One of the best ways for me to connect to God these days is to put my headphones on and listen to a few praise songs. I focus on the words and music and just give myself to Him. I close my eyes and in those moments I am able to disconnect from the world and only be aware of His mercy and glory. It is lovely.
I have recently gone through a season of my spiritual life where I have felt as though God was farther away from me than normal. I know in my head that God never goes away… but my heart and my spirit just seemed to be unaware of His presence. I had some sadness and trouble, stress and anxiety and even though He felt far away - I put my headphones on and tried my best to connect. Ever since reading “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis, I whole-heartedly believe that God is most pleased with us when we try and try to connect with Him even when we aren’t getting immediate gratification of the connection. It’s easy to praise Him when we feel Him right next to us, just like it’s easy to be nice to people we like (and we know what the bible says about that). But as I stated, I know He never goes away… I just don’t feel Him sometimes. The reasons for this are… mysterious and frustrating… and I recognize, my own fault.
One of my favorite praise songs to get lost in is called “You Are Good.” It is by Gateway Worship and sung by Kari Jobe.
Your kindness leads me to repentance.
Your goodness draws me to Your side.
Your mercy calls me to be like You.
Your favor is my delight.
You are good… Your mercy lasts forever.
When I hear the beautiful music coupled with her gorgeous voice… I can’t help but to get lost in the meaning of those simple words of praise.
God, because I know how kind and loving You are, because I know You will not beat me to the ground - I am able to come and kneel at Your feet, pour my imperfections out, and cry bottomlessly for Your forgiveness. Lord, it is Your incomprehensible gracious nature that attracts me to be closer and closer to You. How could I not want to be near something so pure and truly good? Father, it is experiencing Your mercy and forgiveness personally, feeling the way You love me unconditionally that makes me want to give that same gift away to others. Especially to those who don’t know what You are really like. I know I can never fully succeed but, oh, how I want to try. King, the only time I am truly joyous is when I feel Your favor upon me. Nothing can match that happiness. I imagine that is what heaven will feel like all the time. I can not wait. You are the ONLY thing that is good in this world… and I can always count on You… forever.
In November and December of 2009 I was experiencing a large amount of loss and grief due to the death of two loved ones and also the loss of two friendships. I think the devil sees times of loss as his own personal playground. He whispers bittersweet lies in my ear and he knows I will slide so easily down in my weakened, saddened human state. He pushes me higher and higher on the “should-have, could-have but-it’s-too-late” swing and as much as I want to get off, there is something comfortable about self-blame and self-hatred. He sits on the other end of the teeter-totter and helps me go back and forth for hours: guilt… shame… guilt… shame…guilt… shame. He loves to watch me fall ungracefully and skin my knee on the ground as I search and he loves to convince me that God is in fact playing a game of hide and seek with me. He tells me, the seeker, I just don’t have the strength to look any further for the prize, so I slump… and that’s how the slump begins.
My recent slump had me feeling far away from God. I continued praying, I read the bible, I went to church with an open heart, and I sang God’s praises in my car. I curled up in bed in the middle of the day several times, put on my headphones, covering myself with the blankets and just cried as I listened to the lyrics of songs, “darkness flees when I call Your name” and “Your blood will find a way.” In those moments I believed those things in my head but my heart… was hurting. All I could do is cry.
Towards the end of December, I realized that one of the feelings I had really been missing was the feel of God’s favor. As the song I shared with you earlier states… “Your favor is my delight.” I hadn’t felt that delight in awhile yet I remembered what it felt like. The memory of the joy left me longing for it even more deeply. I wondered what I had done to disappoint my Father. I wondered why His favor had not been upon me. I prayed for the answer.
A relatively new person in my life, a person I don’t know all that well contacted me one day. All he said was that he was sorry to hear of the death in my family. I responded, appreciative of his kindness. I mentioned that life had been hard lately. I said I was dealing with much loss and pain. He knew of some of the things (his girlfriend is dear to me so I’m sure she shared my pain with him for the sake of prayer) but he knew no specifics. He responded in a way that answered my prayer and changed everything in my mind.
In a serious yet lighthearted tone, he reminded me that God will never give me more than I can handle. Yes, a great reminder. Then he went on to say the fact that I had several things piled up on top of me, things that were hard and hurtful, things that challenged me in so many ways showed the level of strength and faith God must know I possess. God knows I have what it takes to rest on Him and make it through.
Like a ton of bricks I realized my perception of God’s withdrawal of favor was an illusion. His favor had been upon me the whole time…. His favor was in the hard stuff, His favor was His belief in me.
I don’t know what your relationship with God is like… but I want to make sure you understand that God doesn’t work the way us humans do. God doesn’t remove His favor as punishment… and the fact that I was sitting there wondering what I had done only proves one thing… I was still on the devil’s pitiful playground. The devil is a liar. But God is a gentleman, He waits for us and helps us figure it out when we ask Him to. God’s favor has nothing to do with me and my worthiness or deservedness, for if it did I would have never felt it. God’s favor is based solely on His goodness. Oh Lord, You are good… You are good… Your mercy lasts forever!