’t even know what that meant–“until God meets with me, or I die.” I feel asleep fifteen minutes later and my roommates came in about three hours later and found me asleep in the closet. They thought I had totally lost my mind. So I began to set an alarm clock. Every fifteen minutes…And so the alarm would go off, it would wake me up, and I would set it and start praying again. For months all I prayed was this; “Lord, it’s been 47 days now, and you still have not come. You said if I sought you, I would find you.” And then, “Lord, it’s been 93 days”. And all I would do is sit there and go, “I’m waiting. I am not leaving.” And I would just sit there.
     “Everybody went on…some kind of college retreat that spring. I’ll never forget that. And the Lord wanted me to go into the hill country, away in West Texas. I went out there for three, three and a half days, and if someone had seen me they would have called the authorities. I’m up on top of a hill. I had gotten to the point where I was throwing rocks as high as I can into the sky saying, “Did that hit the door? Did that hit the gate? Did you hear me? I’m still here! Where are you? Where is the Lord God of Elijah?”
     “I went back to school. And one night, I was crying out to God. I didn’t know anything about prayer. I had still been a christian for only about a year or so. Crying out to God, “I’m still here.” I waited there three hours just saying, “Still here. Here I am. Still here.” And all of the sudden I just cried out, “Father, please.”
     “Now, some of you are going to disagree with me. I don’t care. But at that moment, God came into that place in such a way that I was thrown down to the ground. And I don’t know how many hours I laid there in a fetal position, covering my head with my arms, thinking that I had somehow either blasphemed or He was sick and tired of what I was doing. I was so afraid, I laid there and I couldn’t control my body. I was convinced that there were firetrucks and police and everything outside of my apartment complex because there was probably some fire coming down from heaven. And after I don’t know how many hours, I was filled with such joy. And my mouth shot open, and it was like a book of psalms shot out of my mouth…And everything changed from that day…I can tell you honestly that the presence of God is more real to me right now than the presence of all of you put together…God is a supernatural God.”

Another woman I knew of had also experienced the presence of God. She had been a young believer as well, fed up with the compromise in her Christian life. She began to seek God earnestly, giving up anything and everything that distracted her from that goal. God was merciful to her as well, and she found Him. In her own words, “We serve a God who, when His people seek Him, He lets them find Him.”

Neither of these believers are charismatic or miracle-seekers. They are both solid, Reformed Christians, well grounded in the Word. What they experienced was in no way a “second work of grace” or “baptism of the holy spirit” or anything like that. I want what they have. We were made for God. We will never be happy anywhere else but in His presence. When Christ died, the curtain in the temple separating the throne of God from the people was torn in two. We will never be more joyful than when we are doing exactly what we were designed to do–glorifying Him. And, as John Piper’s most famous quote goes, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

I challenge you to begin seeking the Lord today. Seek Him with the desire to know Him even more fully than you do now. When you lose yourself in Him, everything else will fall into place. Don’t just read books, don’t just listen to sermons, don’t just talk to people who knew somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody who knew God. Really experience Him for yourself. Read the words God has written about Himself. Commune with the God who created you. And in everything, desire to know more of Him. It’s what you will spend all of eternity doing, my dear brother or sister in the Lord.

In Christ,
Elizabeth

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