“Some of you may feel that this is very unlike your own experience. You may say I’ve never had the sense of being helped by an invisible Christ, but I often have been helped by other human beings.’ That is rather like the woman in the first war who said that if there were a bread shortage it would not bother her house because they always ate toast. If there were no help from Christ, there would be no help from human beings. He works on us in all sorts of ways: not only through what we think our ‘religious life’. He works through Nature, through our own bodies, through books, sometimes through experiences which seem (at the time) anti-Christian. When a young man who has been going to church in a routine way honestly realizes that he does not believe in Christianity and stops going-provided he does it for honesty’s sake and not just to annoy his parents- the spirit of Christ is probably nearer to him then than it ever was before. But above all, He works on us though each other.” Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
So after one of my posts awhile ago, satan was pretty intense on the attack. And usually when he attacks me it is a mental thing. And then it is a God doesn’t really care about me thing. And then a God doesn’t really do miracles, answer prayers or take part in my world thing. And then after that it is a distant God relationship thing. And that is exactly what happened. But the weird thing is, by the end of a week of his attacking my mind, I was exhausted and panicky and having issues with anxiety. And then I was given a day off from my kids and able to spend time alone, praying, journaling and thinking and that afternoon felt peace and a closeness and nearness to and “realness” of God that I hadn’t felt in a long time. The next day at church, the sermon was exactly what I needed to hear and so when our pastor called those struggling with the the issue talked about in the sermon, I went up and the words the pastor prayed were exactly the words God had spoken to me the day before. Same words. Again, I was hit with the reality that God really is here and not up in the sky lost somewhere. It was like C.S. Lewis says, one of those times when the spirit of Christ is nearer than ever before. And the thing is satan knew that, because since, then it’s been downward, not upward. How is that possible? How can I have an amazing connection and know that God is near, really near and be given a gift of seeing him more clearly- a gift I’d been asking for-and then BAM!, I go away from him, rather than closer to him? My human mind probably had no idea how close I was to God and how even closer I could have come, but satan knew and he fought it. And I gave in to the lies. And here I am back again, asking for forgiveness and climbing up again. I often wonder how people like Martin Luther King, Jr lived like this. Not only did he have satan’s mental, emotional and spiritual attacks, but he also had physical attacks and threats against himself and his young family. He could have quit and gone into hiding and maybe “protected” himself and his family from death and harm….but he didn’t. He kept on. I don’t think the majority of us realize how much strength this takes. I know it is God’s strength in him, but still…that takes immense strength not to give up and take the easier route of being silent and not rocking the boat, and just living a life of comfort and complacency.
I keep thinking of these lines, “He works on us in all sorts of ways: not only through what we think our ‘religious life’….sometimes through experiences which seem (at the time) anti-Christian. When a young man who has been going to church in a routine way honestly realizes that he does not believe in Christianity and stops going-provided he does it for honesty’s sake and not just to annoy his parents- the spirit of Christ is probably nearer to him then than it ever was before.” It’s so like God, to reverse things. He’s always doing things differently, and better than we ever imagine. And I think our humanness likes that. It’s somehow comforting to have a God that goes beyond us and does things in the most wonderful ways, ways that we never could have dreamed. Jesus is born in a stable. Jesus washes his disciples feet. Jesus heals and loves, rather than fights and destroys. Jesus dies on a cross. “The spirit of Christ is probably nearer to him then than it ever was before”….so God to be so close at the brink, when we start to think maybe I’ll stop believing in Christianity, it is there when Christ is nearest to us. When we are worn out from the battles of life and unanswered prayer and want to give in, it is there when Christ is nearest to us. When we are wrestling with loss and not being given something we thought was good and best, it is there when Christ is nearest to us. When we fail and hurt him, it is there when Christ is nearest to us. I love that about God. He’s always on the edge. Doing things that completely surprise us. Being there when we think it is the last place He’d be. He’s not afraid of us or the things we wrestle. He values the honest questions of our hearts more than the facades we think we need to put on to fool him to cover the things we think we need to hide.
In 2 Corinthians Paul writes, “…satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” And he twists God all around for us, so what we think we know of him, we don’t. We think we know His face when we do wrong, because that’s what maybe how our earthly parents’ faces looked…harsh and unfeeling, annoyed and irritated, frustrated and angry. We think we need to feel shame and distance ourselves from God when we make choices out of impatience or anger and fall away because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you do wrong, right? Distance ourselves from the person and give them space from us and time to realize the still love us, time for us to prove that we are still loveable? But that’s not how God works. He doesn’t react like we think He does. Does He like our sin and our choices that hurt us and others? Definitely, not. But does He shame and want to disgrace us and distance himself from us because of them? Definitely not. Satan and the world tell us that our worth comes from doing and when we fail to do, or are too tired to do, we think we disappoint God, and then that leads to more distance. But God is the God of the prodigal son. I don’t know why. Maybe because He knows how we are made and He knows our human nature. Or maybe just because He is that kind of God. A God of grace and mercy. Over and over again God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness is shown all throughout the Bible. But it’s hard to not give in to the lies, it’s easier to do what we have always done, it’s somehow easier for us to distance ourselves from God, than to trust and believe that He is a good Father, full of unconditional love and grace and mercy for us when we sin and do wrong and don’t meet up to what we think He expects of us. At least that’s how it is with me. It’s a battle. And I mostly lose. BUT here I am again, seeking the prodigal son/daughter God all over again. The God who “rejoices over me with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). He’s not like we make him. Even in his anger, He’s not like we think He is….
Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but DELIGHT to show mercy. Micah 7:18
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:1-7
Stay strong. Fight the battle. The Lord is on thy side, fighting with us and for us.