Getting tired from all this circling
Not much grace left on a broken wing
I feel the wind trying to push me down
It happens every time I get to town
I search for shelter near the mines we swept
I guess forgiveness hasn’t happened yet
There are no words that I can say to you
To turn this careless sky from black to blue
So I’m asking you
Is it safe, is it safe to land?
‘Cause I’m not going far on an empty heart
Is it safe, is it safe to land?
‘Cause the long fall back to earth is the hardest part
— From “Is It Safe” by Jars of Clay
Most believers are scarred by moments where God feels as close as ever, only to come tumbling back to an earthly perception of “reality.” They come to believe that Christian life is a series of peaks and valleys—a vicious battle of spirit and flesh, waiting to tug them like a pendulum the moment God seems almost attainable.
Just like our modern distaste for marriage woes, we’re ready to give up on kingdom living as soon as our life hits a roadblock. Surely if God intended us to walk in His Spirit, He wouldn’t allow us to feel this way, right? We feel homesick for a place we’ve never been, but aren’t comfortable living in such a perpetual state of groaning.
At some point, a mature believer will challenge us to persevere aside from the lacking feeling: to walk in faith when He doesn’t make Himself obvious. What kind of “good Father” hides like this? How can He expect us to make decisions based on faith when we don’t feel like we’re protected?
I once interned under a youth pastor that interpreted the “Parable of the Sower” as stages of spiritual maturity as opposed to purely a reception of God’s word. I’m prone to agree. As with any relationship, the first barrier is sharing a watershed moment. Most of our relationships with God are initially built upon a foundational experience where we believed Him to be real and working in our best interest. The second barrier is in the relationship taking root—cultivating the relationship in such a way as to work beyond tough times together. The third barrier is in releasing the right to self-preserve. While enough believers are tripped by the second barrier, the third is rarely overcome. Given the fleshly propensity to take pride in caring for ourselves, submitting the unknown into the hands of a God we cannot feel seems absurd.
I’ll be honest: it’s been a long time since I’ve felt God’s presence. Like a season of marriage where investing seems a greater task than finding a new lover, many idols have presented themselves in shiny plastic. In these moments, my refuge is His word and truth. I connect with David’s psalms; they plead for the Lord’s intervention while clinging to a history of faithfulness and the unchanging nature of His word. This concept resonated the other day when I read words that Benjamin Franklin had sent to Methodist pioneer George Whitefield:
That Being, who gave me existence, and through almost threescore years has been continually showering his favors upon me, whose very chastisements have been blessings to me ; can I doubt that he loves me? And, if he loves me, can I doubt that he will go on to take care of me, not only here but hereafter? This to some may seem presumption ; to me it appears the best grounded hope ; hope of the future built on experience of the past.
Let us find joy in our perseverance.