It was New Years day and I was perusing my Facebook feed: Political news, boring. New Years resolutions, cliche. Buzzfeed, worthless. NYE party photos, I really shouldn’t.
Then, a post by a friend who I hadn’t talked to in years but stayed connected to (largely due to her Christ-centered posts like this one) came to my attention:
“Know” is in the bible 1,400 times. “Understand,” 266. “Knowledge,” 172. “Thought,” 139. “Teach,” 178. “Think,” 82. “Reason,” 98 times. Versus: “Feel” which is only used 7 times. “Experience” which is only used 4. Or “Emotions”… which is never used. One of the greatest modern day deceptions of the church is one of chasing the byproducts of your faith, rather than chasing Christ. We want emotions, experiences, dreams, healing, blessing… Our faith is one of knowledge, not experience. Yes, knowledge alone without love is worthless, but with love and application it is the core of our faith. Paul prays for the church to grow in knowledge. Psalms 4:4 tells us how emotions quench reason. Grow in the knowledge of God. Stop seeking just the byproducts. Stop simply seeking an experience.
I liked it, so I ‘liked’ it. I exited out of Facebook. I have pondered the words in my heart as they have continued to revisit me the past 48 hours.
You see, the past year of my life has been turbulent. Just when I had begun feeling God the most in my life about 15 months ago, seeing the fruits of a truly believing, and learning to take action in my faith, it seemed at once everything beautiful was withering away. My faith was no longer rosy and I felt tested, to say the least. I experienced two family deaths; brokenness within my immediate and extended family like I had never felt before; a severe knee injury; a monotonous job that left me bitter and depressed; a messy and toxic friendship that left me overwhelmed and out of control… My life was being rocked and I had nothing to cling to. Not even God, it felt like.
It felt like God had been with me for a few months and then moved on. Sort of like a high school relationship – well, several high school relationships – I once knew.
I did not feel God. I felt numb. If anything, I felt abandoned.
I prayed, but it seemed pointless because I wasn’t feeling anything. I had remembered praying to be such a high at one point; like those top-of-the-mountain moments happened every time I prayed. But now, I wasn’t feeling better – heck, I wasn’t even feeling sad. I couldn’t even cry. And when I did, I thanked God for letting those long-overdue tears flow.
And I wondered: Had I ever even known God? Or was that just some emotional high I had made up and created in my head? If not, could I ever know God again? Could I ever feel Him again? Where did He Go?
Gradually, gradually, things began looking up. After about 5 months of consistent turmoil, I lingered in nothingness for a few more months. Despite my lack of inspiration, I had stayed (somewhat) consistent in fellowship and prayer and scripture. Then, in time, God again breathed life and love and joy back into my heart and life.
And, as I read that brilliant post and reflected on the past year-ish of my life, I realize how my view of God, of faith, of prayer, of service has changed and grown. God is not a 5-step process; God is not a feeling; God is not an experience. God is not there to give me what I want. God is love and peace and joy; Jesus is the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the door, the Good Shepard, the Life, the Resurrection, the Way, the Truth, and the True Vine (throughout John 6-15). There is so much to be said of all of those statements; because, well, there is so much to know of God.
But how can we know more about God and His love when we are constantly chasing an experience or a high or some benefit? God is beyond the benefits we see and feel Him providing for us. I believe, as inwardly-focused humans, we often think of what God can do for us rather than what we can do for God.
So, that being said, I don’t think that my experiences of God – the feelings, the highs, the way He’s provided, the way He’s molded me, His flowing blessings – can not be written off either. They are legitimate and necessary at certain times in our faith, I believe. Yet, they are not all. They can not be expected, I have found, and certainly will not be provided throughout all points in our faiths.
Knowing God and living a faith-driven life is about following Him through the trials and the doubts and the heartaches. It is more about consistency than contingency. That being said, the feelings and experiences will come and go, but the Love of God is eternal.