There are home videos of me singing, “Jesus loves me this I know…” as early as two and three years old. I have vague and sweet memories of listening to Psalty The Singing Song Book (Praise & Worship music for kids) putting me to sleep during naptime as a very young child. To put it simply, I’ve been a Christian for as long as I can remember. Well, I should say that I grew up in a Christian home and was always taught the love of Jesus from an early age. In fact, I can still remember holding my mother’s hands as she led me in the prayer where I accepted Jesus into my heart—I was around five or six then. Even at that young age, my faith was a huge and important part of my life. I can say with all sincerity, my faith has never wavered, in that I’ve never questioned whether or not God was real or whether He loved me. I have always thought of Him like the wind. Although I can’t physically see Him standing in front of me, like a cool breeze, I can feel Him moving in my life.
With all of this said, there has always been the familiar ebb and flow of how close I have felt to God over the years. Accompanying that familiar shifting of emotions, there has been this little nagging lie that has bothered me. I’m not sure if it’s something all Christians struggle with, or if it is a casualty of growing up in the church. Regardless, I know I am not alone. The lie is this: What I am doing to grow and further my relationship with Christ is not ENOUGH. I could be doing more. I could be reading more, praying more, and serving more…more, more, more! It’s almost as if I have believed that while God loves me, perhaps He was disappointed in me, especially in those drier seasons of our relationship (drier on my end, not His). It’s almost as if I have believed that if I do MORE, He would love me more or be more pleased with me. In my head, I know this is not true, but if only my heart would catch up with my logic.
“Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.” Romans 4:4-5
If you really think about it, it’s kind of a terrible and exhausting cycle. There have been moments of guilt and shame for not doing MORE…even in times when I have been consistently in the Word. But when I stop myself, and stand back and look at these beliefs I know this is not God’s heart towards me. In those drier seasons of my faith, I have even struggled with not wanting to pick up my Bible for fear that I wouldn’t really get anything out of it anyway since I’ve been out of the loop for a while. What a lie that Satan loves to use to prevent Christ followers from stepping back into the Word at all! I can’t help but wonder how many new Christians have felt overwhelmed by trying to do it “right” and trying to do it “perfectly” when in fact God looks at our heart. God simply wants a relationship with us, not for us to fall into the lie that our works = more grace and favor. This thinking implies that it’s all about what we do, instead of what Christ has already done.
“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” Romans 8:15
Does God want to spend time with us? Yes, of course. What loving parent doesn’t want to spend time with their children? But is He sitting up in heaven with the look of scorn and condemnation on days we haven’t picked up our Bible? I don’t believe so. I believe God is a good and loving Father who loves us no matter what. We can’t earn more of His love. He showed us the ultimate love while we were yet in our sin by dying on the cross for us. In fact, He looked at one of the criminals who hung on the cross next to Him and said that he would be with Him in paradise. This criminal was dying a terrible death…most likely never spent a day reading Scripture or spending time with God, and yet once he acknowledged Christ on the cross, Jesus had mercy on Him.
I asked some close friends of mine what they do when they feel like they are feeling distant or dry in their relationship with God. I asked them to give me real answers, and not anything politically correct, and one of them said, “I try to wait it out sometimes knowing it’s not a forever thing. The dry times help me appreciate the robust times. And I give myself permission to have those dry times because they bring growth. I think so often we get angry at ourselves or feel guilty or question God. But all of these emotions usually pull me back to my ‘rock and my redeemer’ who is rich in grace and mercy, and whose love is not dependent on my works or my striving. I also try to cultivate thankfulness because when I am dry, it’s easy to be negative and ungrateful. So I will go to my journal and write out the moments I am grateful for.”
This was the most refreshing answer I had ever heard. It helped me to remember that God is so much bigger than our “dry” times…in fact, my idea of spending time with God was a little shattered because of this dry season I was experiencing. He started meeting me wherever I was…even if my Bible and notebook were nowhere near. For instance, I was outside nursing my baby and all of a sudden I started seeing God’s creation in a new way. It was like He was speaking to me right then and there in the wind rustling through the trees…the sun shining through its leaves dappling my skin with glorious springtime light. I heard Him in my heart letting me know He was always with me. I smiled looking in my baby’s eyes, and then his little hand touched my face and I knew God was so much bigger, and greater, and loving, and merciful than I was giving Him credit for. Just like I have always thought of Him, He lovingly revealed Himself to me in the wind.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2