Now that I am sitting down to talk about "when it's been hard", I'm wondering what I meant exactly. When it has been hard to serve God? When it has been hard to worship God? When it has been hard to obey God? In my life the biggest challenge has been when it's been hard to feel God.
I was watching the History Channel last weekend and they were running a marathon about the 7 deadly sins. You know, gluttony, pride, snoopy, groucho and sneezy. Anyway, one of the seven sins (and no, theses are not in the Bible) is sloth. They described the original definition of this sin as apathy and sadness. Not laziness, as I would've said. Apathy and sadness. If so, I have been guilty of sloth. And it has made it hard for me to feel God.
There are all kinds of struggles that seem to push people away from the presence of the Lord and their ability to live fully for him, and to live fully the life that he intends. Often it's easy to see the sin and to immediately see why a person can't have that "thing" and God's will both. Maybe it's drug abuse, pornography, alcohol...whatever, whatever, whatever. The thing or things that can take control even when we know somewhere in the back of our minds, we have to make God smaller to allow our weakness the amount of soul space it demands. But we can't seem to stop. And it makes God so small we can hardly feel him sometimes. So small we can't feel him at all.
It has been hard to feel God in the deep sadness that has so often been my emotional state. The History Channel people tell me that this is a deadly sin because in and of itself, it is the opposite of faith. Uh, I think they might be wrong this time, the History Channel people. I think you can have this thing, this tumor of the soul and still have faith. If you've never been depressed, maybe there is something else you could put in that sentence, "I have a hard time feeling God because _______________ is taking up too much space."
Here's the thing, there's this idea out there that if you really love the Lord, really serve him, really believe in him; you can always feel him near you. You can hear his voice. You are comforted in heartache and strengthened in pain. That's true except for the always part. At least for me, I cannot always feel and hear him. Sometimes I feel so weak and worn out and sick in the heart that I wonder what the heck is wrong with me? Everybody else is feeling Jesus all over the place and I'm begging for a sign and it's just a dark cold silence all around me.
Sometimes, it's so hard to feel God. I've laid in bed just begging for some kind of click on the inside to prove that he's still there. During the worst times, it goes so deep I start doubting it was ever there to begin with. I feel so far away from feeling God I can't even remember what it ever felt like in the first place. I'm a freak. I'm just not meant to be one of the ones. The ones who never get so down they can't feel God, never drift so far away.
I don't have some groovy trick to break through the wall between me and Christ. But I can tell you what is really happening when it's hard to feel him. It's just another day in the battle. My weakness taking its jabs at me. I've tried to fast and pray and study my way through those moments and all of that is so important I cannot begin to describe it. But there is one thing that pulls me back and puts me right. It happens when I'm too knocked down to fast and pray and study, when I don't have the time to keep waiting. I just tell him, "God, I can't feel you. I am not sure I even believe. I'm lost inside of this. Come find me." And he does.
God isn't mean. He doesn't dare you to find him, doesn't hide behind trees while you stumble through the forest. He doesn't demand some spiritual feat that you can't begin to accomplish. When it's hard to feel God because he is so big, so extraordinary, so holy, so magnificent, so powerful and so far far away; he comes to me in small, ordinary, imperfect, average, gentle and immediate ways.
I think my soul gets so small and cold it cannot take in all that he is so it feels like he isn't there at all. So God becomes for me, something I can feel. He becomes my husband's hand in mine when he thinks I'm sleeping. He becomes Donny who crawls in my lap for a nap. He becomes my kids laughing in the other room and a book that distracts my darkened mind and a song I haven't heard since I was a little girl. He becomes Tina calling out "Sar!" across a room and friends who hug me and suddenly I am freed from within myself to remember what love feels like.
When it is hard to feel God, he becomes small enough to fit into my hand so I can hang on for just a little while longer. He becomes something bigger than the something that is taking up so much soul space so that the darkness is pushed aside and suddenly...there he is.