Today God put it on my heart to speak into two types of common struggles we have as believers when it comes to how we posture ourselves before God emotionally. As I prayed, God showed me a spectrum of the kinds of emotions we give to God. On one end of the spectrum, I saw a type of believer who only wants to give God their very “best.” And on another, I saw a type of believer who comes to God with their “worst.”
Give God Your Worst…
Perhaps you are the kind of Christ follower who tends more towards giving God your “best.” You know theologically that God wants your hurt, your brokenness, your chaos, but it’s hard for you to know what that really means or struggle with knowing how to pray like that. You hear others talking about weeping and crying in front of Him, of being broken at His feet. But when something bad happens, instead of immediately feeling a pull to connect with your Heavenly Father, you find yourself calling three of your friends, your sister, your brother, your cousin…spilling your emotions to everyone else except God!
Sometimes, we can give God our emotional “leftovers.” This can be out of a place of perfectionism–we want to be close to God, but we also want to be cleaned up a little bit, have processed a little bit, etc, before we go to Him. Perhaps it’s not that we don’t trust Him, it’s just that we want to give Him our very best.
The problem with this is that when stuff hits the fan, God is often the source of love, strength, and counsel we need first. Sometimes we know we’ve messed up, or we are hurt, but we try to fix it or approach it in our own strength first. Or, we distract ourselves with people, television, comfort food, etc. Then, when that fails, we go to God! Take the example of David and Bathsheba. David knew that he had sinned against God by committing adultery with Bathsheba. But before going to God and repenting and telling Him how terrible he felt about it, he tried to fix it himself. We all know how that ended–very poorly.
I know that God loves that we want to live in a righteous way and give Him the glory and majesty He deserves. But coming to God with the worst of our emotions is also a way to give Him glory. It shows that we believe His word that He loves us unconditionally, is big enough to handle our mess, and came into the world to deal with messy, broken people. And face it–He already knows the things you’re thinking or feeling anyway:
“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.”
Wanting to honor God simply does not preclude the necessity of vulnerability in front of Him. When we are vulnerable with God we honor Him by showing Him He has the number #1 place in our hearts, when we need comfort and counsel.
….and Give God Your Best!
On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who come to God only, or mostly, when things are at their worst. We get through most days fine without Him, but then something bad will happen and suddenly we are on our knees before God: “Fix this, Lord! I need you, Lord!”
For people who fall more on this end of the spectrum, I ask you: Are you giving God your best? The best of your time, the best of your focus, the best of your discipline, the best of your heart? Or do you reserve that for your job, your romantic or familial relationships, your chasing after new experiences, etc?
The truth is that Jesus didn’t come into the world so that we could come to Him only in our desperation–He came so that we could have life abundantly, which includes growth in our walk with God. When we ignore our relationship with God and give Him the scraps of our life, we are not realizing how much of a precious gift it is just to have relationship with God in the first place.
Imagine you had a friend, but that friend only showed up when something terrible was going on in their own life. They came and poured out their heart to you. In response you hugged them, gave them advice, and told them you would always be there for them. When they felt better, they left. You called them and left voicemails trying to check in, you wrote them letters that remained unread. They sent you a “hey!” text now and then, but nothing much deeper. How would you feel–used? Confused? Like your love and effort was unseen and under-appreciated?
In the same way, God experiences sadness when we take for granted the gift of relationship with Him. Even worse, oftentimes He gives us advice and wisdom (through prayer, the Word, and Godly counsel) that we fail to implement in our lives, causing the same problems to resurface–and the cycle begins again!
We must give God both our best, and our worst. Perfectionism or fear can cause us to be prayerless when it comes to being vulnerable with God in times of fear, sadness, or shame. On the other hand, the wrong priorities and a lack of focus can cause us to be prayerless in our day to day life. But as one of my favorite teachers once said in a phrase that has brought me healthy conviction around this issue: prayerlessness–for any reason–is pridefulness.
Writing this teaching is difficult because even though we may fall more on one end of the spectrum–we all struggle to maintain intimacy with God emotionally. Personally, I tend more towards perfectionism, but am also guilty of using my own strength to get through the day instead of leaning on Him.
My challenge to you is this: whatever is going on in your life, wherever you fall on this spectrum, can you commit to going into a quiet space and praying with Him for just ten minutes over the next five days? When you’re there, you won’t feel guilt for not spending more time with Him, or shame for the imperfect condition of your heart. You will experience love. After all, it’s His lovingkindness that leads us to repentance! (Romans 2:4). At the end of the day, our relationship is something we will work on for the rest of our lives–it’s a process. It is our responsibility to embrace the process, but be assured–He will meet you in more ways that we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).