Do you feel far from god? Are you struggling with emotions of guilt, shame, frustration, or exhaustion when you think about your devotionals, prayer time, church activities, and ministry work?
I can easily recall acute feelings of guilt in respect to my Christian practices. I felt like my walk with the divine was often defined more by the belief that I should do something, rather than I was eager to do something. Even knowing what to do was a topic of confusion. How many prayer times is enough? Should I join another bible study? Do I need to attend church twice a week? Do most Christians do a daily devotional?
In retrospect, I realize that my closeness to god hinged fully on emotion and the satisfaction that came from doing well in what I thought was expected of me, and the natural high that occurred when enjoying myself and my thoughts during those times.
I know Christians often struggle with how to draw near to god. For example:
Lately, God and I have been estranged. For the last month or so, my quiet times have been haphazard, my prayer life paltry. My worship? Verging on fake. … An enormous wave of relief washes over me, reassuring me that even though I distance myself from God, he never distances himself from me. Because I’m his child, nothing can ever separate me from his love. (Source)
Gee, that’s funny; the gospel message is commonly taught as follows: “All you need to do is accept Jesus into your heart.” after that, all the magic will follow: You’ll get the holy spirit which will change you into a new person, have peace and joy and heaven, and–for a bonus–you might be persecuted. But that’s a joy too.
Apparently god did all of this amazing stuff to reach us and grow close to us: made the universe really purty, wrote a book (aka “love letter” made up of violence, obsolete rules, and fairy tales), sent prophets/missionaries, and executed himself/his son to himself. Wow, god, here’s your gold star. I’m sure it was really difficult for you with all that omnipotence to throw around.
So, after salvation, what inevitably happens? The real life of a believer: listlessness, roller coaster emotions, disciplined activities, and a regimen of traditions and necessary actions in order to be a true Scotsman Christian. Once you enter into the salvation contract to live eternally for this god, you’re in for all the work to come. Sure, Christians don’t think of it as “work” (that’d be heresy, right?), but that’s what it is. Spade? Spade.
From the evidence, we know this amazing “relationship” with god is totally one-sided. Humans spend time with this silent and completely silent, unrelatable deity. God gets to sunbathe while receiving prayers (never talking back, mind you), read your journal out loud to Jesus, listen to you sing hymns on his iPod, chill while you go to bible studies and church, and still all of that may not be the magic combo for getting close to him. If it doesn’t work, something must be wrong with your faith, your heart, or your sins. Becoming close to god is all about you and your efforts and your mindset and your dedication.
God could draw close to you in one tiny millisecond if he wanted to. He’s everywhere right? All powerful? Loving? With all of time on his hands? Why is it that you have to work and try and strive to be close to something/someone who won’t be close to you without conditions and expectations? God is such a lazy arse.
Read Part 2: Just kidding. It’s God’s fault!